Conservators at the Natural History Museum of London knew for some time that the giant sunfish in the collection would need to be treated: The ten-foot-tall creature’s stitched-up body was bursting at the seams, exposing the wheat straw that had been stuffed inside over a century ago. The fish was collected in Sydney Harbour by the zoologist Edward Ramsay on December 12, 1882, brought to London in 1883 for the International Fisheries Exhibition, and donated afterward to the museum.
In addition to 25 trash bags’ worth of straw, Allington-Jones and his team extracted all kinds of odds and ends that had been weighing down the fish: iron bars, floorboards, a broken chair from 1883, and a scrap of newspaper from the Sydney Morning Herald, dated January 26 of that year. The newspaper was crumpled up, but being conservators, they humidified and flattened it out. One article seems to be about the first-ever Ashes cricket tournament between Australia and England: “We hope the match will be played throughout in a spirit of generous rivalry, and that the struggle for the much coveted laurel will be a close and exciting one,” reads the Herald.