Above: Ritchie dusts an Asian elephant at the NYC museum.

On life at the museum
"On any given day, I could be touching up a 100-year-old rhino or surveying lions in storage to see how they're holding up. Right now I'm researching how dyes fade with the help of an accelerated aging chamber—essentially a climate-controlled box that shows how colors change over time. I also help clean the displays. Last year I pitched in with the elephants in the Halls of African and Asian Mammals, using a soft-bristle brush and a vacuum to dust them. And I do tons of detail work—repositioning wing feathers, swabbing dirt off antlers—with Q-tips and tweezers."

On getting icky with it
"I once helped restore a massive leatherback turtle, nicknamed Prince Willy, for a museum in Alaska. Leatherback specimens are notoriously leaky and oozy, and he was no exception. As I treated the underside of his shell, 50-year-old turtle oil dripped onto my face. This work might gross some people out, but for me, it's part of the appeal."

On protecting and preserving
"Some of the animals in the museum are irreplaceable. They're either more than 100 years old or they represent extinct species, like the Tasmanian tiger. I get to be the spokesperson for these objects and make sure they're being taken care of. These animals deserve that."


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