Natural Connections

This is a modified version of two articles originally published on the Gallery Oldham webpage by Patricia Francis, Natural History Curator, Gallery Oldham. May & June 2020.

Fred Stubbs shown in The Naturalist by George Henry Wimpenny

This painting reveals a hidden Oldham story. It dates from the 1920s and has always been a great favourite with our visitors. Several years ago it inspired me to look more deeply and investigate, the person, the place and the specimens.

The person is Fredrick J. Stubbs

Fred was born in Liverpool in 1878 and moved with his family to Oldham where he became apprenticed to an upholsterer. He joined the Oldham Microscopical and Natural History Society, his first love being birds. Fred volunteered at the Oldham Municipal Library, Art Gallery and Museum which was long connected with the Natural History Society. When a vacancy arose at Stepney Museum’s Nature Study Centre, he was successful in getting the job and in 1909 left Oldham for London. Completing the booklet, ‘The Birds of Oldham’ in 1910.

Returning to Oldham in April 1919 he became the Deputy Librarian and Curator at the Library and Museum. He became president of the Yorkshire Natural History Society; was a member of the Beautiful Oldham Society and help found the Oldham Society of Artists. He worked at the Library and Museum until his death caused by pneumonia in 1932.

Continue reading

NatSCA Digital Digest – September

Compiled by Jan Freedman, Curator of Natural History, The Box, Plymouth.

Welcome to the September edition of NatSCA Digital Digest.

What can I read?

There’s a few lovely posts on our blog. Our chair, Isla Gladstone, encourages our members to have a look at our survey, for the committee to learn more about your needs from NatSCA. Bethany Palumbo takes us through the conservation of a mummy sarcophagus at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

There’s some nice reading on our friend’s, The Geological Curator blog. An interesting post about the discovery of a dinosaur bone on the Isle of Wight, Vectaerovenator inopinatus.

There’s a new book recently out, which is the most up to date look at our closest extinct relatives, the Neanderthals. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art is available now.

What can I see?

There are more museums opening this month. Gallery Oldham has opened one day a week and Reading Museum has reopened ready for visitors. The Manchester Museum opens again on 16th September. The Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum open their doors again on 22nd September.

After a 5 year redevelopment project, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery reopens. Newly christened as The Box, Plymouth, the new museum features an all new natural history gallery, with more specimens on display than ever before.

There’s some nice You Tube videos from the National Museum of Ireland. One video explaining more to the public about what taxidermy is. Another video looks at craft projects for kids, so that teachers or parents can use them to help with their learning.

What can I do?

With many conferences being postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus, some have taken to online conferences.

The South West Federation conference on October 1st and 2nd, focuses on Interpreting, Curating and Combating the Climate Crisis. More details for booking on their website here.

The conference for the Symposium of Palaeontological Preparation and Conservation will be held virtually on 11th – 17th October. More details here.

Save the Date – Decolonising Natural Science Collections

NatSCA will be holding a one-day online conference on November 19th 2020. The programme will include papers originally selected for our May 2020 annual conference which had to be cancelled. The event will be hosted via Zoom, consisting of presentations and live Q&A with speakers. Miranda Lowe and Subhadra Das will be leading the proceedings as keynote speakers, presenting an update on their widely shared NatSCA paper Nature Read in Black and White: decolonial approaches to interpreting natural history collections.

This event will be free for members and booking details will be announced shortly.

Before You Go…

If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Similarly, if you have something to say about a current topic, or perhaps you want to tell us what you’ve been working on, we welcome new blog articles so please drop Jen an email if you have anything you would like to submit.

NatSCA User Survey 2020 – Help us Target Our Future Support for Natural Science Collections and Community

Written by Isla Gladstone, Chair of NatSCA and Senior Curator for Natural Science, Bristol Museums.

I stepped into the role of Chair for NatSCA in May this year, and it’s been a challenging but important time to consider our future activity.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought real immediate impacts to NatSCA’s work. As for many people, NatSCA’s trustees have experienced individual challenges such as furlough or juggling work and childcare. We have also had to adapt our working practice – initially focusing on how to work together effectively as a virtual committee, and moving our event content online. (Announcements on virtual events to follow soon…)

NatSCA’s trustees have also been assessing potential longer-term risks to the charity in light of the pandemic, and how to make sure our activities remain relevant and sustainable. It’s a vital time for natural science collections, with their huge scope to contribute to urgent issues such as climate and ecological crisis and decolonisation. We also have potential challenges ahead, such as reduced budgets for professional development or further loss of subject specialist posts. The shift of many in our sector to virtual working offers NatSCA new opportunities. Most importantly, we are committed to understanding the changing needs of our communities and seeking your ideas to help inform our next steps.

Continue reading

‘Tahemaa Transformed’ The Conservation of the Mummy Coffin at The Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

Written by Bethany Palumbo, ACR, Founder and Owner of Palumbo Conservation Services on behalf of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

Tahemaa has been a resident of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society since 1922, when she was donated from the Salisbury museum (fig. 1). New research indicates that she arrived in the UK in 1823 from the ancient city of Thebes, now known as Luxor, on the river Nile. Her coffin is dated from 700 BC making her approximately 2700 years old. We know from the hieroglyphics on the side of her coffin that she was the daughter of a Hor a high priest of Montu, the Flacon-God of War. Other than this we know very little about her and her life in Egypt.

Figure 1. Tahemaa the Mummy at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

Tahemaa has been at the Society for nearly 100 years but she has spent most of this time locked away from public view. In 1993, the Society decided to put her on permanent display in the Egyptology exhibition. Since then she has been seen by thousands of admirers, however due to her age and fragile condition, she is in need of urgent conservation treatment. Hundreds of years in an unstable environment have caused significant damage to the coffin. The fluctuations have caused the wood, plaster layers and paint to crack and flake. The layers of the coffin have even separated in some areas, lifting away from the wooden frame (fig 2). Many years without a display case has also resulted in a thick layer of dark, engrained dirt concealing the original colours of her decorative paintwork (fig 3).

Figure 2. Layers of the coffin structure peeling away.

Figure 3. Original colours are darkened with the build-up of surface dirt.

Continue reading

NatSCA Digital Digest – August

Compiled by Glenn Roadley, Curator (Natural Science), The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Welcome to the August edition of NatSCA Digital Digest!

A monthly blog series featuring the latest on where to go, what to see and do in the natural history sector including jobs, exhibitions, conferences and training opportunities. We are really keen to hear more about museum re-openings, exhibition launches, virtual conferences and webinars, and new and interesting online content. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Where Can I Go?

Museums have been steadily reopening since the beginning of July, and August brings a growing list of museums tentatively opening their doors to a limited number of visitors. The Art Fund has put together a list of opening dates, with big names in August including The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum (London), the Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester), National Museum Cardiff and Eureka (Halifax).

What Can I Read?

We’ve got two great posts on the NatSCA blog this month. Yvette Harvey writes about the colonial history of the collecting trips of George Forrest, whose collections still have a huge impact on what is grown in our gardens today. Jan Freedman writes about his experiences in busy museums, and how a calmer, post-Covid environment may benefit the experiences of visitors.

Continue reading