Written by Glenn Roadley, Curator (Natural Science), The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
What is your role on the NatSCA committee?
Though new to the committee, I’ve been volunteering for NatSCA for about 5 years, primarily updating the NatSCA Jobs Listings web page. I’ll be continuing to help out with keeping our website up to date, and I’m looking forward to assisting with the organisation of future NatSCA conferences.
Job title and institution
Curator (Natural Science), The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Tell us about your day job
As Curator of Natural Science at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, I am responsible for caring for and providing access to the ~150,000 Natural Science specimens held by Stoke-on-Trent City Council. As the main repository for Natural Science specimens in Staffordshire, the museum holds a robust representation of local flora and fauna, backed by strong links with the local biological recording community. My day to day work usually involves answering enquiries (usually requests for identification), organising both Natural Science and cross-disciplinary displays and exhibitions, developing the collections through both acquisitions and disposals and facilitating visitors and loans. I’m lucky to work with a great team of volunteers, who perform invaluable work documenting and digitising our specimens.
Natural science collections are very popular with museum visitors. Why do you think this is?
I consider them to be the most accessible of the collections in a museum – everyone enters the museum with some idea of what a squirrel is, or a fish, or a fox, so a foundation of basic knowledge and curiosity is already there on which to build greater opportunities for learning or engagement.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing natural science collections right now?
A lack of funding and subject specialist knowledge is an obvious threat – though perhaps not as much as that loss being framed as an ‘opportunity’. We need to be resilient and resourceful in how we react to these challenges, but I think it important that other models such as public co-curation are maintained as complimentary to curatorial expertise, not suitable replacements.
What do you love most about working with natural science collections?
The variety! This week alone I’ve travelled to Torquay to collect a new acquisition of geology specimens, finalised planning for a European Researchers Night science festival in Stoke, filled a Natural Science diorama with rubbish as a statement against plastic pollution and vacuumed a white-tailed eagle.
What would your career be in an alternate universe without museums?
I’m not sure! I used to work as IT support in a school, so perhaps I’d have continued down the tech support route… not that I’ve done much to avoid it in the museum world! Though I’ve always had a passion for the sciences, museum work is the only career prospect that has really excited me. I could see myself being a museum registrar in a universe without curators though!
What is your favourite museum, and why?
The Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL. I love the sheer number of specimens on display and the whole ‘classic’ aesthetic of the place – plus I have a soft spot for skeleton and fluid stored specimens, of which many are on display in the Grant. It’s always my preferred oasis whenever I need to kill time in London. There will always be a place in my heart for the Leeds Museums Discovery Centre though!
You can find out more about all of our fabulous committee members here.