NatSCA Digital Digest – May 2022

Compiled by Claire Dean, Curatorial Assistant at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, and MA Preventive Conservation student at Northumbria University.

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

Sector News

The countdown is on to the SPNCH/NatSCA/BHL Conference 2022, which is being held in Edinburgh and online. Early Rate registration has now closed but a Late Rate registration fee is still available, with NatSCA members eligible for the Standard Member rate. The programme runs from Sunday 5th to Friday 10th June and is available to view here.

If your work involves (or if you are considering) citizen science, community science, or other forms of research collaborations with the public, you may be interested in joining the virtual C*Sci2022 conference, May 23-26th.  Registration is now open and the full programme is available here.

Brighton’s Booth Museum has received funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund for an exciting new project to create a modern diorama to reflect changes in UK wildlife since E.T. Booth’s death in 1890. The project will also involve improving their educational offers and increase audience participation. Due to run from 2022-2024, you can find out more about the project here.

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‘Marvellous Molluscs’ – Increasing Accessibility, Improving Storage & Unlocking Research Potential At The University Of Aberdeen

Written by Hannah Clarke, Assistant Curator (Collections Access), University of Aberdeen.

In April 2021, The University of Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum, with support from NatSCA’s Bill Pettit Memorial Award, undertook a year-long project to rehouse and improve the accessibility of the University’s mollusc collection.

The collection comprises approximately 2550, mostly British specimens, collected from the 1840s to the 1970s. The specimens were gifted to the museum by former students, academic staff, and amateur shell collectors, they also include several specimens from as far afield as the Pacific, Africa, China, Madagascar, America, and Canada.

The molluscs form part of the University’s extensive Zoology Collections, which are recognised as being of National Significance. As such, we are constantly striving to improve access to these collections, and the ‘Marvellous Molluscs’ Project aimed to do just that.

Assistant Curator, Hannah Clarke, identifying storage issues in specimen cupboards.

Having identified the collections both in storage and on display, a project plan was created that would tackle not only the rehousing, but also the documentation of the specimens on the museum database. The majority of specimens were poorly stored several layers deep in drawers, had outdated taxonomy, and lacked any database records or collections data.

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Digital Digest – April 2022

Compiled by Milo Phillips, Assistant Curator of Entomology for Leeds Museums and Galleries.

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

Sector News

SPNHC / BHL / NatSCA Conference 2022

This summer will see the return of the physical NatSCA Conference – a partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Early Rate registration has now closed but a Late Rate registration fee is still available, with NatSCA members eligible for the Standard Member rate. The programme of events is now available to view.

NatSCA Lunchtime Chats

The new lunchtime chats are for members only and run on the last Thursday of every month. In our last session we heard from Mike Rutherford, Curator of Zoology and Anatomy at the Hunterian in Glasgow all about their investigation of a sperm whale that washed up in Thailand.

In this month’s talk we’ll be having a discussion about upcoming openings on the board of trustees for NatSCA (i.e. the committee), so please join us if you’d like to learn more about what we all do. There will be specific roles opening up so departing trustees will be explaining in more detail what those involve, but there will also be general positions available. Any NatSCA member is eligible to become a trustee; no previous experience or length of time as a member is a requirement, just an enthusiasm for supporting the work of the association. We welcome and encourage all applicants and we are particularly keen to receive nominations that help us represent the diversity of our membership, at trustee level.

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Wikipedia, Museum Volunteers And The New Normal

By John-James Wilson, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, World Museum, National Museums Liverpool.

Like most museums across the country, World Museum suspended its volunteer programmes shortly before the first national lockdown in March 2020. This was meant to be a short-term measure but with curators continuing to work hybridly our volunteers haven’t yet returned. Organisations like Volunteer Scotland have advised volunteers to consider if and how they can work remotely.

While some museums had existing remote volunteering activities (see great examples here and here), which saw increased participation, World Museum’s vertebrate zoology collection didn’t. An additional challenge for us has been that remote access to our collections database is limited to staff with a VDI. With the pandemic still with us for some time to come (Chris Whitty has said it will be 5 years) we have started exploring ways to engage both new and long-serving volunteers with the collection online.

During lockdown, Auckland Museum published a Wikimedia strategy citing the provocative 2018 talk by Adam Moriarty which championed the importance of collection information featuring, not solely on museum’s own webpages, but in places like GBIF and Wikipedia. This reinforced our view that we need to improve the collections’ presence in Wikipedia. Wikipedia articles are created by volunteers and can be edited by anyone with a standard web browser, potentially providing a valuable activity for remote volunteering.

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Giving Collections An Extra Life – Making Video Games That Promote Collections Engagement (For Free)

Written by Glenn Roadley, NatSCA Committee Member, Curator of Natural Science at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

(Note: this article includes interactive games. If they don’t work, your organisation may have blocked game websites through your network)

You might think that playing video games falls at the opposite end of the hobby-spectrum when compared to getting engaged with nature. But the immersion and creativity allowed often provides many of the same benefits, and nature is used as inspiration for many of the most popular video games. In this way video games can become a gateway to learning about nature in the real world – did you know that the highest grossing media franchise of all time (step aside, Marvel) started as a video game about collecting fictional animals to help a scientist with their biological recording project? You’ve probably heard of it. And the Animal Crossing franchise, a game series where a core activity involves collecting insects and fish to donate to the local museum, has sold over 70 million copies.

Games like Pokémon and Animal Crossing show that natural science collections are already on to a winner when it comes to subject matter and gaming. The collections are full of characters and stories, and games should be considered as another way to provide access to these.

The benefits of games are well-established (stress relief, improvement of memory and development of problem-solving skills are among the benefits often cited) and Learning Through Play is already a central part of how museums engage with their audiences. Many museums have used computer games to bring their interpretation to life (https://www.museumnext.com/article/how-can-games-in-museums-enhance-visitor-experience/).

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