Welcome to the June edition of NatSCA Digital Digest!
With the government easing lockdown, some of us return to work, but museums and art galleries still remain closed. There are still lots of great online resources and activities to enjoy.
Where can I ‘visit’?
The Natural History Museum, London has several virtual tours around their galleries. Whether you would like to flick through the Wildlife Photographer of the Year images, or listen to the soothing voice of Sir David Attenborough, there’s plenty to see, and inspire some ideas for your own museum.
SPNHC and ICOM NATHIST are holding a virtual digital meeting from June 8th – June 12th. The event includes presentations, symposiums and educational sharing to promote communication and professional development. More details can be found here.
Museums are most powerful when they connect real objects and research with real people. Natural science objects elicit deep emotional responses to the climate emergency; they help people to care and when done right, empower action.
This message is central to the NatSCA conference this year:
We’d love to hear your experience in a talk at the conference, the deadline for submissions is the 7th February.
Natural science collections are unique records of past biodiversity and climate across Britain, and the world, and are essential for climate change research taking place in museums every day. They allow access to historical information about millions of different species, providing an incredible amount of detail. They show how plants and animals have responded to past climate change, they show long-term population trends, and they show what we have lost.
These are all stories essential to bring clear factual science to an emotionally-charged debate. Research on these collections has directly shaped conservation work and climate change mitigation. In short, natural science collections are a powerful way to help save the world and give people hope for a better future.
Decolonising museums is in the headlines a lot at the moment and so it should be. I’ve chatted to a few people about this recently and it isn’t very clear what it means, how it relates to natural science collections and how we can start to decolonise our collections, so I thought I’d share my own thoughts.
Much of the discussion in the museum sector has been around ethnography collections with some great work that goes some way to redress our colonial past (including from my own institution Manchester Museum who have returned sacred aboriginal objects). Some ethnography objects are made from bark, fur or ivory, but these materials don’t often form part of the decolonisation debate.
The reality is that many natural history collections, particularly in the western world have a colonial origin. Many objects were traded on slave ships and were an attempt to map and tame the British Empire. Miranda Lowe and Subhadra Das have done some brilliant work to highlight this and the Grant Museum’s new exhibition on their Colonial Histories is a great first step in bringing this to the public.
Welcome to the January edition of Digital Digest and a Happy New Year to you all.
I am dedicating this first Digital Digest to conferences, as calls for papers seem to be coming thick and fast. There are some fab events this year so get planning, submitting and registering.
NatSCA Conference & AGM2020 .
Changing the World: Environmental Breakdown, Decolonisation and Natural Science collections
Thursday 14th & Friday 15th May 2020. National Museum Wales, Cardiff.
The #NatSCA2020 conference invites proposals for presentations exploring the role of natural science collections in addressing or engaging with ‘big issue’ challenges, both in the environment and in society. For example:
Have you been involved in a research project using natural science collections to inform decision/policy makers on the implications of climate change, biodiversity loss or biosecurity threats?
Are you developing plans to reconceptualise and decolonise your collections?
We would like to hear from anyone and everyone who uses natural science collections to interact with important global topics.
Deadline for submission: 7th February. Click here for more info about how to submit your abstract.