NatSCA Digital Digest – October

Compiled by Lily Nadine Wilkes. NatSCA Volunteer.

Welcome to the October edition of NatSCA Digital Digest.What can I read?

There are some wonderful posts on our blog. Patricia Francis, the natural history curator of Gallery Oldham, wrote Natural Connections an investigation of the person, place and specimens of a painting that reveals a hidden Oldham story. There is also Andrew Kitchener’s post on CryoArks, the UK’s first zoological biobank.

As we are in Black History Month, there is a lovely collection of research from the Natural History Museum into how the museums history and collections are connected to the transatlantic slave trade in Slavery and the Natural World.

What can I see?

The National Museum of Scotland has a fabulous small exhibition on Scotland’s Precious Seas, exploring Scotland’s diverse sea life and many threats facing marine life.

Chester Zoo have shared this fantastic animal video for World Animal Day.

Not visiting anywhere currently? Take a look at the interesting online collections of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

What can I do?

The Geological Curators Group have their Symposium of Palaeontological Preparation and Conservation 2020 event on 11th – 17th October.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History are holding an online lecture ‘How do many-eyed animals see the world?’ with Dr Lauren Sumner-Rooney, a research fellow.

As part of the iDigBio webinar series ‘Adapting to COVID-19: Resources for Natural History Collections in a New Virtual World‘, Virtual Project Management, Tips and Tools, will take place on the 27th October 2020.

On social media you can get involved in #ReptileAwarenessDay on 21st October, showcase your spookiest collection on #Halloween (31st October) and on November 8th there is #STEMDay.

Save The Date!

Pest Odyssey 2021 – the Next Generation Detect, Respond, Recover – best practice IPM in 2021.

20th – 22nd September 2021

Submissions are invited for the third Pest Odyssey Conference. This will be a fully virtual conference and will enable participants to focus on changes and new developments in IPM over the last ten years.

They invite contributions looking at science, sustainability and climate change in relation to IPM. Additionally, papers examining how to carry out IPM well and what a successful IPM programme looks like over 10+ years. Methods of advocacy and successful ways to share the IPM message both in your organisation and the wider world will be welcomed.

Abstracts should be a maximum of 500 words and should be submitted to pestodyssey@gmail.com by 12 a.m. (midnight) GMT on 8th January 2021.

Successful authors will be notified by 8th March 2021. Completed papers will be required by 30th June 2021 for peer review for inclusion in the conference publication. Poster abstracts will be invited, but the call for these will follow later.

Jobs?

National Museums Scotland are looking for an Assistant Preventive Conservator. Closing date 16th October.

North Pennines AONB Partnership are looking for a Geology Projects Trainee. Closing date 11th October.

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 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.

Collecting with Lao Chao [Zhao Chengzhang]: Decolonising the Collecting Trips of George Forrest

Written by Yvette Harvey, Keeper of the Herbarium, Royal Horticultural Society, RHS Garden Wisley.

Lao Chao (left) and team. McLean (2004: 193) wrote that Forrest called Lao Chao his ‘best card in this business’ © The Royal Horticultural Society and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

This is the essence of a talk that was recently presented at the virtual conference of the US based Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). Inspired by Das & Lowe in their 2017 NatSCA conference talk and subsequent paper (2018), in a similar way mentioned by Machin (2020) in her recent blog, I have started looking at stories by and about some of our revered plant collectors, or rather, hunting for small clues about their escapades from the perspective of others on their teams. This is with the aim of decolonising narratives for present and future interpretation, having finally opened my eyes and realised that current interpretation for living collections can fall way short of acknowledging what really happened and where credit should lie. And being mindful of different concepts of decolonisation, discussed by Gelsthorpe (2020) in an earlier blog.

For years, the curators of museums and living collections, and their visitors have been programmed to respond to and expect talks of the grand, death-defying adventures of our collectors – so much so that we appear to have closed our minds to the realities and injustices of what really happened on expeditions.

George Forrest © The Royal Horticultural Society and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The main focus here is on George Forrest, born in 1873, the Scottish plant collector whose collections still have a huge impact on what is grown in our gardens today. Son of a draper’s shop assistant, Forrest had an interesting earlier career after leaving school at 18 – he worked in a pharmaceutical chemists prior to getting a small inheritance that gave him the opportunity to travel to Australia where he undertook a few jobs including sheep shearing and gold-mining (McLean 2004). On his return to the UK, through a serendipitous stroke of luck in discovering a rare archaeological find whilst out botanising, he landed a job as an assistant in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1903 – gaining curatorial skills and insights necessary to make him an ideal plant collector in the field.

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