Meet The Committee – Laura Soul

Name

Laura Soul

What is your role on the NatSCA committee?

I am new to the committee, so I am helping out wherever I am useful, which to start off with has been assisting with planning training and our approach to diversity and inclusion.

Job Title and Institution

I’m the Manager of National Learning Programmes and Partnerships at the Natural History Museum, London.

Twitter Username

@soul_sci

Tell Us About Your Day Job

I work in partnership with museums and other organisations around the UK to design and deliver natural history learning experiences for lots of different audiences and share our collections nationally. We do this in several different ways, for example through things like Dippy on Tour when the NHMs famous Diplodocus travelled around the country, through public participation in science, or through Explore: Urban Nature where we’re helping young people in cities investigate the nature on their doorstep and participate in real scientific research.  I’m also a research associate at Smithsonian NMNH and do collections based paleobiological research with colleagues there, mainly focussed on how we use fossil record data to understand ecosystem change over time.

Most people have some kind of connection to nature, wherever they come from, and often that links back to childhood experiences or family. Many will have collected a shell, rock or pinecone and had it sitting on their windowsill at some point in their life! Natural history collections can feel very familiar for that reason, and most people are primed to appreciate beauty in the natural world. Natural history is the least abstract type of science so as well as that sense of awe and beauty I also think many people find it accessible in a way that other disciplines sometimes aren’t.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing natural science collections right now?

I think most natural science collections institutions are recognising the opportunity, and perhaps responsibility, that we have to engage people with our collections to help them make sense of some of the most important issues of our time, like climate change and the biodiversity crisis. How we digitise collections, conserve them and make them accessible to the widest possible audience are all important challenges that we are facing that tie in to how we can best connect people with these big global issues.

What would your career be in an alternate universe without museums?

I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of fieldwork and spend time in the outdoors for work, which has always been my favourite part of the job. There are so many compelling stories that help people understand science and to think critically about the world around them that can be told through nature, so without museums I’d probably still be talking to people about science but doing it out in nature.

What is your favourite museum, and why?

A biased answer because I helped develop it – but the Deep Time exhibition at Smithsonian NMNH is a beautiful example of how to put life into context, both humans in the context of the vast history of life on our planet, and all the life that has gone before us in the context of its environment. A less biased answer is the Tenement Museum in New York; it brings human histories to life and they also create a space for people to come together and have effective dialogue about contemporary issues.

NatSCA Digital Digest – October

Compiled by Lily Nadine Wilkes, NatSCA Volunteer.

Welcome to the October edition of NatSCA Digital Digest.

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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.

Note from editor: Unfortunately this is the last of Lily’s posts as she had stepped down from her role as part of the Digest team. A huge thanks for all your contributions! If anyone is interested in taking up her position, drop me a line.

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What to Do

There are lots of fun Natural Science activities happening in October half term, like the Marine Day at the Great North Museum: Hancock. The National Museum of Scotland has lots of activities to do in October Half Term. This event at National Museums NI Ulster Folk Museum on the Naturalists Notebook looks fascinating.

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NatSCA Digital Digest – September

Compiled by Olivia Beavers, Assistant Curator of Natural Science at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Welcome to the September 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.

What to do

As we move into the new school year, The Grantham Climate Art Prize is calling for messages of hope from young people on climate change – ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November. This is an opportunity for young people aged 12-25 to raise awareness for our precious habitats and send a message of hope through designing a mural to go onto walls across the UK – and be in for a chance to win £250 cash!  The theme of this competition is Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change. Click here to learn more – entries by 24.09.21.

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Digital Digest – August

Compiled by Glenn Roadley, NatSCA Committee Member, Curator of Natural Science at 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.

NatSCA Conference 2021: Environmental Breakdown and Natural Science Collections

In case you missed it, the NatSCA 2021 Conference: Environmental Breakdown and Natural Science Collections, which took place in May, is now freely available to view online, through our website or YouTube channel. This year’s conference focussed on how we can address global issues such as climate change and habitat loss with our collections, and featured some amazing talks and fascinating tours from across the sector. All talks, tours and Q&A sessions have captions available.

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NatSCA Digital Digest – July

Compiled by Lily Nadine Wilkes, NatSCA Volunteer.

Welcome to the July 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 exhibition launches, conferences (live or virtual) and webinars, and new or interesting online content. If you have any top tips and recommendations for our next Digest please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

What To See & Do

The ‘Insectarium: Fascination and Fear’ exhibition present artwork on the feelings that insects inspire in us. If you can’t make it to Aberlady, Scotland, you can view the art online here.

If you’re looking for something crafty to do there are plenty of online workshops to take part in. With the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on 14th July at 8pm participate and enjoy ‘Drawn to Nature: Conservation’. In this online event you will hear about the art of conservation before taking a chance to draw some natural history specimens. The Natural History Museum are offering making sessions where you can create a crochet dinosaur or make your own plant pot.

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