Meet the Committee – Jennifer Gallichan

What is your role on the NatSCA committee?

I am new to the NatSCA committee so am just starting to feel my way and find what my role might be as an Ordinary Member. I have considered joining the committee for many years, so I am really excited to finally be a part of it and just looking forward to getting involved, helping out and learning as much as I can.

Job title and institution

Curator: Mollusca & Vertebrates at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff

Twitter Username

@jennifergallich

Tell us about your day job

I have been at National Museum Cardiff for 17 years and for the large part of this time my role has been to work as part of the team curating the mollusc collections. We have one of the largest collections of molluscs in the UK, and it is taxonomically and historically significant. In recent years however, I have also taken on the role of facilitating access to the Vertebrate Collections. As you can imagine, this has been a significant learning curve and I am still in the process of developing in this role. As with many curators, a large part of my job is making collections accessible to everyone, be it through enquiries, loans, collection tours, open days, workshops, talks, visits and everything else. My job also includes curation – adding collections to our databases, sorting labels, etc, but with so many things to cover, I don’t get as much opportunity to do this as I would like. In recent years I have been involved with collections-based research, locating and investigating Type specimens in both our own collections and those in other institutions.

Natural science collections are very popular with museum visitors. Why do you think this is?

What’s not to love? They appeal on so many levels. For our youngest visitors this might be their first close encounter with nature, I remember my own experiences as a child vividly and it had a huge impact on me and my life choices. For artists, the collections are endlessly inspiring and a reminder of the amazing beauty and diversity in the world around us. For amateur naturalists they are havens for knowledge, feeding that passion. For specialists they are storehouses, representing vast swathes of data. For everyone, they can be immersive experiences of escape and wonder.

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

Not to sound like an overplayed record, but money, money, money. Not just that there is less to spread round; but where that money is spent and who makes those decisions. I have had personal experience of losing colleagues to redundancies and it is a very real problem. With the loss of these amazingly talented and devoted people, we are losing not only valuable mentors and guides, but immeasurable amounts of knowledge about the collections they were custodians of. In many cases collections have been left vulnerable, open to poor treatment, terrible conditions, or disposal. With greater demands on smaller pockets, we are all expected to justify the relevance of our museums, the collections, our research, and science.

What do you love most about working with natural science collections?

There are so many things! Of course, the incredible collections. I am very aware of the privilege and honour it is to work with such great specimens. There is always something new to discover, something weird you didn’t know about. The people. I cannot state how much respect I have for all of my museum colleagues, for their dedication and amazing enthusiasm. Finally, the buildings! Generally, they are old, beautiful, full of character, history and stories.

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

What a horrible universe that would be! I think a librarian? Which I know is not a million miles away from a curator. If not, maybe an illustrator with a lovely studio in a garden shed in the countryside. I loved art in school and would have so enjoyed pursuing it further. Or run my own tea house.

What is your favourite museum, and why?

I can’t pick an absolute favourite, I think it varies depending on the day or my mood. Close to home, I would choose St Fagans National Museum of History, just outside Cardiff. It’s an open-air museum where historic buildings from across Wales have been taken down and re-erected piece by piece by piece. It is fantastic for a day out, not only to see the beautiful buildings but also the wildlife; great wild birds, lesser horseshoe bats and great crested newts are all present on site.

Written by Jennifer Gallichan, Curator: Mollusca & Vertebrates at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff, and NatSCA Committee Member

 

Meet the Committee – Donna Young

What is your role on the NatSCA committee?

My main role over for the last four years has been organising our annual conferences at York, Bristol, Derby and Cambridge museums.

There’s a lot of work involved in putting the programme together and it’s a great team effort, along with our fantastic treasurer and the staff based at the various venues. I have found it very rewarding to see us expand our audience and develop our programme themes.

I am currently a member of the of the journal editorial board and NatSCA bursaries/grants sub-committee.

Job Title & Institution

Curator of the Herbarium: World Museum, National Museums Liverpool.

Twitter Username

@HerbariumDonna

Donna Young, hard at work on the herbarium. (C) National Museums Liverpool.

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Meet the Committee – Isla Gladstone

What is your role on the NatSCA Committee?

I help promote information sharing and collaboration between NatSCA and closely allied subject specialist network the Geological Curators’ Group. These groups share core aims and, increasingly with loss of specialist curatorial posts, a membership. It’s exciting to explore how we can capitalise their individual strengths for the benefit of natural sciences collections and the people who work with them. 

Job title and institution

Senior Curator (Natural Sciences), Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Bristol Culture

Twitter username

@isla_gladstone

Tell us about your day job

I work with a small team (Biology Curator Rhian Rowson and Geology Curator Deborah Hutchinson) to curate over one million natural sciences specimens of all shapes and sizes. As many a curator will recognise, this varies from high level strategic work to lifting, shifting, labelling and cleaning – a medley of activities to enable diverse access to and preserve these astonishing collections.

Medicinal plant on a page from Bristol’s earliest natural sciences collection – the Broughton herbarium, Bristol & Jamaica, 1779-90. (C) Bristol Culture.

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Meet the Committee – Roberto Portela Miguez

What is your role on the NatSCA Committee?

I have been the Secretary for the Society since 2014 and on the committee, since 2011. NatSCA and its membership have contributed significantly to my development as a curator and collection manager, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the society in this capacity now.

Job title and institution

I am the Senior Curator in Charge for the Mammal Section at the Natural History Museum, London.

The Museum collection contains an estimated 500,000 mammal specimens and over 8,000 of those are type specimens. This makes it one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in the world.

Twitter username

@bertieportela

“Fashion is key for fieldwork” says Roberto

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Meet the NatSCA Committee – Lucie Mascord

Meet the NatSCA Committee: Ordinary Member

Name: Lucie Mascord

What is your role on the NatSCA Committee? I am the new Conservation Representative

Job title and institution: Conservator of Natural History, Lancashire Conservation Studios

Twitter username: @LuceGraham

Tell us about your day job: I am a specialist natural history conservator, working for a museums service and my own business. In both, I provide conservation services to the heritage and private sector. This is mainly in the North West – everywhere from Cumbria or to Cheshire, but my work has taken me all over the country which means I get to visit lots of new collections.

My role covers all scope of natural history collections but I specialise in bone, fluid preserved collections and taxidermy. My work is incredibly varied; as well as a conservator I am a preparator – preparing bone, skins, taxidermy and fluid preserved material. I can spend 200 hours plus conserving a single specimen, or carry out a whole collection survey in 72 hours! I also provide training to institutions in natural history collections care.

 

Visiting the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée

Natural science collections are very popular with visitors. Why do you think this is?

Overall, I think it is about innate curiosity – the natural world is deeply fascinating and diverse. The reason natural history collections are popular with children is they are still in that stage of uninhibited curiosity.

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Confessions of an Amateur Aquarist: Having an Aquarium in a Museum Exhibition

Sea Life: Glimpses of the Wonderful‘ is the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery’s (RAMM) 2017 summer exhibition. It takes inspiration from the works of PH Gosse. Gosse was a Victorian naturalist who lived near Torquay and spent his time exploring the coast. He wrote many popular books and RAMM is fortunate to have over 100 of his original artworks.

Devonshire cup coral. Teaching aid drawn in coloured chalk by PH Gosse. (Image courtesy of Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery).

Gosse is well known for his interest in aquariums. He invented the word aquarium and was among the first to keep animals alive successfully. In 1856 he published a book; ‘The aquarium: an unveiling of the wonders of the deep sea’, and was also partly responsible for the aquarium craze that gripped Victorian England.

The exhibition team decided that no exhibition on rock pooling and aquariums was complete without a real one set up in the gallery.  Kids keep fish as pets – can’t be that hard … or so we thought. I’d like to share a few things we have learnt over the past few months: Continue reading

Meet the NatSCA Committee – Paul A. Brown

What is your role on the NatSCA Committee?

I am the Archivist, responsible for collecting together the archives from our previous incarnations; The Biology Curators’ Group and The Natural Sciences Conservation Group and more recent NatSCA documents. Most of this sits by my desk. Do any of you membership have anything that could be added?

Job title and institution

Senior Curator, Hemiptera (Sternorrhyncha), Thysanoptera, Phthiraptera, Psocoptera, Collembola, Thysanura, Archaeognatha, Diplura & Protura, Insect Small Orders section, Life Sciences Department, Natural History Museum, London.

Twitter username

I am too old to learn how to have one!

On field work at Scolt Head, Norfolk

On field work at Scolt Head, Norfolk

Tell us about your day job

I am presently responsible for part of the ‘small’ orders listed above. This entails re-curating and data-basing the mostly microscope slide collections and dealing with scientific visitors, loans of material and answering enquiries. I still do some research into the taxonomy of Aphids in particular (see research-gate). Almost 40 years in Museums so according to some, I might know something? If you have problems with microscope slides then who ya gonna call, ‘slide busters?’! Continue reading