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

NatSCA Digital Digest – June

Three-toed sloth (C) Horniman Museum and Gardens

What Should I Read?

Four new dinosaurs all under one article, plus a good reason to check what’s in your museum stores more carefully. Dr Dave Hone introduces a cavalcade of new giant dinosaurs.

We all want to live in a perfect world where all museum records are available online, so why don’t we just digitise everything huh? Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives tackles The Question so many of us seem to get asked: Why don’t archivists digitize everything?

Not so much a blog or article to read, but definitely something to have a quick look at for it’s wow factor alone. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next event, be it for children or adults, it doesn’t come much better than these balloon animals and insects. These incredible balloon sculptures are by artist Masayoshi Matsumoto, and are just amazing. Continue reading

How to Store Taxidermy

We all know that discussing issues with other museum professionals within Subject Specialist Networks is an efficient way of disseminating information within the sector, but the following article provides a perspective from a generalist commercial storage company; a voice we don’t usually hear from.

Safestore, the UK’s largest self-storage provider, recently made a video series called ‘Stuff is Great‘ which focused on collectors and their individual passions. Among other client case studies, the series featured Suzette Field and her collection of taxidermy specimens. The following article, How to Store Taxidermy, was written by Safestore themselves and provides useful guidance on how to use these public facilities for storing such material.

This taxidermy collection featured in the Safestore project 'Stuff is Great'. © Safestore

This taxidermy collection featured in the Safestore project ‘Stuff is Great’. © Safestore

As any taxidermy enthusiast will know, a sizable collection can take years to build.  During that time your life and circumstances will change; you may welcome children into your life, move home, change job, all the while accumulating more pieces.  At some point you may be faced with the challenge of storing your taxidermy and with the right know-how it’s not as painful a process as it sounds!

Safestore recently stored a taxidermy collection and found it to be the safest environment for high value taxidermy.  Your attic or garage may seem like a cheaper alternative but both locations are affected by the changing climate throughout the year, putting undue stress on your collection.

Follow these tips for storing your taxidermy safely…

  1. Use wooden crates.

Using a wooden crate for each taxidermy piece means you can affix the mounts to the inside of the crates.  This will keep the taxidermy from touching the inside of the crate and allow air to circulate the piece.  Cardboard isn’t sturdy enough for large taxidermy pieces and doesn’t offer the same protection.

  1. Keep the damp away.

Storage units are typically very dry but the climate can vary from time to time.  Add silica gel packets to each crate as they will absorb any moisture in the air and keep your taxidermy dry.

  1. Keep the pests away.

Moths and small bugs would love nothing more than nibbling away at your taxidermy pieces so using ‘no pest strips’ or moth killer strips will help to keep your crates critter free.

  1. Climate and humidity.

When looking for self storage units for your taxidermy, ensure your unit is somewhat climate controlled.  Units on the outer edge of the building may be more prone to temperature changes so ask for a unit that remains cool and dry throughout the year.

Taxidermy is expensive and some pieces are one of a kind, therefore it is imperative to ensure your items are safe and secure once in storage.  Look for self storage facilities with 24hr CCTV, restricted access, sole key holder policies and intruder alarms.

  1. Check!

It’s super important to check your taxidermy from time to time, especially if you’re storing for a number of months.  Make sure you replace the pest strips and silica packets and check for any signs of damage or stress.  It’s easier to rectify a problem sooner rather than later!

Ultimately taxidermy is for displaying and enjoying, however if you’re in need of an interim home for your collection you’re not short of options.  Keeping your pieces safe and in good condition is easy so long as each item is packed with due care and is stored somewhere out of harm’s reach.

By Tiffiny Franklin, Digital Outreach Executive, Safestore

NatSCA Digital Digest

 

A mounted skeleton of a fruitbat leers at the camera

Welcome to the March edition of the Digital Digest! Without further ado…

News

Booking is open for the 2016 NatSCA Conference and AGM, ‘The Nature of Collections – How museums inspire our connection to the natural world‘, which will be held at the Derby Museum & Art Gallery and The Silk Mill on 21 – 22 April.

We have invited papers and posters looking at how museums have inspired and shaped the relationship of visitors and users of the collections to the natural world:

  • Projects between wildlife/environmental organisations/parks and museums.
  • The training & developing of naturalist skills using collections.
  • Artists projects connecting collections/gallery to outside spaces.
  • Looking at the relationship between natural history societies, their collections & museums.
  • Exhibition examples linking preserved specimens and our environment.

The Early Bird deadline is TODAY (Thursday 10 March), so get booking and save money!

If you’re not yet a NatSCA member, now is a great time to join – you can purchase membership and get the member’s conference rate for the same cost as a non-member ticket! See our membership page to join.

If you are a member, email the NatSCA Membership Secretary (membership@natsca.org) for your booking discount code.

Jobs

Geologist, Scarborough Museums Trust. A great opportunity for any rock and fossil enthusiasts! Application deadline: Friday 8 April.

Research and Data Coordinator in Science Policy (CITES), Kew. One of a selection of interesting posts currently on offer at Kew, the application deadline for this post is Wednesday 16 March.

Around the Web

A taxidermy warehouse in London was broken into on Tuesday this week, and 18 specimens were stolen. The Met police are appealing for information: http://news.met.police.uk/news/help-needed-to-trace-stolen-stuffed-animals-154850

DNA from museum specimens confirms a new species of forest thrush.

Why was the pink-headed duck’s head pink? Museum specimens reveal the secrets of this extinct species.

Exciting new natural science workshops and a new book

Time is racing away, and in just a few days we will be at the NatSCA Bone Collections day in Cambridge (8th September 2015). The talks and posters promise to be really varied, interesting, and hugely informative. There is also the added bonus of a practical session to get your hands on some skeletal material, and, under the expert guidance of Bethany Palumbo, learn all about the basics of bone conservation.

Just a month later (15th October 2015), Paolo Viscardi will be leading a workshop on the identification of natural materials, a free course run by NatSCA and held at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter (now sold out).

There is still more good news in that NatSCA, the Horniman Museum and Gardens, and Icon have published a book containing the full papers given at the Conservation of Hair conference held in June 2014. The book is published by Archetype books.

Conservation of Hair Publication

back_hair

Book Review: Integrated Pest Management for Cultural Heritage (2015)

A new book on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) by expert David Pinniger will be published next week, on Tuesday 5th May, entitled ‘Integrated Pest Management for Cultural Heritage‘. The book builds on years of research and advances in IPM techniques, and aims to be a working guide to be used by heritage professionals.

NatSCA member and conservator Lucie Graham has kindly reviewed the book for us in detail. This is available in NatSCA Notes & Comments. Please head over there and have a read.

 

Cover of Integrated Pest Management in Cultural Heritage, by David Pinniger

 

Let’s Not Forget the Old Ways

Museums Unleashed is the conference to get to in 2015. The theme, as the title suggests, is unleashing your collections: getting them out ‘there’ using social media, blogs, TV, and newspapers. With an excellent programme of speakers, the conference will discuss inspiring new ways of sharing our collections, both to familiar audiences and new ones.

The conference will be an excellent opportunity to hear case studies on what other museums are up to and how different methods are being used. This is where wonderful, new, and exciting ideas are thought up, leading to the birth of outrageously different projects (this often happens in the pub).

As Viscardi (2012) writes, advocacy is essential for survival of the sector as a whole. We all do it, and more than we think. Probably eight or nine times a week. We talk to our colleagues and friends about our collections, or a cool specimen that we are working on. We get on the radio and talk about projects. This is great advocacy. Exciting discoveries or research in our store rooms are often accompanied by media reports highlighting the awesome museum collections.

Capricorn Beetle (Cerambyx cerdo)

Capricorn Beetle (Cerambyx cerdo) found at Plymouth University in 2007. Specimen is the first sighting of this species since 1947, and was donated to the museum. A short article was written for the local newspaper (http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Giant-beetle-time-Plymouth-city-native/story-23139707-detail/story.html)

As museum professionals, we should embrace new communication media without forgetting the old ways. One of the most effective means of letting staff at other museums know about your work or your collections is by writing an article for the Journal of Natural Science Collections. The Journal is fully peer-reviewed, and is written by those working with natural science collections for those working with natural science collections. This is a great way of sharing your expertise, your knowledge, and your passion for your collections with your colleagues.

All of the published articles are also made freely available online. The first two Volumes of the Journal are already available, with interesting and useful articles about conservation, collections reviews, education and the history of different collections. Some articles will be useful to your everyday work as a reference, others may spark ideas for future collaborative projects. We are now seeking contributions for Volume 3. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and send in an article!

The deadline for the next Volume is 15th July 2015. Please contact the Editor, Jan Freedman, for further information (editor@natsca.org). Guidelines for authors are available here, and are currently being updated.

 

Jan Freedman
Curator of Natural History, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery