NatSCA Digital Digest – November

Compiled by Glenn Roadley, Curator (Natural Science), The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Welcome to the November 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.

News from the Sector 

Upcoming Conference: Decolonising Natural Science Collections
November 19th 2020
NatSCA will be holding a one-day online conference on November 19th 2020, 9:50am – 4.15pm GMT.

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 is free for members, with opportunity for live Q&A. The event will be recorded and made freely available afterwards. NatSCA members will receive a code to register via email – if you have not received this, please contact membership@natsca.org

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action is an international design and ideas competition launched on 18th May 2020 for International Museum Day. The competition, which closed on the 15th September, challenged designers, architects, academics, artists, poets, philosophers, museum professionals and the public at large to radically (re)imagine and (re)design the museum as an institution, to help bring about more equitable and sustainable futures in the climate change era. Find out more about the project and the eight winning proposals at www.museumsforclimateaction.org

Pest Odyssey UK Discussion Forum

The Pest Odyssey UK group is a non profit organisation, advocating for IPM within cultural heritage institutions. Its mission is to provide a trusted platform to communicate, advise and promote best practise in Integrated Pest Management for cultural heritage. If you have a question about pest management or advice to share, you can join the email group here.

Warwickshire Museum Collections Move

Warwickshire Museum has recently moved its extensive collections of geology, archaeology, natural history, social history and costume to new stores close to the county town of Warwick. Natural history, comprising a comprehensive herbarium, extensive taxidermy collection and an entomology collection, are now re-housed in secure pods within the new storage, using fixed and mobile racking (Ocean Design), recycled from our old store, which was kitted out in 2012-2013. Many months and probably years of unpacking and documentation lie ahead, but the collections should be accessible again, sometime in 2021.

Packing and mapping started in earnest in mid-2019, and the first collections were just starting to be moved in early 2020. Following announcement of Covid-19 lockdown the process was put on hold until June, when work recommenced.

Where to Visit

With a fresh UK lockdown underway in England, museums have once again been forced to close their doors. Be sure visit these exhibitions if you can when the country re-opens!

Portsmouth Museums – The World of Wonder

Portsmouth Museums have recently filled a shop window in the local Cascades Shopping Centre with over 150 natural history objects. The ‘World of Wonder’, designed by Athena Jane Churchill features some of the weird and wonderful objects that have been held in store for over a decade. The display aims to showcase Portsmouth’s natural history collections to new audiences and to engage with them through the use of QR codes to download more information and by inviting them to create butterflies and moths which will be added to the shop windows.

Gallery Oldham – Rain Drop to Corporation Pop!

This exhibition has a very watery feel, exploring water from the start of its journey in the clouds through all freshwater aquatic environments using objects chosen from across the Gallery’s collection.

Water is an essential element for all life that has ever lived on the planet and makes up important part of our local wildlife habitats. Come and see beautiful paintings portraying rivers, lakes and canals displayed alongside ancient fossil fish and an array of present-day aquatic creatures. A special attraction is the fossil skeleton of an Ichthyosaur, the largest fossil in their geological collections.

Oldham became the most important spinning town in the world because it is nestled high in the hills making the most of the damp climate so necessary to spin the best cotton yarn. Water collected in newly constructed reservoirs was important for an expanding human population to ensure good health and hygiene as well as textile processing.

Water has a special attraction to us for leisure activities, swimming, boating and fishing to name just a few. Amazing fish trophy mounts donated by Oldham Central Angling Club will be displayed together with swimming memorabilia.

Image © Gallery Oldham

The British Museum – Arctic: Culture and Climate

Home to rich cultures for nearly 30,000 years, the Arctic is far from the inhospitable hinterland it’s often imagined to be.

From ancient mammoth ivory sculpture to modern refitted snow mobiles, the objects in this immersive exhibition reveal the creativity and resourcefulness of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic. Developed in collaboration with Arctic communities, the exhibition celebrates the ingenuity and resilience of Arctic Peoples throughout history. It tells the powerful story of respectful relationships with icy worlds and how Arctic Peoples have harnessed the weather and climate to thrive.

The dramatic loss of ice and erratic weather caused by climate change are putting unprecedented pressure on Arctic Peoples, testing their adaptive capacities and threatening their way of life.

What happens in the Arctic will affect us all and this exhibition is a timely reminder of what the world can learn from its people.

What to Read

We have two great new entries on the NatSCA blog this month. Trials From The Riverbank: Conserving a Taxidermy Otter by Jen Gossman details the assessment and plan for conservation work needed for a taxidermy otter. Telling the Truth About Who Really Collected the “Hero Collections” by Jack Ashby explores how museums can work to decolonise their collections by seeking out the real stories behind famous collections traditionally attributed to ‘dead white men’.

Over on the Geological Curators’ Group blog, John Cooke and Ros Westwood write about the Auction of a Thomas Woodruff Table and provide a great history of the table and its maker.

Job Vacancies

The Powell-Cotton Museum are seeking an Audience Development Consultant, to lead on building networks with the Museum’s local communities (both well represented and underrepresented) and to develop a series of workshops and focus group sessions that will bring those audiences into the ‘Colonial Critters’ project.

Tullie House Museum is inviting applications for a Biodiversity Curator, a unique and exciting opportunity to work in the most biodiverse county in England with both a nationally Designated museum collection and one of the largest and oldest biodiversity data centres in the UK.

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 – August

Compiled by Glenn Roadley, Curator (Natural Science), 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.

Where Can I Go?

Museums have been steadily reopening since the beginning of July, and August brings a growing list of museums tentatively opening their doors to a limited number of visitors. The Art Fund has put together a list of opening dates, with big names in August including The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum (London), the Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester), National Museum Cardiff and Eureka (Halifax).

What Can I Read?

We’ve got two great posts on the NatSCA blog this month. Yvette Harvey writes about the colonial history of the collecting trips of George Forrest, whose collections still have a huge impact on what is grown in our gardens today. Jan Freedman writes about his experiences in busy museums, and how a calmer, post-Covid environment may benefit the experiences of visitors.

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NatSCA Digital Digest – March

Compiled by Jennifer Gallichan, Curator of Molluscs & Vertebrates at National Museum Cardiff.

Welcome to the March 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. If you have visited an exhibition/museum, have something to say about a current topic, or perhaps you want to tell us what you’ve been working on, please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Where Should I Visit?

Monsters Of The Deep opens on 20th March at the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall. Really curious to know what people think of this exhibition exploring centuries old myths of Krackens and Giant Sharks. I have also heard that there will be a Coelocanth on display for the first time in Cornwall!

Design For Life at Surgeons’ Hall Museums, Edinburgh explores the fascinating history of Comparative Anatomy and how integral it was to the beginnings of Surgeons’ Hall Museums. The exhibition will run until Easter 2020.

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NatSCA Digital Digest – October

Compiled by Jennifer Gallichan, Curator: Vertebrates/Mollusca, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Welcome to the October 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. If you have visited an exhibition/museum, have something to say about a current topic, or perhaps you want to tell us what you’ve been working on, please drop an email to blog@natsca.org.

Where Should I Visit?

It is definitely worth visiting Beavers to Weavers: The Wonderful World of Animal Makers exhibition at Leeds City Museum as they have just won a Museums Change Lives award in the category of environmental sustainability. More than 48,000 people visited this exhibition last year, so if you’ve not yet been, it’s worth checking out. The exhibition has an environmental focus displaying beautiful objects made by animals. Discover how animals build homes, make armour or camouflage, craft tools and traps to catch food or change their appearances to attract each other. If you want to know more there is also a great blog about it.

After its recent stay in Great North Museum: Hancock, Dippy On Tour finally comes to National Museum Cardiff this month! This will be Dippy’s only sojourn in Wales, and so is a fantastic opportunity for many to see this iconic specimen. Croeso Dippy i Gymru! There are tonnes of related events programmed, you can dance around Dippy at our Silent disco, or find your inner calm at Dippy about Yoga, so well worth a visit.

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Global Biodiversity Collections: Becoming Part of the Open Data Community

Written by Isla Gladstone, Senior Curator Natural Sciences, Bristol Museums

On 13th March I travelled to Sofia in Bulgaria, my mind buzzing with questions about biodiversity data…

I had been awarded one of 30 funded places on the first training school of Mobilise, an EU initiative to mobilise data, experts and policies in scientific collections. More specifically, Mobilise is an EU COST Action: a bottom-up network funded over four years to boost research, innovation and careers by COST, an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology.

Digitisation and data management challenges in small collections promised new skills in the key basics of data quality and cleaning. It also offered a chance to meet colleagues from around the world, and connect to a bigger picture.

At a time of unprecedented human-caused climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, it feels more urgent than ever to connect museum collections to real-world change. Natural sciences collections offer precious opportunities here. Alongside huge potential to engage communities and inspire debate, specimens are unique sources of the scientific evidence urgently needed to unlock sustainable development solutions:

“There is more information about biodiversity in [the world’s] natural sciences collections than all other sources of information combined.” iDigBio

Collections’ biodiversity data: the what, when, where, who collected attached to many biological and palaeontological specimens © Bristol Museums

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