NatSCA Digital Digest – July

Compiled by Lily Nadine Wilks, Intern at Museum Development Yorkshire.

Welcome to the July edition of NatSCA Digital Digest!Where Can I Visit?

It’s that time, museums have been allowed to reopen! Sadly most aren’t re-opening just yet to keep everyone safe. You can visit Derby Museum and Gallery from the 7th July and experience their Notice Nature Feel Joy exhibition. https://www.derbymuseums.org/locations/museum-art-gallery

Also you can visit Beamish Museum in the North East from 23rd July and visit their wonderful farms. http://www.beamish.org.uk/

The Yorkshire Museum Gardens have reopened, 7 days a week from 10.30am to 6pm – they are a wonderful place to sit and watch the squirrels https://www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk/news-media/latest-news/york-museum-gardens-reopening-in-june/

Doors may remain closed but you can visit National Museums Liverpool Dinosaurs and Natural World virtual gallery tour: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/dinosaurs-and-natural-world-virtual-tour

Continue reading

NatSCA Digital Digest – June

Compiled by Jan Freedman, Curator of Natural History, The Box, Plymouth.

Welcome to the June edition of NatSCA Digital Digest!

With the government easing lockdown, some of us return to work, but museums and art galleries still remain closed. There are still lots of great online resources and activities to enjoy.

Where can I ‘visit’?

The Natural History Museum, London has several virtual tours around their galleries. Whether you would like to flick through the Wildlife Photographer of the Year images, or listen to the soothing voice of Sir David Attenborough, there’s plenty to see, and inspire some ideas for your own museum.

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History has a wonderful virtual tour of their galleries. The North Carolina Museum of Natural History has several online events and activities, including talks with curators about their collections. Similarly, the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre has several online videos of curators talking about the collections.

What can I do?

SPNHC and ICOM NATHIST are holding a virtual digital meeting from June 8th – June 12th. The event includes presentations, symposiums and educational sharing to promote communication and professional development. More details can be found here.

Continue reading

NatSCA Digital Digest – May

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

Welcome to the May edition of NatSCA Digital Digest!

A note from the Blog editor:

As you know, Digital Digest is our monthly blog series featuring the latest on what’s new in the natural history sector. We normally feature the latest on where to go, what to see and do in the natural history sector including jobs, exhibitions, conferences and training opportunities. With the onset of the lockdown, we can’t go anywhere physically, but perhaps now more than ever, there is still heaps of stuff out there to keep you entertained.

It’s month two of lockdown, but the sector has continued to produce an incredible stream of digital engagement activities for visitors and colleagues alike, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Here’s a selection of resources and activities from across the museum web:

Where Can I ‘Visit’?

A number of museums have been conducting virtual tours of their collections and recording interviews with staff members to maintain a link to the public while closed. Birmingham Museums Trust have posted a look behind the scenes with their Natural Sciences Curator, Lukas Large. The Natural History Museum have created a hub full of tours, resources and activities to inspire and engage during lockdown.

What Can I do?

The Field Studies Council has created a list of resources and ideas for staying in touch with nature while in lockdown. With most of us confined to houses and gardens, why not get more acquainted with the natural history you can find there? I’m thinking of building a moth trap…

And in a move to advocate what NOT to do, Plantlife are promoting #NoMowMay – a citizen science project to encourage people to leave their mowers in the shed and join an national count of the resulting wildflowers.


What can I Read?

You really don’t need anything more than Rebecca Machin’s #AnimalAcrostics to get you through the day, but if for some reason that isn’t enough for you, we have two fab conservation stories on our NatSCA blog. Written by Lu Allington-Jones, Senior Conservator & Chelsea McKibbin, Conservator, at the Natural History Museum, London, our latest blog explains the process of conserving a celebrity specimen – the 1,341 year-old slice of Giant Sequoia that stands on the second-floor balcony of the Hintze Hall. A blog by our very own Paolo Viscardi, ‘Resurrection 101’, gives a step-by-step guide to rehydrating a desiccated frog specimen – the before and after photos are incredible and reveal the technique to be actual witchcraft, probably.

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.

Stay safe and keep well.

The Power of People and Collections in the Climate Emergency

Written by David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Earth Science Collections, The Manchester Museum and Jan Freedman, Curator of Natural History, The Box, Plymouth (formerly Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery).

Museums are most powerful when they connect real objects and research with real people. Natural science objects elicit deep emotional responses to the climate emergency; they help people to care and when done right, empower action.

This message is central to the NatSCA conference this year:

Changing the World: Environmental Breakdown, Decolonisation and Natural Science Collections

We’d love to hear your experience in a talk at the conference, the deadline for submissions is the 7th February.

Natural science collections are unique records of past biodiversity and climate across Britain, and the world, and are essential for climate change research taking place in museums every day. They allow access to historical information about millions of different species, providing an incredible amount of detail. They show how plants and animals have responded to past climate change, they show long-term population trends, and they show what we have lost.

These are all stories essential to bring clear factual science to an emotionally-charged debate. Research on these collections has directly shaped conservation work and climate change mitigation. In short, natural science collections are a powerful way to help save the world and give people hope for a better future.

Continue reading

Decolonising Natural Sciences Collections

Written by David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Earth Science Collections, The Manchester Museum.

Decolonising museums is in the headlines a lot at the moment and so it should be. I’ve chatted to a few people about this recently and it isn’t very clear what it means, how it relates to natural science collections and how we can start to decolonise our collections, so I thought I’d share my own thoughts.

Much of the discussion in the museum sector has been around ethnography collections with some great work that goes some way to redress our colonial past (including from my own institution Manchester Museum who have returned sacred aboriginal objects). Some ethnography objects are made from bark, fur or ivory, but these materials don’t often form part of the decolonisation debate.

The reality is that many natural history collections, particularly in the western world have a colonial origin. Many objects were traded on slave ships and were an attempt to map and tame the British Empire. Miranda Lowe and Subhadra Das have done some brilliant work to highlight this and the Grant Museum’s new exhibition on their Colonial Histories is a great first step in bringing this to the public.

Continue reading