NatSCA Digital Digest

Firstly and most importantly…


Secondly, everything else…

Jobs and Traineeships

With the period known as the ‘run up to Christmas’ well underway it is slim pickings for new vacancies in natural history. However a number of posts still open in areas such as Norwich, Aberdeen and Sheffield, that have been previously advertised through NatSCA, can still be found here. Deadlines for applications begin early January so perhaps write yours out before you start to suffer from excess-turkey-consumption lethargy.

Events and Exhibitions

Fans of natural history have a great reason to visit the British Museum at the moment thanks to a new temporary exhibition called Scanning Sobek: Mummy of the crocodile god. Open until the 21st February, the exhibition is just inside the main door and is completely free. It couldn’t be easier!

If you are in or able to get to Berlin any time soon, the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found is now on display at the Museum für Naturkunde in a special exhibition called Tristan: Berlin bares teeth. Tristan has only been baring his teeth to the public since 17th December 2015 and I for one am going to visit him asap.

Around the Web

There’s a rather festive Underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog, complete with santa hat and palaeofied lyrics to a well known Christmas favourite, over on the Grant Museum of Zoology blog.

Now I’m going to go to sleep (yes I know it’s only 11am) so that Christmas comes sooner. That’s how time works.


NatSCA Digital Digest

Ceratarges spinosus trilobite from Morocco (Obtained from

Welcome to the weekly digest of posts from around the web with relevance to natural science collections. We hope you find this useful and if you have any articles that you feel would be of interest, please contact us at



  1. One Day Conference: Curator of the Future

13th April 2015; British Museum


The conference will focus on three key themes:

  1. The Curatorial Survival Kit- what should be in the ‘curatorial survival kit’ to survive and thrive in the changing professional landscape?
  2. A Brave New World- what are the impacts and opportunities for curatorial practice?
  3. The Next Generation- how can we help support the current and future curatorial work force?

For further information please contact Katy Swift at


  1. Call for proposals: ‘Innovation’: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Conference to be held on 14th May 2015 at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge.


Why are some projects described as ‘innovative’ while others aren’t? Have you ever been aware of pressure – from funders, from senior management, or from elsewhere – to come up with an innovative project?

Association with the innovation ‘label’ can be great in the short term for getting funding, but there is no point in ‘innovation for the sake of it’.

When you look back at all the projects described as innovative, the reality is that only some of them have brought lasting value. What does innovation mean for museums? Does it go beyond new technologies to include new ways of organising our work or interacting with audiences? How do we assess which innovations are useful and which are distractions? Do you have any examples where the term innovation has proved positive in the short term and/or in the long term? Does innovation have to be revolutionary, or can it be evolutionary? Are you aware of any innovative ways of evaluating digital projects, or evaluating projects in general, using digital technologies or methodologies?

We are seeking proposals from people willing to share their successes and failures in projects that have or could be described as innovative. However we also welcome sessions focused on debunking the ‘cult’ of innovation or addressing the questions above.

Fill in this form to submit a proposal here or contact Jessica Suess for further information


  1. Conference: Refloating the Ark- Connecting the Public and Scientists with Natural History Specimens

17th and 18th June 2015, 9-5pm; Manchester Museum


A two­‐day meeting exploring how natural history museums can contribute towards environmental sustainability, by engaging effectively with the public and the scientific research community.

For further information contact David Gelsthorpe or visit the Manchester Museum website.


Compiled by Emma-Louise Nicholls, NatSCA Blog Editor

Vikings: Life and Legend – a Review

This post will be accompanied by LEGO illustrations as we were not permitted to take photographs inside the exhibition.


When it comes to archaeology / anthropology exhibits I’m not the easiest audience to please. Unless the people in question had some serious interaction with the local wildlife I lose interest fast. Fortunately the Scandinavian people do not disappoint in this regard. As soon as you enter the first room you are greeted by a pair of walrus tusks, representing the primary source of Viking ivory, which they carved into all manner of things from game pieces and dice to religious objects and scabbard decorations. They traded ivory, pretty stones such as Jet, and furs – across Europe, the Middle East, and North America. There were some lovely black fox skins available for stroking. One can only imagine how quickly these will be reduced to a sticky mess. Their tools were often fashioned from animal parts too: the whale baculum (penis bone) was used as an axe handle.

We normally associate the Vikings as loud, war-obsessed drunks but their culture seems to have abhorred loud, idiotic behaviour. They did have a proud warrior tradition, in which it was noble to die in battle and shameful to die in bed. A child would be given an unsheathed sword from his father and told that his sole inheritance was whatever he could gain with this sword. Most of our English mediæval ancestors would have associated with the Vikings as raiders – even the word means “raider” or “pirate”.

They were by no means invincible: in Weybridge there were found some 30-35 Viking men, buried unceremoniously together. Carbon dating puts them near 1000 AD and it seems these men were the entire crew of a Viking raiding party that lost. Some of the bones are on display in the exhibition – including one hyper-arctic adapted chap with a very robust femur compared to his friends. According to written accounts of Vikings going to battle, they were often accompanied by ravens, which they referred to as the “wound-grouse” (fantastic name). The ravens got food in abundance from this arrangement but I wonder what was in it for the Vikings.

The centrepiece of the exhibit is of course the large longship Roskilde 6, according to some sources the largest Viking vessel of its kind. The norm seems to be 16 pairs of oars and shields, which is why I depicted this in my illustration, rather than almost double that, aka Roskilde 6. She’s an impressive ship. The Vikings made lightweight ships that could be carried over small obstacles, row into shallow water down to a metre deep, and can be reversed easily by simply rowing in the opposite direction, as the stern cut the water just as easily as the bow. It seems modern ships have made a commitment to going one way and turning is a much more difficult enterprise than it used to be. I have a question for any maritime engineering experts we may have reading this: what have we gained in sacrificing these benefits? I’m assuming there’s a trade-off there somewhere.

If I had criticisms, they would be the flow of traffic round the first room, and the use of microphones on the fire alarm which, in some areas, was barely comprehendable due to vocal distortion plus echo from the building acoustics. In conclusion, if you haven’t got yourself down to the British Museum and seen it yourself yet I would recommend it. It’s finishing on the 22nd of this month so do head down there sooner rather than later.