NatSCA Digital Digest – September

Compiled by Jan Freedman, Curator of Natural History, Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives.

Welcome to the September edition of NatSCA Digital Digest!

Where Should I Go?

A new exhibition at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, First Animals explores the evolution of the earliest animal life more than 500 million years ago. Highlights include 55 exceptionally-preserved fossils from the Chengjiang biota, on loan from Yunnan University and displayed outside of China for the very first time, and virtual reconstructions of the early Cambrian sea floor, made possible through close collaboration between researchers at the two universities. The exhibition is open until 24th February 2020.

How can we highlight the biggest issues threatening our planet today? It’s difficult with permanent displays, but not impossible. Bristol Museum & Art Gallery have addressed biodiversity loss and extinction in a unique way without new display cases. The natural science curators have covered endangered animals on display with a black veil. Standing out from the other animals, this has a huge visual impact on visitors. This innovative way of showing our impact on the planet was covered by The Guardian last month.

A chimpanzee on permanent display, covered with the black veil. © Bristol Culture

I recently visited As I Live and Breathe at the Horniman Museum, a very impactful exhibit about plastics. At the front of the natural history gallery, taxidermy animals were displayed as if they were dead, with thousands of pieces of black plastic erupting from their mouths, and a hedgehog dead in a fast food container. The message is clear: plastic pollution is killing our wildlife.

A powerful display at the Horniman museum. A dead fox with plastic erupting from it’s mouth. (Image by Jan Freedman)

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery recently were awarded a certificate of excellence by the Curry Fund. This amazing acknowledgment was for the engaging exhibition, Pliosaur! about the life of the almost complete Pliosaur specimen found at Westbury, Wiltshire. The exhibition, which received funding from The Curry Fund, took the visitor into the past to explore the world that this giant reptile lived in.

What Should I Read?

With many of us holding Pleistocene collections, a new book written by Dr Ross Barnett, The Missing Lynx, can help us understand them more. It looks at the lost mammals of Britain. Mammoths, sabre tooth cats, beavers, and more fill this prehistoric safari. It is full of life histories of the animals and their extinction, the history of their finds, and if they could be reintroduced into Britain. It’s a fascinating, and fun read, and highly recommended! Our very own Jack Ashby has just written a great review of it for our blog.

The Missing Lynx, the new book about Britain’s lost beasts. (Image Jan Freedman)

Where Should I Work?

The Royal Horticultural Society is looking for a horticultural taxonomist to join their horticultural taxonomy team at Wisley, working with one of the largest plant collections in the UK.

Job title: Horticultural taxonomist. Full time. £26,498 per annum. For more information, click here.

Kew Gardens is looking for a botanical horticulturalist to work with their tropical nurseries.

Job title: Botanical Horticulturist – decorative nursery. 1 year, fixed term. £18,590 per annum. For more information, click here.

Before You Go…

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 Jen an email at blog@natsca.org. Thanks!

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!

What Should I Read?

We’ve got three great NatSCA blogs to read this month. Donna Young, Herbarium Curator at World Museum, Liverpool, writes of her quest to map and document botanical models manufactured by the Brendel Company of Berlin, now found in collections across the world. Be sure to fill in the survey if you have any in your institution.

A blog by Jack Ashby, Manager of the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, tells us about the aims and processes behind a new art exhibition at the museum, ‘Evolution as Inspiration’.

Christine Taylor, Curator of Natural History, Portsmouth Museums, writes about the HLF (or NHLF) funded project to share and raise the profile of the city’s natural history collections, ‘Wild about Portsmouth’.

The Museums Association has published articles covering a range of political issues affecting the sector. Nicky Morgan has become the latest Culture Secretary through the rotating door of cabinet members, and further cuts to local authorities have put museums in Bradford under threat of redundancies and closure. The sector-wide discussions surrounding the decolonisation of collections, human rights and corporate sponsorship continue as Ahdaf Soueif resigns from the British Museum’s board of trustees, citing the museums lack of a ‘clear ethical position’ on such issues.

Continue reading

NatSCA Digital Digest

Gorilla skull on a black background

Your weekly round-up of news and events happening in the wonderful world of natural sciences!

 

Jobs

Unusually, there are a few natural science jobs out there in the UK at the moment:

Curatorial Assistant (Human Remains and Repatriation) – Natural History Museum. Applications close 29th March.

Curator/Lecturer in Vertebrate Palaeontology – Cambridge University. Applications close 3rd April.

Several interesting posts at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including an Assistant Curator (applications close 7th April).

And, just in case you haven’t already seen it:

Collections Manager (Life Collections) – Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Applications close 10th April.

Events

Simon Moore’s renowned fluid preservation course will next run on 1st – 4th June at the Horniman Museum & Gardens. The four-day course costs £300 (NatSCA members can apply for a bursary). See here for details and booking.

A fluid-preserved specimen in a jar is held up to the camera. Image: Russell Dornan

Learn the skills to care for fluid-preserved specimens (Image: Russell Dornan)

The Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) has put out a call for speakers for their annual conference, to be held at Wakefield Museum on 31st July – 1st August.

The Museum Ethnographers Group (MEG) 2015 conference is entitled Nature and Culture in Museums, and will explore the relationship between natural science and ethnography. It takes place at the Powell-Cotton Museum on 20th – 21st April, and booking is open now!

In the Media

Today is Taxonomist Appreciation Day, a holiday devised by Dr Terry McGlynn, of California State University Dominguez Hills, to highlight the decline in taxonomic skills and the importance of museum collections.

These taxonomists definitely deserve some appreciation: A census of all known marine life by WoRMS (the World Register of Marine Species) has added many new species and removed 190,400 duplicates!

Darwin’s ‘strangest animals ever discovered’ finally find their place in the tree of life.

 

Got a submission for the blog or Digital Digest? Email us at blog@natsca.org!

Looking to the future

As some of you may be aware, NatSCA is the Subject Specialist Network (SSN) for natural science collections.

That means we are recognised by organisations like Arts Council England (ACE) as supporting the understanding, development and care of collections across the UK and beyond.

At the moment NatSCA are undertaking several projects to consolidate our role and to improve advocacy for natural science collections. We want to establish better communications between ourselves and other SSNs in order to share expertise and improve collaborative frameworks within the museum sector. We are also addressing public perceptions of the natural sciences and developing plans for improving that perception.

By laying this groundwork, NatSCA hopes to safeguard natural science collections for the future, by demonstrating their relevance now.

ACE have been very supportive of our aims and we have received funding to appoint a consultant to help us achieve them. Please see below for a description of the post and details on how to apply.

If you would like to support our efforts yourself then why not contact the fantastic Maggie about becoming a member?

NatSCA Project Coordinator Post Advert