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

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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.

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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.

Stories from Pressed Plant Books in the Botany Collections

Written by Katherine Slade, Curator: Botany (Lower Plants), Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (AC-NMW)

This article was first published as a blog for AC-NMW, 17 May 2019.

Within Amgueddfa Cymru’s botany collections are books of dried plant specimens created by scientists and enthusiasts. Each specimen has been carefully dried and pressed, before being added to the books, sometimes with handwritten or printed notes alongside. The books are of enormous importance both in terms of modern scientific research into climate change and biodiversity, and as a way to see first hand the history of botanical exploration.

You can now look through a catalogue of the 36 books that contain non-flowering plants, fungi, lichens and seaweeds. You can read about a few of the stories surrounding these books below. For more detailed information about each book, please visit the website.

These books show the changes in how we collect, classify and name plants over two centuries from 1800 to present day. An old volume which probably dates from the 19th century entitled “New Zealand Mosses”, contains more than just mosses. Lichens, algae and even some pressed hydrozoans (tiny marine animals) have been included by the unknown collector who chose to group these superficially similar ‘moss-like’ specimens together. This donation entered the Museum’s collections after its Royal Charter was received and before work had begun on the present Cathays Park building.

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The Most Natural Science Positive Film of Recent Times?

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Hollywood hasn’t always portrayed the natural sciences in the best light. From the entomology nerds in Silence of the Lambs to the evil taxidermist in Paddington, the people who live it daily don’t often come off looking good. Even when museums are the star of the show, it is the night watchmen, not the curators and conservators, who steal the glory. Where, then, is cinema’s role in encouraging the next generation to pursue a career in the natural sciences? Some have said they watched the original Jurassic Park and that sparked their interest in genetics. Did you watch a film and think “that’s the life for me?” If so I’d love to hear from you. Nature inspires movies all the time. It behoves the film industry to keep this passion alive.

Enter a new film into the UK top ten (no, we aren’t talking about Jurassic World). Mr. Holmes is the latest adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. Set in war-ravaged Sussex, Sherlock Holmes is an old man, retired and trying to cope with the changes in his life. I won’t give away the plot for you but I will say this: The plot depends upon an accurate  understanding of the natural world, specifically botanical and entomological. The film is filled with beautiful species and fascinating facts about nature. I can quite easily see someone leaving the cinema thinking “I want to know more about this world”. Holmes’ personal collection is lovely and I want to know whose skull that is on his desk.

Further refreshing news, if you’re as sick of explosions and CGI as I am right now, this film has the fewest special effects of any new film I’ve seen for a long time. Less definitely is more in Mr. Holmes. The performances are superb – not just Sir Ian McKellen but I don’t think there’s a bad actor in the entire movie. I’d highly recommend you go and see this.