Nature Read in Black and White: An Update

Presented by Miranda Lowe, Natural History Museum and Subhadra Das, University College


There has been an enthusiastic uptake of ideas and practices around decolonising the natural history museum in the wake of the publication of our paper ‘Nature Read in Black and White: Decolonial Approaches to Natural History Collections’ in the NatSCA Journal in 2018. People have written blogs, there have been exhibitions relating to the topic and even the Daily Mail scare quoted cancel culture fears when they heard the Natural History Museum in London was reviewing the colonial histories of its collections. A highlight moment was when Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, complimented one of the co-authors of the
paper, saying he had read all sixteen pages and how it was accessible and easy to read. We are gladdened by the national and international impact of our words and research, and this has encouraged us to reflect on this success and raise some other related issues that we would like to share with you in this keynote presentation. In addition to listing recent successes within our own organisations and some plans for future work, we also plan to talk about two further topics about decolonising natural history museums. The first will consider the colonial roots and context of the environmentalist movement, while the second will examine the question of representation in the natural history museum workforce. We will consider the current state of the discourse around decolonising museums, and discuss what continues to be required in the interests of long-term, equitable change.

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NatSCA Digital Digest

NatSCA Digital Digest

Welcome to another edition of the NatSCA Digital Digest! This episode has been brought to you today by the phrase “birdy num num”. Extra credit if you know where that phrase comes from.

Let’s start off with the news everyone’s been waiting for: Fenscore is back! It was showcased at Refloating the Ark last week and it has a new home right here at NatSCA. We are going to have a full story on this later with many more details from a mystery guest blogger, so we’re looking forward to that. For those of you still struggling to complete your NatSCA Bingo cards, reading this counts.

Another reminder for anyone wishing to submit a poster for the Bone Collections day in Cambridge, Vicky Purewal and Natalie Jones want to hear from you. Get your submissions in or scrawny chick judges you.

Scrawny chick judges you

For those of you that weren’t in the UCL grounds on Monday night, you missed a great night out (including free and student price drinks)  with some of the NatSCA irregulars. The night started with a talk about the Victorian attitudes to fossil discovery by Professor Joe Cain and proceeded to an evening viewing of the Grant Museum‘s temporary exhibition. Joe highlighted the Crystal Palace dinosaurs as a great place to go and see that enthusiasm for lost worlds. He also highlighted the repair work needed and the important work being done by the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.

Which brings us to our news from interesting recent papers: weird Romanian theropod Balaur bondoc, with its distinctive pair of sickle claws per foot has been shifted from the dromaeosaur to the basal bird clade, thanks to the work of Cau, et al. It isn’t all that big a jump but it does mean Balaur won’t be getting picked on by its clademates for being different quite so much. For more on this, check out co-author Darren Naish’s write-up at Scientific American.

That’s all for now. Tune in next week when we (hopefully) will be able to advertise a really tempting job vacancy!