Science Uncovered 2015 – we will see you there! | Library and Archives

Science Uncovered 2015 is rapidly approaching and, as usual, the Library and Archives team will be contributing to the night this Friday 25 September. And not just at the Museum in South Kensington but also at our sister Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire.

Image showing the digitised coloured image by Smith
“The Courtship of Pisaura mirabilis” by Arthur Smith

South Kensington (between 17.00 – 21.00)

We’ll be in the Earth Sciences Library in the Red Zone (the door is within the Lasting Impressions gallery). This collection space is not usually open to the public, so it’s a very rare opportunity to have a peek inside.

This year we’ll be showing off some our favourite items from the Library: books, artworks, archives and artefacts that highlight the amazing diversity of our collections and our work.

These items help tell the story of how scientific discoveries about the natural world have benefited humanity throughout the centuries, and continue to support the work of the Museum today. They show scientists at their brilliant best: exploring, facing danger and disaster, arguing with each other, and engaged in painstaking collecting and analysis. From menageries to microscopes, from drawings to digitization, the Library displays have got it all!

Weird and wonderful

Take a look at some of the oddities of our collections including a 15th century botanical herbal featuring the mysterious mandrake root; posters advertising Victorian menageries;  a First World War warning against the dangers of mosquitoes; and some really strange animal art.

Edward Lear’s parrots

Lear is best-known for his limericks and nonsense poetry, including The Owl and the Pussycat, but did you know he was also an accomplished artist? Librarian Paul Cooper has recently featured on BBC Radio 4’s Natural Histories show talking about Lear and his parrot art – now you can catch up with him in person and see these beautiful paintings in the flesh.

Image showing the scanned copy of Lear's Plate 7
The scarlet macaw. Plate 7 from Edward Lear’s Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae or Parrots (1832). Hand coloured lithograph

Microscopes and metamorphosis

Among the many achievements of polymath Robert Hooke was his early work on microscopy. With the publication of Micrographia in 1665 he brought the unseen world of insects into the public eye for the first time. You too can see this important work and experience the wonder of his incredible insect drawings.

Maria Merian was also a key figure in early entomology, combining art and science in her beautiful book Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. The copies on display are annotated with biting criticism from a fellow entomologist.

Wallace’s adventures and shipwreck

View insect collections, notebooks, photographs and drawings and letters by one of the fathers of the theory of evolution by natural selection. These chart Wallace’s adventurous journeys through South America and the Malay Archipelago, as well as tragic loss of four years’ worth of laboriously collected specimens in a fire and shipwreck.

Image showing a scan of a drawing of a frog by Wallace with accompanying annotations
Just one of the digitised items from the Wallace collection

Wallace’s notebooks and most of his correspondence have been digitised and are available online, and they continue to be used by Museum scientists for the identification of specimens.

Saving the Reeves Collection with conservation and digitisation

The Reeves Collection contains about 2000 paintings, and dates from c1825-40. Reeves was a tea inspector working for the British East India Company in China. He studied the plants and animals he found in China, and commissioned local artists to create beautiful, scientifically accurate paintings of them.

Image showing the digitised copy of the Reeves plate
The pangolin (Manidae manis). Plate 82 of the John Reeves Collection of Zoological Drawings from Canton, China, 1774-1856

Over these years some of these artworks have suffered damage, but thanks to the efforts of the Museum’s paper conservator and our digitising team they have been repaired and made available for use. Discover more about the techniques and equipment used to repair and digitize this unique collection.

Tring (between 18.00 – 22.00)

Complementing the talks that focus on Australian natural history, Alison Harding (our librarian) and Robert Prys-Jones (Manager – Bird Collections) will display books from the Rothschild Library and specimens from the national bird collection that highlight key issues in the history of Australian ornithology.

Kate Tyte
Museum Archivist & Records Manager (Acting)