Darwin’s Cargoes |Digital Collections Programme

A guest blog by Prof Adrian Lister

HMS Beagle took Charles Darwin on his famous voyage of discovery from 1831-1836. Darwin collected thousands of specimens, many of which survive in the collections of the Museum, but how did these specimens make their way to the UK from remote locations around the world?

In this blog, marking Darwin’s first fossil discovery on 22nd September 1832, Prof Adrian Lister retraces the journey of Darwin’s Cargoes. Continue reading “Darwin’s Cargoes |Digital Collections Programme”

Museum collections used to show our oceans are more acidic than 140 years ago| Curator of Micropaleontology

This pre-lockdown publication from the Micropaleontology team at the Museum has received a lot of press and social media attention. CT scans of the calcareous shells of microscopic plankton called Foraminifera have shown that modern examples can be considerably thinner than their equivalents recovered by the ground breaking Challenger Expedition of the 1870s. We argue this thinning is due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and subsequently more acidic oceans.

Read on to find out about the methods used and why this discovery is so significant for the future of our oceans and planet.

CT scans Foraminifera
CT scans of microscopic planktonic Foraminifera showing differences in wall thickness; historical specimens are on the bottom row and the warm colours indicate considerably thicker shells.

Continue reading “Museum collections used to show our oceans are more acidic than 140 years ago| Curator of Micropaleontology”

Banks in Britain: the British plant collections of Joseph Banks | Botanical Collections

The private herbarium of the eminent eighteenth-century naturalist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks became one of the founding collections of the Natural History Museum’s herbarium following his death 200 years ago this year, in 1820.

The legacy of Banks’s voyages overseas – and particularly the Endeavour voyage with James Cook – has been well documented. This post, by Fred Rumsey, looks at the British specimens Banks collected, or was gifted, and considers the significance of those collections today.

Continue reading “Banks in Britain: the British plant collections of Joseph Banks | Botanical Collections”

Banks abroad: the botany of the voyages of Joseph Banks | Botany collections

In a recent blog post we looked at the contribution of the eminent eighteenth-century naturalist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks to the herbarium at the Natural History Museum. Banks died in 1820 – 200 years ago this year – at the age of 77. His private herbarium subsequently became one of the founding collections of the Natural History Museum’s General Herbarium of over 5 million specimens.

As a young man, Joseph Banks was a traveller. For seven years, from the age of 23, his travels took him across the globe, to all continents except Antarctica, and they established his reputation as a leading natural historian of the day. Collecting specimens was at the very core of what he was doing during those voyages undertaken during the late 1760s and early 1770s. Botanical specimens that he collected are today in the herbarium at the Natural History Museum .

In this post, we look at Banks’s botanizing during the voyages he made overseas – to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1766, on James Cook’s first Circumnavigation from 1768–71 and to Iceland in 1772 – and we consider the scientific significance today of the collections that he made.

Continue reading “Banks abroad: the botany of the voyages of Joseph Banks | Botany collections”

‘Rock music’: a new take on the NHM Building Stone Collection |Curator of Petrology

The Natural History Museum Building Stone collection contains over 17,000 specimens and is one of the largest documented collections of its kind in the UK. It is particularly useful for matching stone in historical buildings during conservation work, but not only for that!

Often this collection causes an unconscious burst of inventiveness, and it features amazing pieces of art like this black stone from Derbyshire or this spectacular limestone. This time around it has inspired artist Charles Richard to collect the ‘sonic’ languages extracted from geological materials, a continuation of his master project at the Royal College of Art with a mission to create a series of digital box sets.

Continue reading to learn more about the building stone collection and Charles’ project.

Continue reading “‘Rock music’: a new take on the NHM Building Stone Collection |Curator of Petrology”

Darwin Digitisation in 2020| Digital Collections Programme

Equus

A tooth from Equus, a wild horse collected by Charles Darwin in Argentina on 10/10/1833

In 2018 the Museum embarked on a pilot project to document and 3D surface scan 10% of the fossil mammals that Darwin collected on the Voyage of the Beagle. During this project we focused on 20 fossil mammal specimens to investigate the potential that digitisation holds for this collection. This was also the first time that researchers have fully documented, researched and conserved these historically significant specimens since many of them came over to the Museum from the Royal College of Surgeons during the second world war. The fossils included in this pilot were released onto the Museum’s Data Portal and uploaded to Sketchfab.com to share these new resources with as wide an audience as possible. Continue reading “Darwin Digitisation in 2020| Digital Collections Programme”

Joseph Banks, the Banksian Herbarium and the Natural History Museum | Botany Collections

Sir Joseph Banks was an eminent eighteenth-century naturalist and explorer. His travels and scientific patronage enabled him to amass specimens from around the globe.

An avid botanist, his private herbarium was one of the founding collections of the Museum’s herbarium.

In a series of posts, the Museum’s botanical staff reflect on Banks’s herbarium, his approach to collecting, and the uses of his collection – both in his time and today. Continue reading “Joseph Banks, the Banksian Herbarium and the Natural History Museum | Botany Collections”

The Marsh Awards 2019 – Winners announced! | Earth Sciences

The Marsh Awards, run in partnership between the Marsh Christian Trust and the Natural History Museum, recognise unsung heroes who have made a major contribution to the promotion of palaeontology, mineralogy or earth sciences.

The winners in three categories – the Best Earth Sciences Book of the Year, Palaeontology, and Mineralogy – were celebrated at an awards ceremony at Museum on the 13 December 2019.

The winners were:

  • Marsh Award for the Best Earth Sciences Book of the Year:
    In the Footsteps of Darwin: Geoheritage, Geotourism and Geoconservation in the Galapagos Islands, Co-authors Daniel Kelley, Kevin Page, Diego Quiroga, Raul Salazar
  • Marsh Award in Mineralogy: Dr Jolyon Ralph
  • Marsh Award in Palaeontology: Dr David Penney

Continue reading “The Marsh Awards 2019 – Winners announced! | Earth Sciences”