Curator of Micropalaeontology | Diary of a Principal Curator Feb 2021

This year I’m writing a diary entry each month for a typical week in the life of a Principal Curator at the Natural History Museum. In the February entry I cover working in the fabulous Minerals Gallery, helping my PhD student using a mobile phone down a microscope, Zoom fail during a talk to a local Geological Society, writing a digital strategy and finishing a paper about the assessment of the entire museum collection.

Minerals_gallery
A very empty looking Minerals Gallery
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Curator of Micropalaeontology | Diary of a Principal Curator Jan 2021

NHM_collections_footprint

This year I’m writing a diary entry each month for a typical week in the life of a Principal Curator at the Natural History Museum. In the January entry I cover the return to work after Christmas, home schooling, the return of Dippy, news of a possible move of the collection in my charge to Harwell and a rare trip into S Kensington.

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Lockdown introduces a new method for engaging with our collections | Curator of Micropaleontology

Nikon

2020 has been a difficult year and since March we have been working away from the collections in South Kensington. Learning new on-line communication skills has created opportunities for making our collections available to a wider audience.

Read on to find how using Microsoft Teams and a Nikon microscope we have remotely delivered access to our Micropalaeontology collections for the first time.

Continue reading “Lockdown introduces a new method for engaging with our collections | Curator of Micropaleontology”

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.

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‘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”

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

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Displaying our Earth science specimens

by Robin Hansen, Curator, Minerals and Gemstones, NHM Earth Sciences

​​As part of the Galley Enhancements​​ Programme to refresh the Museum’s Earth Galleries Ground Floor, we’ve been working on the specimens to improve the experience for visitors, improve collection visibility and update the science.

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A black stone from Derbyshire turned into pieces of art | Curator of Petrology

The Petrology collection at the Natural History Museum is home to about 189,000 specimens; from the rock collection to building stones, including ocean bottom deposits. The building stone collection is one of the largest documented collections of its kind in the UK, particularly useful for matching stone in historical buildings during conservation work. Beside rock samples, it features amazing pieces of art, like this paperweight in Derbyshire black marble executed by the skilled hands of one of the most prominent nineteenth-century marble makers of the time Thomas Woodruff.

E3864 Black Marble Paperweight
Derbyshire inlaid marble work by Thomas Woodruff in the NHM Petrology (Building stone) collection.

Continue reading to learn more about the marble masons in Derbyshire, the stone itself, the techniques used to create the objects, and the many other works of art created out of this stone such as Samuel Birley’s table in the V&A collection.

 

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Ida Lilian Slater (1881-1969) | International Women’s Day 2019

2019 marks the centenary of women being allowed to join the Geological Society of London (GSL). That women might not be permitted to join any learned society today is unimaginable, and we sometimes take for granted the rights women have in today’s society. But before 1919 women were not only barred from joining the GSL, but had to have their research papers read out at meetings by their male colleague.

This blog, by Consuelo Sendino, attempts to enhance the reputation of a singular woman whose work was sadly neglected until a recent publication (Sendino et al. 2018) sought to correct that injustice and recognise her achievements.

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Remnants of ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ in a Museum drawer |Curator of Petrology

Some rare treasures are hidden within the Petrology collection of the Natural History Museum, and this brunch of a bush, encrusted with sinter, which formed prior to 1886 around hot springs on the shores of the old Lake Rotomahana (warm lake) in New Zealand, is one of them.

Siliceous sinter.BM 1911.1584-1
NHM petrology specimen of siliceous sinter encrusting a brunch of a bush, from White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana.

Read on to learn about the Pink and White Terraces, a natural wonder of the world, regarded by the Māori as a taonga (a treasure), their tragic fate and how specimens in the museum collection are helping current research. Continue reading “Remnants of ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ in a Museum drawer |Curator of Petrology”