At this time of year our famous microfossil Christmas card slides always get a lot of attention. An article in Smithsonian Magazine this week followed a very popular Tweet in early December and perhaps the most famous of the slides is about to be displayed in Museum’s Touring Treasures exhibition in Bahrain in early 2019.
This year, three additional Christmas greeting slides were added to our collection as part of an exceptionally generous donation by the Quekett Microscopical Club. They returned Arthur Earland’s foraminiferal collection to its place alongside long term collaborator Edward Heron-Allen’s collection at the Museum by purchasing the collection from the estate of Brian Davidson and donating it to the Museum.
Read on to find out why most of this new acquisition can be considered upside-down, contains more evidence of the two scientists falling out and the mystery of the three “new” Christmas greeting slides.
A very big thank-you to the 1,000-plus in-house Visiteers and online Volunteers who helped us to extract research data from over 6,000 microscope slides of the world’s smallest insects – the chalcid parasitoid wasps. The Miniature Lives Magnified project is now closed, but you can still take part in our Digital Collections Programme by helping us with our microscope slides of Foraminifera in Miniature Fossils Magnified.
Over the course of the summer we will be processing the chalcid collection’s specimen label data that was transcribed by our digital volunteers. It will become available on the Museum’s Data Portal for anyone in the world to study.
The Museum’s entire collection of 181,545 British and Irish butterflies are now in a digital form and available for all to see online in the Museum’s Data Portal.
Each butterfly has a new digital image and digital record of the specimen’s collector, place and date of collection and this data are already being used to work out the effects of climate change on UK butterflies.
Museum collections are rapidly evolving in response to new research questions, innovations in digitisation and molecular analysis, and major challenges for society. It’s essential that museums work together to ensure that new ideas are exchanged and collaboration strengthened to make development more rapid and effective.
The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) is an international society whose mission is to improve the preservation, conservation and management of natural history collections to ensure their continuing value to society. The annual conference is one of the largest gatherings of museum professionals each year and it gives us museum and conservation folk an excellent opportunity to network and share the latest cutting-edge knowledge in our field.
What do an Iguanodon’s thumb spike, an ichthyosaur paddle and a shark fin spine all have in common? Well these are just some of the specimens we’ve digitised as part of the museum’s eMesozoic project, headed by Fossil Mammal Curator Dr Pip Brewer.
For the past eight months myself and two other eMesozoic digitisers, Lyndsey Douglas and David Godfrey, have been busy in the palaeontology department mass imaging British Mesozoic vertebrates for the first time.
We have a massive digital challenge. How do we transform museum collections of millions of diverse specimens, each with complex information in many forms, into digital resources – images and data – to be used by modern science and shared across the world?
Microscope slide with a stonefly
Butterflies with QR codes
The collections have been at the centre of scientific knowledge for 300 years – how do we take them into science’s future? In the words of Rod Page from Glasgow University: how do we transform a 19th Century technology into a 21st Century technology? This is the question we have been looking at in a Cisco Pitstop at the London Digital Catapult Centre over two days in February 2016.