Hello there, my name is Andrew. For the last few months, I have had the privilege to assist the Natural History Museum as a Curatorial Assistant, digitising the information of a group of fossil sponges, the lithistids, a polyphyletic group that does not share a common ancestor and, at this moment, is the object of numerous studies. I am also curating the specimens, re-boxing them with new acid-free trays and plastazote foam.
When I read in the news on Wednesday 9 March that the Shackleton Expedition’s ship, the Endurance, had been found I mentioned it to my manager, Senior Curator of Fossil Porifera Collection, Dr. Consuelo Sendino. She recalled that there were fossil sponge specimens gathered by Shackleton in the museum’s collections.
As International Women’s Day drew closer, and with preparations for the move of millions of collections well underway, it got me thinking about the role women played in the original 1881 move of collections from the British Museum in Bloomsbury to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, as well as their contributions to the early development of the collections and research.
This International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate the incredible achievements of Grace Mary Crowfoot, a botanist, textile archaeologist, anthropologist, and pioneering anti-FGM advocate and to share her story of breaking biases and fighting inequality for women.
In 2021 the Museum revealed plans to relocate 28 million specimens (approximately a third of the collection) from our stores to a new, purpose-built science and digitisation centre, to ensure their safety and accessibility for future generations. This mammoth undertaking has been enabled through a £182m investment from the Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. So, with funding secured, how do you set about planning not only our largest ever collections’ move, but arguably one of the largest collections’ moves ever carried out worldwide?
Samantha Luciano, a second-year student of the MSc Biobanks & Complex Data Management of the Côte d’Azur University in France, had the chance to push open the doors of the Molecular Collection Facility (MCF) at the Natural History Museum in London and to join their team for a six-months internship.
She tells us about her mammoth task to organise UK wildlife samples collected by the passionate naturalist and vet, Vic Simpson.
Many of us associate the Natural History Museum at South Kensington with Hope the Whale, Dippy the Diplodocus and other inspiring exhibitions and stories about the natural world – but did you know that behind the scenes of this iconic building there are 300 scientists and 200 postgraduate students publishing over 500 scientific papers annually? That there are leading laboratories with technical experts imaging, analysing and preserving life on earth? Or that we are working towards digitising all 80 million specimens housed in the museum’s invaluable collection stores (less than 1% of collections are on display) to further open them up for research?
12th February 1832: There has been a little swell on the sea to day, & I have been very uncomfortable Charles Darwin’s diary entry on his birthday 190 years ago.
While on board the voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin recorded the journey and mentions notable days like Christmas day and New Year’s day, but although he records each year what he did on the 12th February, he never mentions that it was his birthday.
In the light of a DCMS funding been awarded to The Natural History Museum, to tackle the poor performance of the biggest of the western range roof of the Waterhouse building, the NHM Petrology Collection and museum scientists have come to the project’s aid to address one of the first hitches that occurred.
To me, environmental management and sustainability has always made sense for organisations – if we work more efficiently and waste less of everything, we can reduce the negative impacts on our environment as well as save both time and money. No brainer, right?
One of the key aims of creating the Natural History Museum at Harwell is to expand and accelerate the science we do and enable. Whether this is by digitising our collections to make them easier to discover, opening them up to more researchers and wider audiences than ever before, developing new technologies and facilities to uncover new information about the natural world, or delivering innovative research that revolutionises our understanding of biodiversity, nature, and the future of life on Earth. Our ambitions are big. As such, I thought a great way to round out the year would be to look back at some of the huge achievements of scientists and their collaborators across the Museum in 2021.
From ancient humans to tools for biodiversity monitoring and with pit stops via genome sequencing, this is only a snapshot of the hundreds of papers, new species descriptions, policy contributions and funding awards that have been achieved this year. Enjoy!