Semantic document outlines and heading structures

A laptop with some code on the screen

Last year, we had a big focus on accessibility – it’s vital that we are a diverse and inclusive organisation and it’s equally important that everyone can experience the Museum and what we offer. This is part of our strategic goal to engage and involve the widest possible audience. To meet this goal, we need to ensure our digital experiences are accessible to everyone.

In March 2020, we tested our website with real assistive technology users, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Urban Nature Project. Following this, we released 25 separate changes to the main nhm.ac.uk website between May-September 2020, each one helping us get a step closer to meeting AA WCAG accessibility standards. You can read more about our work on digital accessibility here.

We could see from accessibility testing that the majority of our pages have the correct structure, and that where they don’t, there are only minor difficulties in navigating the pages. This led to me reviewing the document structure/outline of some of our pages on nhm.ac.uk as we knew they are not as optimised for accessibility – i.e. screen reader and keyboard-only users – as we would like. Continue reading “Semantic document outlines and heading structures”

Joining the digitisation team – in the middle of a pandemic | Digital Collections

Laura Jacklin is on secondment as the Communications Manager for the Digital Collections Programme. A few weeks in, she shares her first impressions. 

I’ve worked at the Museum for three years, but moving from the marketing team to the Digital Collections Programme has felt like I’ve entered a parallel universe – it’s the Museum, but not as I know it!  

Continue reading “Joining the digitisation team – in the middle of a pandemic | Digital Collections”

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”

Becoming a greener Museum; our plans to be net zero by 2035

Announcing a planetary emergency in January this year, little did we realise that the tragedy of Covid-19 would provide such a chilling warning that we ignore the degradation of the natural world at our peril.   

There is much to do.  A landmark study in May with contributions from our scientists reported that the impact on communities around the world will be dire if ecosystems decline further, with one million animals and plants facing extinction.  It is clear, recovery for health and the economy depend on the repair and recovery of the environment.  We all need to work towards a greener future in everything we do.  The Natural History Museum is no exception.   

Today, in an ambitious new plan, Sustainable by Nature, we are setting out our actions and commitments on how we will become even greener in the coming years. We developed the plan by challenging ourselves on how to reduce our impact on natural resources in our day-to-day business, and on how we will build-in sustainability for all new developments and initiatives. 

Continue reading “Becoming a greener Museum; our plans to be net zero by 2035”

Learning from the past; improving the present and planning for a more diverse and inclusive future…

This month we’re celebrating Black History Month by profiling the stories of people of African and Caribbean heritage who have contributed to natural history.  

On our website, we’re telling extraordinary stories from the past such as the tale of seventeenth century Surinamese freedman,  Graman Kwasi. A healer, naturalist, and spy he described a medicinal plant to ward off fever and parasites that is still used today.  

We will also feature unique tales of  twenty-first century Black-led endeavours in natural history, including climate change researchers and curators.  Nadine Gabriel is the Museum’s assistant curator of fossil mammals, with a first-class honours in MSci Geology under her belt, Nadine is a lover of field trips, who helps look after the Museum’s 250,000 fossil mammal specimens. 

Continue reading “Learning from the past; improving the present and planning for a more diverse and inclusive future…”

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”

Reopening, Reviewing and Recruiting – keeping up the pace on Diversity and Inclusion

Since my last blog on 13 July we have continued to make progress on diversity and inclusion actions.  

It was with great excitement that we were able to reopen the museum to the public on Wednesday 5 August.  To add to the occasion, we worked with Nova which provides support for many of the communities in our borough who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and invited some local families ahead of the opening for a series of special visits.  Early in the morning of opening day, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, came to visit and enjoyed talking with the families and happily posed for selfies with the children.  And, we were also thrilled to hear the Mayor refer to the NHM as ‘the nation’s gem’ saying how we had ‘worked our socks off’ to open the Museum. 

As a museum committed to inclusiveness and diversity, we will continue to ensure that everyone is welcome and have organised dedicated slots for local community groups to come in over the summer holidays for a special visit. 

The Review of Names and Representation across our buildings and website is making good progress.  Angela Saini, British science journalist and author of Superior and The Return of Race Science has joined the steering group to give an external perspective.  The Review aims to report findings and early recommendations to our Executive Board towards the end of the summer.  Ready for opening, we placed notices in some of our gallery spaces and on the website to let visitors know about this work. 

We have begun changing how we recruit, select and develop the careers of people who work for NHM.  We will advertise roles internally only, wherever possible, giving more opportunities for career development and promotions.   We will also review job descriptions and person specifications for every new role recruited to ensure they are inclusive, and so we do not have any unnecessary barriers to applying. This might include, for example, removing the requirement for having a degree in roles which do not strictly need this qualification.  

Over the Autumn we will introduce Inclusive Leadership training for all senior managers as well as other learning and development initiatives for all staff.   Specifically, Gendered Intelligence will be coming back to run sessions for senior managers. We will be providing an intranet page for all staff with resources to help educate themselves in diversity and inclusion matters. E-learning courses and reading materials will be available for everyone to use. 

We are pleased that our Gender Pay Gap report for 19/20 shows a considerable reduction in the median gender pay gap from 13.1% to 6% in 2020.  This is a result of actions to address the gender imbalance in the more senior positions in the Museum. Our recently created Management Board has an equal gender split and we have been working hard to encourage flexible working in our more senior roles wherever possible. Maintaining a gender balance will be an important part of our workforce diversity and inclusion action plan. 

We’re planning to improve our data collection to give us better information about our staff profile. This will help us to promote diversity internally and ensure our processes and fair and inclusive. It will also help us understand our ethnicity pay gap and how best to address it. 

Earlier this month we held the first of our Diverse Voices events for colleagues with Director Mike Dixon in conversation with one of our recently appointed Trustees, Harris Bokhari. Harris is a well-known Diversity champion who recently wrote about the barriers to museums and galleries minority groups can experience. We were delighted that he was able to share his experience with us and we look forward to meeting Shami Chakrabarti, Human Rights lawyer, former Director of Liberty, former Chancellor of Essex University and former Shadow Attorney General as our next guest speaker. 

And finally, it is a delight to end with congratulations to Alex Bond, NHM senior curator in charge of birds, who was awarded the Royal Society’s Athena Prize with Beth Montague-Hellen for developing the LGBTQ+STEM initiative to boost the visibility of, and create a network for, LGBTQ+ people working in STEM fields, including establishing the first online directory of LGBTQ+ STEM professionals and the annual LGBTQ+ STEMinar conference.   And I leave the last word to Alex:  LGBTQ+ employees are often subject to discrimination and unwelcoming work environments. To combat this, we have empowered individual STEM professionals by giving them the resources to improve diversity and inclusion at their own institutions, whilst giving them confidence to be their full selves professionally.

Thanks for taking part in the Plant Club BioBlitz! | Citizen Science

A big thank you to everyone who took part in the Plant Club BioBlitz! Over two weeks we made 725 observations of 313 species across the UK. We had observations from car parks in Portsmouth, pavements in Leeds and London, people’s gardens, and even clifftops in Cornwall and the Outer Hebrides. You can view all our observations on iNaturalist.

Continue reading “Thanks for taking part in the Plant Club BioBlitz! | Citizen Science”