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.
Biodiversity loss is low on the public agenda, but the pandemic could help us reassess our relationship with the natural world, writes Clare Matterson, the Museum’s Director of Engagement.
A newfound appreciation for weeds in the cracks of city pavements, enjoying melodious birdsong in place of the booming traffic and marvelling at quiet clear blue skies have become daily lockdown news.
Amidst the tragedy of Covid-19, nature has thrived and as we have slowed down in lockdown its variety has caught our eye.
Today is International Day For Biological Diversity, created by the United Nations 27 years ago to raise awareness of biodiversity issues and celebrate that variety.
Since then scientists have warned us about the catastrophic loss of species and their habitat because of our actions.
We need that variety of life on earth for food, medicines and clean water, never mind a spiritual boost in tough times.
What were your highlights from the City Nature Challenge this year? Although I missed taking part in a public BioBlitz at the Natural History Museum, I enjoyed my own mini BioBlitz in my little London garden – making 99 observations and managing to identify 80 different species. My favourite find was a tiny Bethylid wasp which was the first one I have ever seen. These wasps are just a few millimetres long and are known as ‘flat wasps’ because of their squashed appearance. They are parasitoids of beetle larvae or moth caterpillars.
Thank you from the citizen science team!
A big thank you to everyone who took part in the City Nature Challenge: London this year! Despite lockdown restrictions London exceeded last year’s records, making 5,732 nature observations between 24 – 27 April and identifying 1,069 species. The London team were particularly happy to see nearly twice as many people taking part this year – a total of 542 of observers. You can view all the observations made at the City Nature Challenge: London iNaturalist project page.
Have you seen any bee-flies in your garden? Bee-flies look rather like bees but are actually true flies (Diptera). They have round, furry bodies and a long proboscis (tongue) held out straight. The proboscis can sometimes cause alarm but they do not bite or sting and just use it to drink nectar from spring flowers, often while hovering. Flowers with long nectar tubes such as primroses and lungworts are particular favourites, and bee-flies are likely to be important pollinators of these.
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.
The Museum’s new strategy to 2031 has been announced, with a call to arms to take action against the current environmental crisis facing our planet.
In the lead up to the announcement, the Connect product team in the Digital Media department were tasked with a brief: to deliver an impactful “takeover” of the Museum’s homepage which grabbed the attention of the user while not only conveying a sense that urgent action was needed, but delivering a message of hope for the planet’s future, not despair.
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”
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”