See London’s museums from a different perspective with #MuseumInstaSwap | Take Part

This week, the Museum joins nine other London-based museums for #MuseumInstaSwap, a project to celebrate our spaces and collections through the medium of Instagram.

phone displaying natural history museum instagram account outside victoria and albert museum
We’re taking our Instagram account across the road to our neighbour the Victoria and Albert Museum for the week

The idea for #MuseumInstaSwap began after Londonist listed their 10 best London museums on Instagram. On seeing such a variety of museums, each with fascinating Instagram feeds, we all knew there had to be an exciting way to collaborate and share our content.

The 10 museums taking part – representing a diverse range of subjects and sizes – have paired up to take part in a week-long cultural exchange to reveal our collections in a new light. Continue reading “See London’s museums from a different perspective with #MuseumInstaSwap | Take Part”

At the Centre of Museum citizen science | Take Part

The home of the Museum’s citizen science programme is its Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, where we develop a series of surveys and activities that enable anyone in the UK to contribute to the Museum’s scientific research.

But the Centre has a wider purpose to support both new and experienced naturalists to develop their skills, meet like minded people and, together, develop new knowledge about the UK’s biodiversity (the diversity of it’s wildlife) and geodiversity (the diversity of it’s rocks, minerals and fossils).

Photo showing a lateral view of the bee
A brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humbles). The image has been taken using the photo-stacking equipment of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiverisity

The Centre provides workspaces, meeting rooms, microscopes, high specification photo stacking equipment (for photographing small specimens), books and identification guides to support people of all abilities to explore and study natural sciences in the UK. It’s free to book a visit and the Centre hosts over 1,000 visitors every year, ranging from individuals and groups to natural history societies.

Continue reading “At the Centre of Museum citizen science | Take Part”

Inspiring young Victorian minds through sport | Library and Archives

In amongst the collections of one of the largest natural history libraries in the world, are some unexpected items and here’s one of my favourites:

A photo of the front cover of Entomology in Sport
The front cover of Entomology in Sport by Two Lovers of the Science

Traditionally the Museum Library has not actively purchased natural history material aimed at younger readers, but there are some to be found within the shelves.

Entomology in Sport is an example of a publication aimed at aspiring young Victorian minds. A miniature visual world of insects has been intertwined within the words and paragraphs of this little book. Regardless of your age, you can’t help but be charmed.

Continue reading “Inspiring young Victorian minds through sport | Library and Archives”

Taking inspiration from the field and from women artists | Identification Trainers for the Future

In the latest update from our Identification Trainers for the Future project, Sally Hyslop continues the story of the work our five trainees have performed thus far.

Trainee life in the Museum is often focused through a microscope and so, after many months of study, it was brilliant to refresh our zeal for the natural world this month with a field trip to the Dorset coast. We spent three days exploring dramatic cliffs and coastal heathlands: by day, putting our developing botany skills into practise, and by night, spotting bats and catching moths.

The trainees in the field in Dorset
The trainees in the field in Dorset

The Museum’s Fred Rumsey and Mark Spencer led us through heath and bog on a hunt for the elusive bog orchid, Hammarbya paludosa. By the end of the day we found 109 spikes of these miniscule and delicate, rare, green flowers. On top of this, we encountered blankets of dainty white beaked sedge, flowering bog asphodel and all three UK species of sticky, carnivorous sundews along with their two hybrids.

Continue reading “Taking inspiration from the field and from women artists | Identification Trainers for the Future”

Wild orchids in August – what to look out for | Orchid Observers

Kath Castillo, our Orchid Observers Project Officer, tells us about the orchids you can search for out in the field this month.

August is nearly here and with it the start of the holiday season, so if you are planning a walking holiday or a bit of wildlife photography in the UK, there are some stunning species on our list to look out for and photograph for Orchid Observers.

A flower of the marsh helleborine. © Fred Rumsey
A flower of the marsh helleborine. © Fred Rumsey

Flowering now and into late August, the marsh helleborine (Epipactis palustris) is a fairly large orchid with loose clusters of pink and white flowers with a white frilly lower petal. Continue reading “Wild orchids in August – what to look out for | Orchid Observers”

What’s on that wall? | The Microverse

Today, one of our Microverse citizen science project participants, Robert Milne, presents his own interpretation of the results of the microbial samples collected from Mid Kent College in Gillingham where he is a student:

The results:

Despite our best efforts, the samples we obtained for the Microverse project were taken in different weather conditions, at slightly different times, in slightly different areas of the building, and all three samples were taken from walls facing different directions. The materials of the surfaces we sampled were brick, glass and metal.

Mid Kent College building, swabbed by The Microverse participants
Mid Kent College building, swabbed by The Microverse participants

Continue reading “What’s on that wall? | The Microverse”

Lichen Adventures with Pimlico Academy | Decoding Nature

This week Dr. Della Hopkins tells us about how the Decoding Nature project takes school students out on field trips and involves them in the Museum’s science research.

In June, a group of ‘scientists in the making’ from Pimlico Academy joined up with a small band of research scientists from the Museum as part of a long running project called Decoding Nature. Decoding Nature is a Museum-run venture which delivers residential science courses to school children aged 8-18.

The courses take place at The Old Malthouse School near Wareham in Dorset, and combine learning with original, ongoing scientific research. Over the years the project has evolved and included a wide range of scientists with varied areas of expertise. Each course is different, ensuring that the children are taking part in cutting edge research that will be used for publication.

Amazing lichen communities on Dorset trees - a winning photo from the photography competition. Image credit: Coco from Pimlico.
Amazing lichen communities on Dorset trees – a winning photo from the photography competition. Image credit: Coco from Pimlico.

For this particular course our budding scientists from Pimlico Academy were set several tasks, to aid renowned Lichenologist Holger Thues with several important research questions.

Continue reading “Lichen Adventures with Pimlico Academy | Decoding Nature”

A very busy time! | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our trainees on the Identification Trainers for the Future project have been extremely busy since our last blog post, here’s Mike Waller with an update on what they have been getting up to!

The trainees puzzle over their latest capture (L-R: Sally, Anthony, Mike and Katy)
The trainees puzzle over their latest capture (L-R: Sally, Anthony, Mike and Katy)

Our timetables, until now a collage of various colours, have become a very busy reality over the last two months. We got our teeth into another batch of long-anticipated ID workshops – Flowering Plants, Beetles, Flies and Earthworms. I think I speak for everyone when I say the skills and knowledge we’ve been passed by some of the leading scientific experts in the Museum have been rich, extensive and unique. Developing techniques to hoard as much of this golden information as possible have become paramount.

Continue reading “A very busy time! | Identification Trainers for the Future”

What to look out for in July | Orchid Observers

For July, the Orchid Observers team are simultaneously excited and fretting. We’re excited because we’re planning field trips to see the next orchids on our hit list, but we’re also concerned about the flower spikes scorching in the sun and wilting. It might be a race against the sun this month to catch July’s finest orchids. Not only that but this month’s highlight species are some of the trickiest to spot and identify. Please don’t let this deter you, take up the challenge and see if you can locate and photograph these beauties.

Bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa)

The bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) is the tiniest of the UK orchid species. © Mike Waller.
The bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) is the tiniest of the UK orchid species. © Mike Waller.

Being the tiniest of the UK orchids, the bog orchid can be rather inconspicuous. It’s just 4-8cm tall and green and there are only 25 flowers on the flower spike, which are said to smell sweet and cucumber-like. Continue reading “What to look out for in July | Orchid Observers”

DNA on the dinosaurs: swabbing Crystal Palace’s icons | The Microverse

Crystal Palace Transition Kids and Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs swab the first ever dinosaur sculptures the world had ever seen, to help us identify The Microverse. Ainslie Beattie of Crystal Palace Transition Kids and Ellinor Michel of the Museum and a member of the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs report on the event:

Looming out across the lake in front of us are dinosaurs, 160 year old dinosaurs! They look huge, ominous and exciting! These were the first ever reconstructions of extinct animals, the first animals with the name ‘dinosaur’ and they launched the ‘Dinomania’ that has enthralled us ever since.

Never before had the wonders of the fossil record been brought to life for the public to marvel at. These were the first ‘edu-tainment’, built to inform and amaze, in Crystal Palace Park in 1854. They conveyed messages of deep time recorded in the geologic record, of other animals besides people dominating past landscapes, of beauty and struggle among unknown gigantic inhabitants of lost worlds.

The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were built in 1854 to inform and amaze. © Stefan Ferreira
The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were built in 1854 to inform and amaze. © Stefan Ferreira

Most people just get to look at them from vantage points across a waterway, but not us! Transition Kids (part of Crystal Palace Transition Town) and Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs arranged special access to collect data for the Museum’s ‘The Microverse’ project.

Continue reading “DNA on the dinosaurs: swabbing Crystal Palace’s icons | The Microverse”