Banks abroad: the botany of the voyages of Joseph Banks | Botany collections

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.

Continue reading “Banks abroad: the botany of the voyages of Joseph Banks | Botany collections”

Celebrating two years of the NHM Art-Science Interest Group

The Museum’s Art-Science interest group (ASIG) is a forum for interesting talks and provocations, aimed at exploring interactions between science and the arts. It meets every few months.

We had our eighth meeting on Thursday 15th November 2018. It was our two year anniversary, so we were celebrating with wine, interesting talks and a growing number of ASIG participants. There were participants from the NHM, art galleries, including our neighbours the Serpentine, other museums, and universities.

We were treated to talks by three great speakers:

Continue reading “Celebrating two years of the NHM Art-Science Interest Group”

A boy with a museum under his bed | Curator of Micropaleontology

Geode

When I was at school I had my own geological museum under my bed. Aged 6 I took some of the first specimens in my collection to school for show and tell. This summer term I found myself doing the same at my 7 year old son Pelham’s school (thank you Natasha for volunteering me). I took some specimens on loan from the Museum’s handling collection and some of my favourite specimens from my original collection.

Read on to find out about the specimen that’s been on TV, the rock that is much lighter than it looks and where in Hintze Hall you can come do your own Key Stage 2 revision on Geology.

Continue reading “A boy with a museum under his bed | Curator of Micropaleontology”

Contemporary art at the Natural History Museum

There is a long tradition of art bringing dead things in museums to life.  The Natural History Museum is full of specimens that give us windows into life in all its glory.  But many artists give our collections and our ways of working new and unexpected lives.  The Museum’s Art-Science Interest Group (ASIG) brings together the museum staff and artists (and in some cases these inhabit the same bodies) to explore the collections, and life, the universe and everything, through an artistic lens.

Continue reading “Contemporary art at the Natural History Museum”

Uniting Europe’s 1.5 billion specimens | Digital Collection Programme

1) DiSSCO Map
An initiative that unites 21 countries,114 museums and 5000+ Scientists

European Natural Science collections contain around 1.5 billion specimens representing an estimated 55% of global collections and 80% of the worlds bio- and geo-diversity.  Data derived from these collections underpin countless innovations, including tens of thousands of scholarly publications, products critical to our bio-economy, databases, maps and descriptions of scientific observations. Continue reading “Uniting Europe’s 1.5 billion specimens | Digital Collection Programme”

Remarkable female scientists – Isabella Gordon, Crustacea specialist | Library and Archives

Dr Isabella Gordon (1901-1988), Crustacea specialist at the Natural History Museum 1928-1966.

A few weeks ago Catherine Booth made an appointment to view material in our reading room for the first time. Catherine has recently retired as Science Curator at the National Library of Scotland and will now able to spend time researching what had became an interest while she was working – the lives and careers of forgotten Scottish female scientists.  One of these scientists, Isabella Gordon, drew her to visit the Library and Archives at the Natural History Museum. The following is Catherine’s guest blog.

Continue reading “Remarkable female scientists – Isabella Gordon, Crustacea specialist | Library and Archives”

The flies that use their eyes to fight for love… well, sex at least | Curator of Diptera

Before the Museum exhibition about Colour and Vision closes on 6 November, I thought I should write a piece about some of nature’s most amazing eyes (their patterns and shapes). I’m talking of course about those belonging to flies – the most enigmatic of all species on the planet – and specifically all the species referred to as stalk-eyed flies.

stalk-eyed-fly
Male stalk-eyed fly of the species Teleopsis dalmanni. The span from eye-to-eye is nearly as wide as the fly’s body is long © Rob Knell, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

My first experience of stalk-eyed flies came while I was carrying out fieldwork in Costa Rica over 10 years ago and it can probably go down as one of my favourite fieldwork moments. So what happened?

Continue reading “The flies that use their eyes to fight for love… well, sex at least | Curator of Diptera”

Join us for the global WeDigBio event and become a digital volunteer for the Museum | Miniature Lives Magnified

From 20-23 October, the Natural History Museum is taking part in the global WeDigBio event, which is all about digitising natural history collections around the world.

Insect with antennae, large eyes, wings and a multicoloured metallic body.
Just millimetres long, Chalcids, like this Perilampus aeneus are so small they are difficult to find and study. This means there are vast gaps in our knowledge and understanding of their ecology and behaviour.

Image of the WeDigBio logoIt will be a great opportunity to meet other natural history enthusiasts face-to-face (check out the event listing to find one near you, even if it isn’t here at the Museum), or engage with other volunteers online who will be helping us to transcribe specimen information, to set the data free!

Although our own hands-on Visiteering session during the WeDigBio event is now fully booked, you are welcome to register for the rest of our Visiteering scheme at any time.

The collection that we are profiling as part of WeDigBio focuses on a group of wasps called chalcids (pronounced ‘kal-sids’).

Continue reading “Join us for the global WeDigBio event and become a digital volunteer for the Museum | Miniature Lives Magnified”

Global digital collections | Digital Collections Programme

talk
Deborah Paul presenting on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Ben Price and Douglas Russell blogged recently about presentations by Museum colleagues at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Protection of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) in Berlin, noting that delegates were passionate about the potential of digitisation to help us illustrate, research and understand our changing world. As well as presenting, we learned a lot from the other presenters and attendees, picking up some themes which are particularly relevant to our Digital Collections Programme (DCP).

Continue reading “Global digital collections | Digital Collections Programme”