What does moving 28 million specimens actually mean? | Katy Hudson and Ellie Clark, Collections Move Team Leaders

Katy and Ellie collecting data on some of the 28 million specimens that will be on the move.

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?

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Specimens to Solutions: A Glimpse into Collections and Research | Kathryn Gibbons, Scientific Partnerships Manager

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?

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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