Displaying our Earth science specimens

by Robin Hansen, Curator, Minerals and Gemstones, NHM Earth Sciences

​​As part of the Galley Enhancements​​ Programme to refresh the Museum’s Earth Galleries Ground Floor, we’ve been working on the specimens to improve the experience for visitors, improve collection visibility and update the science.

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Darwin’s fossil mammals: discoveries that sparked the theory of evolution | Digital Collections Programme

1) book cover
Adrian Lister’s book, Darwin’s fossils: discoveries that shaped the theory of evolution

Guest blog by Adrian Lister

When I first joined the Museum as a fossil mammal researcher in 2007, I received a set of keys that gave me access to much of the museum’s huge collection.  Browsing one day, I opened an unremarkable cupboard and was startled to find six shelves of fossil bones with a sign reading ‘Charles Darwin, Beagle Voyage’.  Continue reading “Darwin’s fossil mammals: discoveries that sparked the theory of evolution | Digital Collections Programme”

Digitising Darwin’s Discoveries | Digital Collections Programme

3D Scanning Darwin's Fossil Mammals
3D laser scanning Darwin’s Fossil Mammals

In 2014, Professor Adrian Lister began research for his book on the fossils collected by Charles Darwin on the Voyage of the Beagle. As part of his research, Professor Lister began to document the complex histories of these specimens from their point of collection to the present day. It soon became clear that the mammalian specimens had not been adequately documented or revised in the 185 years since their initial publication. This has meant that they have not been included in most modern scientific studies. This is despite the fact that the majority of the specimens in this collection are ‘type’ specimens (the reference specimens for that species), essential for scientific study of these species.

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We need your help to set our collections data free! |Digital Collections Programme

We are asking for help to transcribe data from our Foraminifera slides in Miniature Fossils Magnified
We need your help to transcribe data about our foraminifera slides

On the 19-22 October, the Museum will be running a digital volunteering event in collaboration with the third annual WeDigBio event. WeDigBio is a four day event that engages global participants online and on-site in digitising natural history collections. Continue reading “We need your help to set our collections data free! |Digital Collections Programme”

11 Shark tales of the past and present | #NHM_Live

Sharks first evolved almost 200 million years before the dinosaurs and we’re still learning more about species past and present. Emma Bernard, Curator of Fossil Fish, joined Alistair Hendry to show off some of the Museum’s shark specimens, and to answer your questions. Find out just how huge a Megalodon tooth is, discover strange shark species and see some incredible fossil specimens including one where cartilaginous soft tissue has been preserved.

If you enjoyed this podcast please rate and review us in iTunes. To hear more about our fossil fish collection please follow @NHM_FossilFish on Twitter.

Dorothea Bate, pioneering palaeontologist and explorer in the early 20th Century | Library and Archives

Imagine travel with no need for a passport, no lengthy queues for security, no limits to baggage, and when passing through customs, you could happily note, ‘no questions asked about my gun’.

Portrait of Dorothea Bate in profile from the shoulders upwards.
Portrait of Dorothea Bate (published in Idök Volume 38, July 1932)
That, for the pioneering palaeontologist, Dorothea Bate, was the upside to travel in the early years of the 20th Century. It was by no means all positive, however. Travel by ship and train round Europe, not to mention journeying by a variety of ‘quads’ – donkey, mule and pony – over mountainous Mediterranean islands could be challenging, to say the least.

Continue reading “Dorothea Bate, pioneering palaeontologist and explorer in the early 20th Century | Library and Archives”

05 Dinosaur world tour | #NHM_Live

We’re back with the first episode of series 2, featuring Paul Barrett discussing Dinosaur discoveries from around the world. Most species people are aware of are ones found in North America but dinosaurs have been found on every continent on Earth.

In the show we look at specimens such as Mantellisaurus, Megalosaurus, Giraffatitan and Stegosaurus and finds from Europe, Africa and Antarctica.

If you enjoy this episode please subscribe and leave us a review in iTunes. Better still join us live for the rest of series 2 this summer to ask your own questions of our scientist. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out the details of our next broadcast.

Fossil Festival on the Jurassic Coast | Earth sciences

by Chris Hughes, Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum

Every year in early May the Museum participates in the Fossil Festival at Lyme Regis, on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.  It’s an event involving thousands of members of the public with an interest in the ancient marine fossils found in the rocks along the coast near Lyme. Museum scientists occupy a large marquee on the sea front and engage in a whole range of outreach activities. The idea is to enable everybody to meet scientists, to talk about real fossils and enjoy exploring the geology and natural history of this area.

lyme1
A wonderful view of Lyme Regis bathed in May sunshine – before the snow!

We headed down to Lyme Regis on the Tuesday before the Fossil Festival commenced. This allowed us a day to carry out some fieldwork in this world famous fossil locality before we led an outreach event at the Thomas Hardye School, in Dorset. On our field visit we had a look at some of the great fossil sites that are found all around Lyme. We decided to head out west toward the famous ammonite pavement at Monmouth beach. This was my first time in Lyme Regis and I was very excited because I had been told that these rocks were some of the best in the world for these fossils.

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Notes in the collections tell natural stories | Curator of Micropalaeontology

Earlier in the summer I tweeted a picture of a microfossil slide I made in 1997. On the back I had written that it was made while I was listening to England bowl Australia out for 118 in a cricket test match at Edgbaston, Birmingham.

slide with cricket annotation
A microfossil slide with a cricket-related annotation on the back.

The slide got me thinking about more important hidden notes I have found recently that relate to historical events and provide a context to the microfossil collection. This post examines evidence of a collector’s escape from a disintegrating ice floe, attempts to cover-up a major disagreement between two scientists and the sad end for a laboratory that led to my first job as a curator.

Continue reading “Notes in the collections tell natural stories | Curator of Micropalaeontology”