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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Ida Lilian Slater (1881-1969) | International Women’s Day 2019

2019 marks the centenary of women being allowed to join the Geological Society of London (GSL). That women might not be permitted to join any learned society today is unimaginable, and we sometimes take for granted the rights women have in today’s society. But before 1919 women were not only barred from joining the GSL, but had to have their research papers read out at meetings by their male colleague.

This blog, by Consuelo Sendino, attempts to enhance the reputation of a singular woman whose work was sadly neglected until a recent publication (Sendino et al. 2018) sought to correct that injustice and recognise her achievements.

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15 What’s the coolest dinosaur? | #NHM_Live

Join four Museum dinosaur experts as they each try to convince you that their favourite dinosaur is the best there ever was. It’s the ultimate dino face-off! What’s your pick for coolest dinosaur: the biggest, the quickest, the smartest, the fiercest? Or do you think a lesser-known species deserves a shot? Our scientists for this show were Susie Maidment, David Button, Paul Barrett and Tom Raven, and our host was Alastair Hendry.

Find out more about dinosaurs at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/dinosaurs.html

This recording of #NHM_Live was broadcast on 16 May 2018. If you enjoyed this podcast please subscribe, rate and review in iTunes. We will be live every month. Join us on 13 June and learn about the creatures who live in the dark of the deep oceans.

4 million digital specimens and counting | Digital Collections Programme

This image of Carl Linnaeus has been created from Museum specimens rather than pixels.

The Museum’s Data Portal has passed 4 million specimens, representing around 5% of the Museum’s entire collection.

The Data Portal was launched in December 2014. In addition to Museum specimens, the Data Portal also hosts 5.3 million other research records and over 100 datasets from internal and external authors.  The Portal is a platform for researchers to make their research and collections datasets available online for anyone to explore, download and re-use.

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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.

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Chance discovery contributes to origins and evolution focus | Curator of Micropalaeontology

When I first came to the Museum I dreamt that one day someone would bring something in for identification that I would recognise to be a really important find. The contents of a consultancy sample back in 2005 helped to make my wish come true. This post tells of the discovery and subsequent publication of a significant species of early fossil fish from Oman that provides information on the origins and evolution of life on our planet, one of the main focus areas of Museum science.

Montage of photos showing close ups of fossil plates and scales
Examples of plates and scales of the early fish Sacabambaspis

Very occasionally I get consultancy rock samples sent to me for dissolving to find microfossils. This is so that we can provide the age for a rock formation or details about fossil environments or climate. And so it was that Alan Heward, then of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), sent me a sample in 2005 for analysis to try to find age diagnostic conodonts. Conodonts are extinct phosphatic microfossils that look like teeth and are used extensively for dating rocks that are roughly 500-205 million years old.

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