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Studying biodiversity in the Italian Alps

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by Rachel

Rifugio Tita Piaz
Rifugio Tita Piaz

I’ve spent the last two weeks on a field course with 25 undergraduates from the Faculty of Life Sciences studying Alpine Biodiversity and Forest Ecology. We stayed at the wonderful Rifugio Tita Piaz in Passo Pura in the Carnic Alps and made use of the facilities at the field centre of Baita Torino.

Baita Torino

We were really lucky to have Professor Nimis, Professor of Systematic Botany at The University of Trieste and renowned lichenologist, come to talk to us at the beginning of our stay. He explained how the biodiversity of the area arose after the last ice age. Some plant species survived in patches where the mountains rose high enough above the local glaciers to provide a refuge for life (known as nunataks). Others arrived after the ice melted, migrating into the region from the Baltic, Siberia or Southern Italy.

Wildflowers on a glacial moraine
Wildflowers on a glacial moraine

Prof Nimis also introduced us to his excellent key to the flora of this region. Produced as part of the Dryades project from the University of Trieste, it is now available translated into English, either online or as an Apple app. This was a great tool for students to use for their project work investigating aspects of the environment around them.

Diverse grassland
Grassland with Briza media

Cleaning a specimen – by Jamie Matley

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There are times when it isn’t necessary for a specimen to be re-mounted. Sometimes all the specimen sheet needs is a good cleaning.

 

Below you will see the process of cleaning a specimen sheet.

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As you can see in the above images, the sheet is dirty around the edges – this is due to the soot from the industrial revolution, the sheets wouldn’t have been boxed, they would have been left out on shelf’s or benches, in piles.

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To remove the soot from the specimen sheets, we have to use a chemical dry cleaning sponge (pictures above) – these sponges are specifically made for cleaning soot and smoke damaged goods.

 

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As you can see in the selection of picture above, the sponge works great; it makes a real difference with the appearance of specimens.

Transferring from Newspaper – by Jamie Matley

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We come across plenty of specimens placed in newspapers – this one is from 1912! – Not all of them, like this one, are secured with tape. But, when they do have tape, we have to cut through the tape with either a knife (pictured) or a scalpel.

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Once the specimen has been cut free; we then transfer the specimen to a new sheet.

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Along with the specimen, we transfer all identifiable information to the new sheet.

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The finished product, the specimen on its new sheet, secured with tape, and with the same information from its previous (newspaper) sheet.

An introduction and how to remount specimens

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Hello! My name is Jamie and I am the curatorial apprentice within the herbarium.I have been here since February and will continue to be here until the following February (2015). I have been in the herbarium for 5 months now, and we thought it was time for me to introduce myself to the blog. My first 5 months in the herbarium have involved quite a variety of different tasks. These tasks have involved relocating part of our collection to the newly installed roller racking, preparing specimens to go out for educational visits, and one of my favourites, reorganising the Materia Medica collection.

Along with the mentioned above, I have also been doing some remounting of specimens. Below you will find a selection of pictures, with a description, that shows the process of remounting a specimen. The main purpose of re-mounting specimens is for convenience in handling specimens of difficult shapes or sizes during the subsequent steps of preparation and examination. A secondary purpose is to protect and preserve the specimen as best as we possibly can.

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Workspace

The photo above shows the area the remounting will be taking place. Remounting is the process of replacing the cartridge paper – that the specimen is placed on – and the gummed linen tape that are no longer in a satisfactory condition.

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As you can see in the first image, the specimen is placed in a flimsy folder and is not in a very good condition. In image two you can see the specimen is poorly kept, and is without any gummed tape – you can clearly see this in the image below.

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As you can see in the above images this specimen clearly needs to be remounted. The first process of the remounting is to replace the sheet the specimen will be laying on, in this case from a flimsy tissue type paper, to our preferred cartridge paper. Image two shows you the new sheet for the specimen.

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The above images are of the gummed tape we use – this tape is acid free and can last a very long period of time. In the second of these images you see the tape cut into thin strip, this is so we can give the specimen a snug, secure fit.

Water pot
Water pot

To get the gummed tape to stay secure, we have to wet both ends. But never the middle, as we don’t want to damage the specimen.

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The first image above shows you how a specimen should correctly be kept. In the second image, you can see how secure the specimen looks, compared to its original sheet.

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Once the specimen has a new sheet and is secure, we then have to transfer any information from its original sheet to the new one. We do this by cutting around the required information and then glue it to the new sheet, as you can see in the below image.

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We then add the finishing touch, which is the Manchester Museum Herbarium stamp.

Favourite Object from the Collection

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Rachel:

Watering the Museum allotment
Watering the Museum allotment

As it reaches the time of year when the Museum allotment is always thirsty, I thought I’d share this post from Bryan Sitch (Curator of Archaeology) about his favourite object from the collection……

Originally posted on Ancient Worlds:

Collections Team with their favourite objects
Collections Team with their favourite objects

Here we all are in this morning’s team meeting with our favourite objects. Kate had a shark’s jaw bone with some nasty looking teeth, Steve had a copy of the Salford register because it had details of the most important ethnographic objects in the Museum collection, Phil had some parasitic  flies, Campbell part of an ivory chariot fitting, Rachel had some saffron, Lindsey had some rubber stamps, Henry a mounted Ross’ gull and I took along a post-medieval watering can made of fired clay (accession no. 20838). The latter is one of my favourite objects in the collection. I kind of fell in love with it as soon as I saw it in the Museum store.

Ceramic watering can
Ceramic watering can

It’s about 36cm tall and as you can see it’s made of orange-red clay with a brownish glaze. You can see where the separately made rose…

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First impressions…

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Originally posted on Adam, the (Trainee) Natural Science Curator:

So, I’ve now been the HLF Trainee curator for Natural Sciences at the Manchester Museum for 2 weeks, and I can safely say I’ve loved it so far.

Everyone I’ve met has been friendly and helpful, which is a great thing in such a massive place, and i’d like to take the opportunity to thank the HLF, Paulette, Henry and David for giving me this excellent opportunity.

Anyway, onto some museum type stuff. One of the tasks I’ve been doing over the past couple of days up in the herbarium (where I’m based for the first couple of months) has been some restoration work on some of the boxed specimens in the collection. Even though it’s quite a simple job, I’ve found it very relaxing and enjoyable just sitting cleaning and repairing boxes and it’s great to see how much of an improvement a bit of damp tissue can do…

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Whitworth: Past, Present and Future: An outdoor tour

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Originally posted on Gallery in the Park:

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With warmer weather on the way we invite you to join us for Whitworth: Past, Present & Future: An outdoor tour for those interested in finding out more about the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester’s gallery in the park, whilst we undergo a £15 million redevelopment (opening Saturday, 25 October).

Sarah Sanders from the Visitor Services team leads the first tour
Sarah Sanders from the Visitor Services team leads the first tour

The Whitworth’s very own Visitor Team will take you back through the Gallery’s illustrious 125 year history, from its humble beginnings as Grove House, a gallery established ‘for the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester’, right up to the present day. Hear about what the redeveloped Whitworth will offer: brand new exhibition spaces, a fabulous art garden designed by Sarah Price, the innovative Clore Learning Studio and more… All this whilst taking a stroll through Whitworth Park, with views of the original façade of the building and encounters with…

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