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Old wives tales?

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Originally posted on Museum Meets:

Old Wives Tales?

Thurs 23 Oct, 2-4pm. Taking inspiration from the Museum’s fascinating material medical collection, explore our relationship to medicine through conversation and creative writing. Chat about family remedies and whether there’s any truth behind natural cures. Take part in simple poetry exercises to compose your own piece about your experiences and memories. With poet Tony Sheppard and Curator of Botany, Rachel Webster. Part of Manchester Science Festival, supported by Siemens.

Price: Book on 0161 275 2648 or, free, adults

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Siberia: At the Edge of the World Oct 2014 – Mar 2015

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Tonight is the private view for our latest temporary exhibition, Siberia, after months of hard work by Dmitri Logunov and David Gelsthorpe (who have curated it) and a final few furious weeks of activity by the team who have installed it (many thanks to the collections care and access team!). There are many beautiful objects on show, but I thought I’d show a little of the preparation which went into getting one of the botanical specimens ready for display.

Dmitri brought some examples of Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica) to the Museum which had been collected in the Novosibirsk Region of Russia in August 2013. After a spell in the herbarium freezer to ensure that there were no insect pests, Lindsey and I put in a box for safe keeping where they waited their turn for almost a year.

A box of Siberian pine specimens in assorted Russian carrier bags

A standard herbarium sheet didn’t really seem to do justice to the many pieces of tree we had acquired and as they were destined for display before incorporation into the herbarium we decided to arrange them on something bigger. We like to re-use display boxes from previous exhibitions to increase the sustainability of our displays. An acrylic box which had previously housed a stunning fan coral in the ‘Coral, something rich and strange’ seemed perfect.

With the possibilities of several branches and pine cones to choose from, mounting the specimens onto something stronger than paper also seemed like a good plan, so we asked paper conservator Dan Hogger if he could find us a suitably sized piece of cardboard. One of our regular volunteers, Christine, then tried out various bits and pieces for size to find an arrangement which looked attractive.

The plan, the tools, the card and the specimens – ready to go for it!

The task of attaching a small tree seedling, a small branch, a group of pine needles, 2 whole cones, one half eaten cone, one sectioned cone and a series of pine nuts on to the card then fell to Jemma (our placement student from Life Sciences) and myself. We decided that a combination of glue, tissue papers nests and sewing would do the job better than our standard method of gummed paper slips. We wanted to be thorough as this display is going to be attached vertically to the wall until March 2015 and I didn’t want to find myself taking it down for repairs every other week.

Jemma glueing tissue paper ‘nests’ to rest the pinecones in

Then the finished piece was off to conservation to be mounted onto the backing board, and down into the exhibition space to be hung in it’s place amongst the other flora and fauna of the taiga.

Mounted onto the backing board by conservator Jenny
Waiting for attention from the workshop team
Done! Bring on the opening!

Visiting Liverpool World Museum

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Beautifully conserved illustrations in the Liverpool herbarium collections

This time last week we travelled over to Liverpool to catch up with colleagues who work in herbaria in the North West of the UK. It was lovely to have the opportunity to get together and discuss what we’re all doing (projects, aquisitions and the day to day) and it also meant that we got to have a good look round the Liverpool herbarium. With our storage looking like this:

Manchester’s General Flowering Plant Collection


………….Liverpool’s was a vision of order and function. Lindsey and I have got our eye on a few improvements to try out!

A green solander box! Home from home!


Lay-away cabinet with big, clear labels
Love these!

We also had a tour of the museum’s City Wildflower Meadow by Donna Young, Curator of Herbarium, . In prime postition right at the main entrance, the meadow is now in it’s second year and must have been a blaze of colour in midsummer. It had largely run to seed when we visited, but there were still a few flowers (such as yellow toadflax, the odd scabious flower and some dark mullein) making the most of the last days of summer. Donna explained that this year the yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) had really started to settle in and as it parasitises the more vigorous plants like grasses it will help to maintain the diversity of the meadow in future. We’ll have to come see it in all it’s glory next year!

Liverpool World Museum’s City Wildflower Meadow

NHM (part 1)…

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

Last week, myself and the other 2 Natural History curatorial trainees (Glenn & Lukas) spent a week on placement at the Natural History Museum, London. It was a great week, and I’d like to start out by saying a huge thank you to all the staff that took time out of their day to show us around and answer our questions.

It started on Monday, with the 3 of us being met by Clare Valentine, the Head of Collections for Zoology. After Clare took us for our security passes we went to Clares office to have a quick chat and a cup of tea. Clare gave us a brief introduction to some of her responsibilities and an overview of the staff structure of the NHM (around 100 curators itself I found was an impressive number!).

Clare then took us on a brief tour of some of the Zoology stores. The spirit…

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Boxes and the Materia Medica

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Hello! My name is Jemma and I am the new placement student in the herbarium. I have had a fantastic and busy few weeks so far with Rachel and Lindsey. We have moved many, many, many boxes ready for the building work that is to happen in the herbarium. This has also meant that, for the time being, we have taken over archery with our herbarium sheets!

DSC_0405 DSC_0413 DSC_0415

I have also had a chance to research some of the items in my favourite room in the herbarium: the Materia Medica! Here are some of the weird and wonderful ones I’ve found.

rose petals
rosae gallica petala
colocynthidis pulpa
colocynthidis pulpa
belae fructus
belae fructus


tung oil neatsfoot oil adeps lame hydrosus


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Originally posted on Palaeo Manchester:

Dettifoss in Northern Iceland is Europe’s largest waterfall by volume. It flows over some stunning columnar basalt lavas


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Past and present at Thingvellir

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We have a large collection of lantern slides from the Manchester Geographical Society in the museum stores, including some of Iceland, and they gave us a window onto the lansdscapes of the past. Some of the most striking were images of Thingvellir National Park.

The three-gabled manor house was built in 1930 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing.
The three-gabled manor house was built in 1930 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing.


The second two gables were added in 1974 to celebrate 1100 years since Settlement
The second two gables were added in 1974 to celebrate 1100 years since Settlement
View from the top of the Almannagjá fissure
View from the top of the Almannagjá fissure


From the viewing point today