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The curious life of a museum curator

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Thank you for a great summary of the role of curator. Now we have something to direct people to when they ask!

NatSCA

Working as a curator in a museum is an odd job. It is the best job on the planet. But it is like no other I know of. There are an enormous range of daily tasks a curator carries out, and these are not without their quirks. Here are a few oddities museum curators deal with regularly:

Curators are not Indiana Jones

I’ve written about this before in more detail, but no, we are not Indiana Jones. When we introduce ourselves to new people, the response is sometimes ‘oh, just like Indiana Jones.’ This is a common misconception, albeit a rather flattering one. We do see some dangerous action in the field: dozens of beetles and flies on family friendly bug hunts, slipping on jagged rocks when rock pooling. However, some,many, most do not have whips under their beds. Curators do not steal ancient relics from temples (there are laws…

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Got White Privilege?

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Manchester Museum director, Nick Merriman, taking the White Privilege test at the Museums Association Manchester Conference 2017. This very popular stall was one of the brilliant activities on offer as part of the Festival of Change; helping museum professionals grapple with serious issues through creative interventions.

Museum Detox

We had a great time at the Museums Association conference in Manchester, where our intervention won ‘best product’. Watch Nick Merriman from Manchester Museum talk to our activist Cherelle:

Download these resources to run your own White Privilege workshop.

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There and back again! A Materia Medica Tale by Jemma Houghton

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By Jemma

 

For the past few weeks I have been back at the herbarium returning the materia medica collection to their cupboards following work undertaken by estates.

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Boxes of materia medica jars to be organised back into the cupboards.

 

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First cupboards filled with specimens.

 

This project is somewhat reminiscent of my placement year over two years ago at the herbarium when I photographed, databased and organised the collection into their current system.

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Completed organisation of the materia medica collection two years ago.

 

The materia medica collection at the Manchester Museum contains over 800 specimens of plants, animals and minerals that were used for medicinal purposes. It dates from the latter half of the nineteenth century and was originally used as a teaching tool for medical and pharmacy students at Owens College.

 

Following the 1858 Medical Act, anyone wishing to be a practicing physician first had to be included on the medical register. This required them to pass at least one of the qualifications recognised by the General Medical Council – such as those by the Royal College of Physicians – and the majority of these involved some form of examination into materia medica. As such, materia medica was an essential subject for any medical student during the nineteenth century.

 

The role of the materia medica collection as a teaching resource, therefore, meant that it was a vital part of medical education at Owens College. This was particularly evident given that the collection at the time had its own dedicated museum at the medical school!

 

The building that housed this museum no longer exists so the collection no longer has its own museum, but instead resides in the tower of the Manchester Museum as part of the herbarium.

Cordyceps, the Zombie Fungus

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Bryony from the Visitor Team takes a look at the weird world of zombie fungi; a post originally on the ‘Stories from the Museum Floor’ blog

Stories from the Museum Floor

Today’s Story from the Museum Floor by Bryony from the Visitor Team takes a closer look at one of the most unusual objects from our botany collection.

And for more about plants, have a look at the Curator’s blog, Herbology Manchester.

Cordyceps, the Zombie Fungus

It’s Hallowe’en again, and you all know what that means… it’s our Stories from the Museum Floor Hallowe’en blog post, of course!

There are plenty of spooky things to write about in a museum. You might recall our post about the Death’s Head hawk moth, or perhaps the one about ancient Egyptian mummies … but would you expect to find … zombies?

Yes, we’ve got some real-life zombie specimens here in the museum. Now, brace yourselves, because this could get scary …

Cordyceps fungus on caterpillars, Nature’s Library, Manchester Museum. Cordyceps militaris is on the left, and Ophiocordyceps robertsii, right.

Don’t know…

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Paris

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A trip to the Paris herbarium in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris.

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I was given a guided tour of the Paris herbarium by Marc Jeanson: 8 million specimens, fully imaged and sorted into APG III order. Citizen science project Les Herbonautes encourages volunteers to catalogue the collection online photos.

 

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Grandes Serres (Greenhouses) contain drought tolerant and tropical plants:

 

A menagerie:

 

 

Systematic beds, alpine garden and historic trees

 

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Gallery of Evolution

 

Gallery of Botany:

 

GALERIE DE PALÉONTOLOGIE ET D’ANATOMIE COMPARÉE

 

#BotanicMonday

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A few images from the herbarium recently

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Archives and labels are a gold mine of information in Herbarium collections #botanicMonday @Nat_SCA

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It’s #BotanicMonday and also #chocolateweek! Here’s a German teaching poster of the plant that produces the cocoa bean

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Plant models aplenty #BotanicMonday

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106 years old and still living up to its name – Showy pink oregano (Origanum sipyleum) #BotanicMonday

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Joanne B Kaar‏ @Joannebkaar Oct 15
More back rooms of @McrMuseum in herbarium @Aristolochia
photos from my recent research visit
packaging
labels
#lichen
I’m inspired

Stirring the hornet’s nest – are natural science collections even legal?

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NatSCA

I was wrapping up a particularly difficult male peacock with a helper a few weeks ago and we were discussing natural science collections. “Do you think one day they’ll just be made illegal?” she asked, straight-faced and sincere. I was miffed – this was someone saying to a natural science curator that really, it shouldn’t be allowed. I sighed and spent the rest of the wrapping session (porcupine was also tricky) explaining how wonderful – and legal – natural science collections are.

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