Beautiful Botany now starring on @VisitMM twitter

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We challenged our inventive Visitor Team staff to find the beautiful botany on the galleries at Manchester Museum and share it on twitter. Here are a few highlights!


beautiful botany



beautiful botany3


Pretty good, eh? I wonder what they’ll spot next?

Easter Island Exhibition at Manchester Museum

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Ancient Worlds

Moai Hava and Sam in the World Museum in Liverpool Moai Hava and Sam in the World Museum in Liverpool

Since returning from the Ke EMu conference in Washington on Saturday I’ve been thinking about Manchester Museum’s next temporary exhibition which will be about the stone statues or moai of Rapa Nui or Easter Island. We are in the fortunate position of being able to borrow a statue called moai Hava from the British Museum, and a selection of supporting objects from the BM and other museums. The exhibition will draw upon the results of fieldwork on Easter Island undertaken by Professor Colin Richards of the University of Manchester’s Department of Archaeology. Our ‘Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: the Stone Statues of Easter Island’  exhibition will open in early April 2015 and run for four months in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery.

It is incredibly exciting to work with material from Easter Island, which must rank as some of the highest profile…

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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!

Safn – Icelandic for museum (and collection)

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With a group of curators away on a trip together one thing is guaranteed – we’ll find some museums to visit!

Museum sign in Reydarfjorur (not been there yet!!)
Museum sign in Reydarfjorur


So one Icelandic word I’ve learnt is ‘safn’ meaning museum or collection.   We’ve visited a whole host of wonderful museum large and small since arriving in Iceland.

There was Arbaer open air museum with it’s beautiful architecture and really stylish displays of Icelandic life and commodities.


One of Arbaer's displays of Icelandic life
One of Arbaer’s beautiful displays of Icelandic life
Historic Icelandic women's desses
Historic Icelandic women’s desses

Then there was Eldheimar (Pompeii of the North) telling the story of the eruption on Heimaey with it’s evocative excavated house and clever use of audioguides. David has an interesting interview with the Director of  this new museum here.

Eldheimar (Pompeii of the North)
Eldheimar (Pompeii of the North)


Detail of a buried house
Detail of a buried house

The Aquarium and Natural History Museum in Heimay celebrating it’s 50th anniversary with decorated stones and the chance to meet it’s VIP resident:

What hot feet a puffin has!
What hot feet a puffin has!

The eclectic shark fishing museum on the north of the Snaefellsness peninsula with artifacts, drying shark and the opportunity to buy the real thing. Visit Dmitri’s blog for a full write-up of this one!

Detail of fishing boat boat
Detail of fishing boat boat

The charming natural history museum in Ólafsfjördur with an extensive collection of birds, a polar bear and something which I particularly enjoyed…..a little browseable herbarium.


Pressed plants to flick through
Pressed plants to flick through

At the Museum of Akureyri the current exhibition was an interesting display of images of Iceland today taken using the wet plate technique. We have some plates like this in our collection and even though ours are about 100 years old and these were modern, all the smudges and drips around the edges look identical. ALongside this chenging temporary exhibition they also had two more permanent displays about mapping Iceland and life in Akureyri in ages past.

Gallery of maps in Akureyri Museum
Gallery of maps in Akureyri Museum
Edge effects on a modern wet plate image of the Cafe Paris building, Akureyri


Coral: Something Rich and Strange (and also in crochet!)

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Photo: Josh Nolan
Coral on display in the new exhibition

Tonight sees the opening of our latest exhibtion ‘Coral: Something Rich and Strange’ which shows beautiful natural history specimens of coral alongside amazing works of art.

At the front of the exhibition is a crochet coral reef; a satellite from the reef of the Institute for Figuring in California. The reef includes a few pieces created by curatorial staff and volunteers, who may not have fully mastered the art of crochet, but who can now make curly hyperbolic shapes. This reef will grow over the course of the exhibition (which runs until the 16th March 2014) and so there’s plenty of time to join in if you’re interested in promoting coral reef consevation or fancy trying your hand at crochet. The reef also features an area of coral bleaching.

Photo Josh Nolan
The Manchester Satellite Reef

Although reef-building corals are animals, they often have a partner – microscopic, single-celled algae known as zooxanthellae (specifically dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium). The coral povides protection and the zooxanthellae collect energy from the sun by photosynthesis to produce sugars. This sort of life-style is similar to that of the symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae in lichens.

From Wikipedia: Bleached branching coral
From Wikipedia: Bleached branching coral

Coral bleaching happens when a coral becomes stressed (e.g. through rising sea temperatures, pollution or high UV) and can expels the algae. As corals are mostly transparent, losing the brown-coloured symbiotic algae reveals the (often) white calcium carbonate structure. As the algae produce sugars which can feed the corals, this bleaching can quickly cause starvation making the corals suceptible to disease and causing the death of patches of the reef.

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Palaeo Manchester

Our Visitor Services staff have put together a brand new Nature’s Library guide.

It brings together the information about the amazing specimens on display with images of the cases. It is a great resource to either use whilst you are on the gallery or to take away.

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Nothwest connections

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We have had a a new display installed in the Museum foyer this week. It was curated by the Manchester Museum’s Senior Youth Board and it reflects their interpretation of our Collecting Trees theme. Called ‘Northwest to Northwest; Forest to Metropolis’, this installation is inspired by the historic trade in red cedarwood from British Columbia to the Manchester via Canada Docks in Salford.

Case of objects from the Prosser collection

They have used this theme to make links between the Living Cultures and Zoology collections through wooden objects of Native American art and the animals represented therein. We’d love to hear what you think about it; if you’re visiting soon, please leave us a comment on our special postcards.

Killer whale representation on wooden panel