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Working Scientifically at the Museum

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Learning at Manchester Museum

You might have seen our post in May about ‘Inside Out’ – a project with primary schools last year that had children discovering for themselves how the real-life setting of the museum works in a scientific way. They checked pest traps, created an ethical experiment with tadpoles, curated some ancient Chinese objects….and much more!

The children worked really hard to develop their findings into five fantastic films that were premiered at the Great Science Share flagship event in June, as well as events in schools to share with family and friends. We’re delighted to say that these videos are now live and ready for children all over the world to learn from.

The videos could be used as an introduction to a science-focused visit to the museum, as part of a discussion about scientific careers, or as an introduction to real-life working scientifically.

They touch on collections care, entomology (bugs!), herpetology…

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South Asia Gallery Collective visit the stores

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hello future

A guest post from Rachel Webster, Curator of Botany, and David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Earth Sciences, on exploring the stores with the South Asia Gallery Collective.

At the end of June the South Asia Gallery collective paid a visit to look at some of the South Asia-related stories waiting to be told in the geology and botany collections. In geology, our collections of rocks, minerals and fossils tell of mapping the colonial power of the British Empire, the formation of the Himalayas and ancient life and environments.

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We started by looking at out piece of Mount Everest, which is great to handle as it feels a very tangible link to the mountain and the geological power unleashed by the building of the Himalayas. After looking at some 2.5 million year old elephants fossils from the Sivillak Hills, we looked at some of the world’s finest diamonds. Unfortunately only replicas, but…

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The Travelling Botanist: Belated Plant Fascination Day Special: Peppers!

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Guest blog by: Sophie

Hello everyone, the travelling botanist is finally back and today I’m doing a special for Plant Fascination Day. I thought I’d talk about something a little closer to home and how you can grow it yourself fairly easy, so without further ado, today’s awesome plant is peppers!

Peppers, like any fruit or vegetable, are something we see on a daily basis in our supermarkets, greengrocers and the like. Thanks to the thousands of years of cultivation of 5 species of Capsicum, the Latin genus name for peppers, they have been integrated into many different cuisines across the globe and become a staple in quick and easy meals such as stir-fry and salads.

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“Square Fruited” Capsicums. Commonly known as Bell Peppers.

There are several possible origins of the name Capsicum, given to describe peppers. The Latin, meaning box, is thought to describe the peppers themselves which we consume whereas the Greek word translates to “to gulp”. “Pepper” itself is thought to come from black pepper, due to the similar “heat” that comes from them although black pepper (Piper Nigrum) isn’t actually related to the peppers we’re talking about today!

 

Originating from the Americas and migrating across the world as a result of the Columbian Exchange, it took over three centuries for Europeans to accept tomatoes, peppers and chilli peppers due to their resemblance with our native nightshade which at its best is known to cause vomiting and diarrhoea and at its worst, death. Nowadays the mild bell peppers we eat stem from a variety developed in Hungary during the 1920s.

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Capsicum sp.

Of the ~27 species of Capsicum, only 5 are cultivated; C. annum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens and C. pubescens with annum being the most highly cultivated and chinense producing the hottest peppers. C. annum is also probably the better known of the Capsicum species due to the bell peppers, jalapeños, New Mexico chile, and cayenne peppers originating from this species. Unlike the name “annum” suggests these plants are not annuals but are instead perennials albeit being highly susceptible to even the slightest frost – so if you plan on growing them yourself remember to keep them warm during winter! They are relatively easy to grow even in our miserable climate, providing they get enough sun (20-29° is where they’re their happiest), and are able to self-pollinate in the absence of insects (although we all know this just makes fruiting plants produce bigger, better edibles) making them a fun and rewarding project to start in early spring and watch through summer!

For those pepper connoisseurs, I’m sure aware there’s a distinct difference between the mild bell pepper and the feisty hot chilli peppers, and I’m not talking about their shape either. Capsaicin, part of the capsaicinoid family, is the chemical responsible for that “heat” you feel whenever you eat something containing chilli peppers. This is because Capsaicin is actually an irritant to mammals, like you and I, and has evolved to be a deterrent, despite those of us that seem to be on a quest for the hottest chillies around. The seeds themselves do not contain Capsaicin, instead, it is most concentrated in the internal white, spongey part known as the “pith” which the seeds are attached to. Smaller quantities of Capsaicin are found in the rest of the pepper. Capsaicinoids aren’t just used in cooking – they have also been found to help manage pain in small doses in the form of topical creams or patches however they have also been implemented riot control agents for their irritant properties.

However! On to the more fun stuff! All you need to grow your own pepper plants are a pepper (one you’re preferably going to eat and not just throw away), some soil, a reusable pot and a sunny windowsill or balcony to put your pot out on.  Now I say pepper rather than store bought seeds because you’re able to get SO many seeds from the pepper which would otherwise be going to waste, and they work just as well as the ones from Wilkos. Scrape out the seeds carefully and pop a few about 1cm deep in the pot, you’ll want it to be around 10cm so you have enough space to scoop them out later when they get bigger, ensure the soil is damp but not soaking and just keep an eye on it over the next few weeks. They typically take a while to get going so don’t get disheartened. You’ll see below in the photos that they don’t take long once they do germinate!

Have fun and happy planting!!

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PANAMA WILDLIFE EVENING  – THURSDAY 18 APRIL, 2019

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The botany staff will be supporting the Panama wildlife evening showing a selection of plant species from Panama, as well as talk about the City Nature Challenge 2019 – coming to both Panama City and Greater Manchester soon!

 
A night of Panamanian festivities not to be missed!
 
Manchester Museum welcomes Critically Endangered Harlequin Frogs to its collection and is the only institution in the world to house these striking animals outside Panama. We would like to mark the launch of the Harlequin Frog Project with a celebration of Panamanian culture and wildlife. The project is a unique collaboration with the Panama Wildlife Conservation Charity (PWCC) and the Ministry of the Environment in Panama. Come and enjoy the taste of Panamanian drink with latin music, see the wealth of rare frogs from behind the scenes, and find out more about the impact our research, environmental education, and conservation work is making in Latin America.

A Week in the Museum

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Stories from the Museum Floor

In today’s Story From the Museum Floor, after spending a week with us on a work experience placement, high school student Kipp Money-Muter shares some of his impressions of Manchester Museum.

For more about how you can get involved at the museum have a look at our website.

A Week at Manchester Museum

Museums are places that accumulate and share knowledge in an attempt to encapsulate in their displays what has happened on this planet in its long history. Manchester Museum is no different. If you have ever visited then you will know how breathtaking it is on every floor, from ‘Stan’ the T-Rex downstairs to a recording of U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent out into space with the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 on the top floor. Each display has something you can learn from and educate yourself on – I think this is the main reason why it…

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#AdventBotany 2018, Day 20: Once upon a time: A tale of fairies from the RHS herbarium — Culham Research Group

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By Yvette Harvey I am still pondering why a pagan spirit of the dead, or, more recently a demoted angel, should play such a big part in Christmas – for Christmas certainly wouldn’t be the same without a fairy at the top of the tree or strings of fairy lights illuminating more than you thought…

via #AdventBotany 2018, Day 20: Once upon a time: A tale of fairies from the RHS herbarium — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany 2018, Day 19: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; a spot of medieval Advent Botany — Culham Research Group

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By Alex Mills So, it’s Christmas time. You’re having a bit of food with your friends and family. Well, a lot of food. It’s Christmas, isn’t it? It’s all very convivial and jolly and all that. Suddenly, there’s a commotion at the door. A big chap has come in. He’s on a horse. He’s a…

via #AdventBotany 2018, Day 19: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; a spot of medieval Advent Botany — Culham Research Group