Box

Everything in it’s place

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Of all the parts of the herbarium, our General Flowering Plants collection has had more that it’s fair share of disruption from the University’s programme of building improvements. Work began something like 7 years ago with the renovation of the tower (those crazy Victorian architects!) which meant that the three upper store rooms had to be emptied. From then until now, about half of the General Flowering Plants has been hard-stacked (box, upon box, upon box – about 800 times) and as a result, it’s been very difficult to work with.

Now that we’ve reorganised the herbarium, we finally have a shelf for every box. One of the pleasures of this is that we can now put all the herbarium sheets back in the correct place. As sheets have been returned from loans, exhibitions, events, etc. we have been accumulating ‘lay-away’ boxes with all the sheets arranged inside in taxonomic order and just waiting for the time to go back in. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers (particularly Christine) it’s all getting put safely away in the correct place.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

First impressions…

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these box lids need mending - urgently!

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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