Hi I’m Megan Jones current student, I previously posted about a project where I was granted access to photograph a section of the extensive herbarium collection at the museum. https://herbologymanchester.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/contemporary-photography-ferns/ As promised I have an update on the project now it has come to an end, after visiting the museum I took my images and wanted to experiment more with them.
I decided to experiment with screen printing for those who aren’t aware of this process, your image is transferred onto a ‘screen’ you then place a piece of paper underneath the screen placing ink at the top of the screen you spread the ink across the screen and this causes the ink to be pushed through creating a copy of your image on to the paper. I repeated this with all of the most successful images from my visit at the museum until I had a great collection, I then bound these into a handmade book using a long stitch wrap around style. Included in this book was my images once they had been processed with the screen printing technique and also some information on global warming as this was the theme at the museum during my visits, I felt it necessary to include some information in the finished project as this is where my inspiration seemed from at the start.
Thank you for taking the time to catch up on the development of my project.
My name is Megan Jones I’m a university student studying contemporary photography. My current project was inspired by the Herbarium section at the museum I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes looking at the huge collections they have stored there. I personally felt inspired by the patterns and detail in the pressed plants and flowers we were shown, I decided it was something I wanted to explore more so I re visited the museum with the help from Lindsey I routed through a box of ferns collected from all over the world and started photographing them close up using different angles and focal lengths. Another part of my project I am working on is experimenting with pressing plants myself and working with these in the dark room to create phonograms this is something that has all stemmed from being so inspired at the museum towards the end of my project I hope to gather all these mixed media images together into a book filled with patterns created by plants and flowers.
Here are some images from my project so far I’m looking forward to re visiting the museum and completing my project, keep checking the blog to see an update on my work!
Thanks for reading Megan Jones
I spent a wonderful week at the Natural History Museum, London (NHM) on a placement. The aim of the scheme is to exchange knowledge, aid professional development and enable lasting change.
I learnt and experienced so much – here are some highlights.
My host was Ranee Prakesh, Curator of Flowering Plants. After my induction, she gave me a tour of the herbarium and Darwin Centre gallery, both housed in a purpose built cocoon:
In the afternoon I learnt about NHM’s Digital Collections project, and then got to work. I scanned herbarium sheets on a Herbscan machine – an upside down scanner. Some of the sheets had writing on the back so both sides had to be scanned. The images would be added to the museum’s database later.
On the second day, I was shown how NHM staff use Emu, the museum’s database, and learnt about the current rapid digitisation project. Herbarium specimens are shipped to The Netherlands for imaging on a conveyor belt / camera system called Digistreet, then the data from the images will be transcribed in Suriname. The NHM staff were waiting to find out the quality of the data.
I shared ideas with the plant mounting team, demonstrating ‘Manchester style’ (strapping) and having a go at the NHM way (glueing and pressing). They were surprised I cut my own straps from archival quality paper: sometimes the best way is not always the most expensive way. That’s one of the many things I love about curatorial work.
I was shown how loans were documented and packed in the afternoon, and how the NHM staff process a loan on Ke Emu.
Day 3 was spent in the herbarium store. Ranee explained how the herbarium sheets are arranged taxonomically according to APG, and filed geographically within this system. I spent some time sorting specimens to family and genus level in preparation for laying-in. The open plan workspace was visible through a window in the gallery so I had the public watching me at work!
Later that day I had a tour of the Specimen Preparation Area to see the V-Factor volunteers at work. They were sorting through sediment from a quarry, looking for tiny fossils, and a different project is run each weekday in this area visible from the museum gallery.
The fourth day was spent in The Cryptogamic Herbarium. I had a short tour of the bryophyte collection then got to work repackaging mosses into individual capsules:
I was showed round the historical collections and the fern herbarium in the afternoon. We discussed Integrated Pest Management and preventative conservation in relation to historic botany collections.
I also worked alongside Ranee laying out specimens ready for the plant mounters. This involved placing the pressed specimen and label on a sheet of mounting paper and enclosing any loose material in a capsule. There was a large amount of newly donated material to be mounted and filed in the herbarium sent in from researchers and staff on expeditions.
On the fifth day I had a tour of the Linnean Society. Carl Linnaeus’s personal herbarium in particular was amazing to see.
Next, I learnt about citizen science at the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity. This is where the public gather or analyse data for research or curatorial purposes, such as transcribing data from a bird register, which is an NHM project called ‘Notes from Nature’ currently running on Zooniverse.
To wrap it all up there was a tea party at the end of my last day. It was lovely to see the staff I had met during the week and thank them all for giving up their time and making me feel so welcome. I am intending that some lasting change will happen at Manchester Museum as a result of my week at the NHM, particularly better storage for our type specimens and some changes to volunteering.
Many thanks to all the curators and collections managers at the NHM who allowed me this fantastic opportunity.
We have had a lot of changes in the herbarium recently – here are some pictures.
Roller racking (compactor storage) installed in the room overlooking the quad, at the end of the corridor.
Before – old cupboards and bench removed:
During – roller racking being installed:
After: Roller racking installed and ready to be filled
After: fern boxes returned and a beautiful shiny reconditioned parquet floor:
Materia medica room. Before:
Another storage room. Before:
After, shelved and ready for boxes:
Another view of roller racking. Before;
Image Posted on Updated on
As part of our green pledge work in the museum five of us from the Collections team went to The Firs (The University of Manchester’s experimental garden).
Our job was re-potting the economic plants from a display in one of the greenhouses. Above, Henry and David mixing compost in the potting shed.
We explored the greenhouses while we were there, and came across this impressive staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum). Below, carnivorous plants Venus Flytrap and a sundew, and the cactus house.
Being away from the workplace and out in the sunshine (although it was very, very cold) made it a great morning’s work. I enjoyed working with living plants, getting my hands dirty, and working with different people. The Firs is a wonderful place to visit.
Botany volunteer Barbara Porter donated her rare fern collection to the Firs when she died. It was good to see the bench dedicated to her.
Lindsey and botany intern Alyssa repotting lemongrass plants.
I’ve transcribed the first few pages of the book detailing the society’s first meeting:
Manchester Cryptogamic Society
Lower Mosley St School
November 4th 1878
Meeting of Cryptogamic botanists for the purpose of carrying out some suggestions recently made and further formulated at the annual service of the Lower Mosley St. Natural History Society by the cryptogamic botanists present, having reference to the establishment of a society for the especial study of cryptogamic plants. Mr James Cash having been duly elected as chairman.
It was proposed by Mr Thos. Brittain and seconded by Mr James Neild of Oldham that the title of the aforementioned society be the Manchester Cryptogamic Society. – carried unanimously
Proposed by Mr Sunderland of Ashton andseconded by Mr Neild that a subscription of 2 shillings per year be contributed by each member of the society in accordance with the rule which regulates the membership of the Natural History Society., and which said contributions are applied in defraying incidental expenses of meeting and purchasing books on Natural History for the use of members of both these societies. – carried unanimously
Proposed by Thos. Rogers and seconded by Thos Brittain that Mr John Whitehead be elected president of the society. – carried unanimously
Proposed by Mr James Cash and seconded by Charles Weld that Thomas Rogers be elected as secretary. – carried unanimously
Proposed by John Whitehead and seconded by Thos Rogers that W H Pearson and Thos. Brittain be elected as vice president. – carried unanimously
Proposed by Peter Cunliffe of Handforth and seconded by John Whitehead that Mr Cash, Mr Hyde, and Mr Weld be elected as a committee in conjunction with the foregoing officers as managing committee for the next twelve months subject to re-election. – carried unanimously
Proposed by Mr Neild and seconded by Mr Cash that the secretary be elected as treasurer. – carried unanimously
Proposed and seconded that the meeting of the Society be held in the library of the L.Mosely St. Natural History on the second Monday in each month at 7.30. – Carried unanimously
The meeting which carried the foregoing resolutions was well attended and about 20 members joined the society whose name will be entered in subscription list at the end of this book. The following paragraph is cut from the Manchester Guardian Nov 5th.
The books are full of the minutes of the of the society’s meeting together with many newspaper clipping reporting the meetings in the Manchester Guardian. As well as being a keen amateur botanist, James Cash, the society’s first Chariman, was also a journalist for the Manchester Guardian, this may or may not have something to do with the meetings being reported so frequetly in that publication.
The subscription lists at the back of the books are a great resource for the history of Manchester botanists. Not only does it give the names and addresses of the key botanists working in Manchester at that time but it also shows how closely they knew each other and that they regualrly met to discuss and share their knowledge and passion for botany.