museum

Past and present at Thingvellir

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We have a large collection of lantern slides from the Manchester Geographical Society in the museum stores, including some of Iceland, and they gave us a window onto the lansdscapes of the past. Some of the most striking were images of Thingvellir National Park.

The three-gabled manor house was built in 1930 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing.
The three-gabled manor house was built in 1930 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing.

 

The second two gables were added in 1974 to celebrate 1100 years since Settlement
The second two gables were added in 1974 to celebrate 1100 years since Settlement
View from the top of the Almannagjá fissure
View from the top of the Almannagjá fissure

 

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From the viewing point today
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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
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Edge effects on a modern wet plate image of the Cafe Paris building, Akureyri

 

Arbaer Turf Houses

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Arbaer Museum
Arbaer Museum

We visited the wonderful Arbaer open air museum in Reykjavik. Historic houses in need of love have been rescued and moved to the site of the Arbaer farm. Here they receive specialist treatment to restore them so that they can be preserved for people to enjoy.

Demonstration doorway showing restoration work
Demonstration doorway showing restoration work
Farmhouse and church
Farmhouse and church

One highlight particular highlight was the opportunity to see the turf roof houses, including the Arbaer farmhouse (the only building not to have arrived from a previous home).

Arbaer farmouse roofs
Arbaer farmhouse roofs

This turf would help to insulate the house, trapping warmth inside for the residents; including the livestock. The stone walls of the barn also had turfs between the courses, stopping any potential draughts.

Inside the barn
Inside the barn 

It made me think of the Norwegian fairy tale in ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ about the husband who has to mind the house and decides to graze his cow on the roof.

Meadowsweet in the hay meadow
Meadowsweet in the hay meadow
Girl in Icelandic costume with young calfs
Girl in Icelandic costume with young calfs

The Roller Racking’s Arrived!

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It’s been a hectic start to 2014 at the herbarium! Following the break for Christmas and New Year we had some fantastic roller racking installed. The racking was salvaged from the Whitworth art gallery following their redevelopment. The room overlooking the Old Quad was cluttered with all sorts of specimens. It was previously home to Algae amongst others in grand old cupboards. It took a while, and a huge moving effort from the team, but after a couple of days we had managed to: temporarily re-house our solander boxes in a temporary makeshift home, clear out the vast runs of journals and books hidden behind shelves and finally we had fully cleared the room ready for the installation team.

Nearing the end of the removal process before installation could begin
Nearing the end of the removal process before installation could begin
Halfway through installation.
Halfway through installation.

Now that the roller racking is installed it allows us to make much more efficient use of the space we have. Our solander box collections can now be stored in a greatly compact way, whilst still allowing access when necessary. There are 8 new shelving units in the roller racking, each with the capacity to store 97 solander boxes. Whilst the permanent occupants of the racking have not yet been decided, the increased storage capacity has allowed us to begin the plans to re-organise the entire collections into a more logical and flowing way

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The job of re-arranging our collections has not been an easy one. Lots of number crunching has taken place. The aim is to get all the collections more efficiently organised and to work the boxes that currently take up our work bench space into the collections on the racking. The project will involve each box in the entire collection moving to a new place. So there is going to be a lot of hard work, moving around and re-jigging in the coming months, but it will worth it in the end.

Tree sample collecting day, October 3rd 2013.

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Hello! My name is Josh and I am new to the herbarium. I am a member of the faculty of life sciences at the University of Manchester, and for the work placement part of my degree it is my pleasure to spend a year working in the herbarium with Rachel and Lindsey . This is only my first week but we’ve already been busy collecting lots of tree samples from the array of trees we have on campus. Henry McGhie, Dr Webster and I started out by recording the geographic location of each tree we sampled, measured the girth of each tree’s main trunk and took small clippings of the leaves (and fruits in some cases!) Samples included the tulip tree, genus Liriodendron. The British crab apple tree, family Rosaceae and the Willow tree Salix.

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Image Henry valiantly trying to experience the fruitful delights of the Crab Apple.

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More on collecting at the Manchester Museum……this time it’s in Entomology

Entomology Manchester

Some people may think that natural history museums deposit only old, historically and/or scientifically important collections. Although this is true, museums also continue to acquire new materials coming to them in various ways. In order just to give visitors an idea about how new collections can be acquired, here is a very brief report on new acquisitions made by the Manchester Museum’s Entomology department during the last five years, from January 2008 to December 2012.

A total of 66 acquisitions of 17,477 specimens have been received, as follows:

1.    Fieldwork (by the curator): 3 acquisitions of 368 specimens.

2.    Enquire-based acquisitions (usually via the identification service we provide): 10 acquisitions of 61 specimens.

3.    Acquisitions related to the public events that we support (Bioblitzes and others): 5 acquisitions of 112 specimens.

4.    Exchange: 1 acquisition of 121 specimens.

5.    Donations: 47 acquisitions of 16,815 specimens.

 Of the aforementioned…

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Ash dieback

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Ash dieback confirmed across the UK this week. 

We have several specimens of Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) in the herbarium at the Manchester Museum.  Above, a boxed ash leaf, twig, seeds and timber (no collector or date, was probably used for a gallery display or education).

Below, a herbarium sheet of Ash collected in Levenshulme, a area of Manchester, in 1863 by Charles Bailey:

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And another from Fakenham, Norfolk, collected  in1862 by William Notcutt:

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A couple good guides to Ash dieback by the Forestry Commission, and another by the Royal Horticultural Society.