On Monday and Tuesday I attended the Museums Association annual conference held in Liverpool. Over the course of these two days I attended ten seminars and lectures addressing various aspects of museum life. One of these lectures was entitled ‘Dead Zoos‘.
Dead Zoos, with speakers from NatSCA, Manchester Museum and Oxford University Museum of Natural History, aimed to address the responsibilities that come with holding a Natural History collection (including zoology, geology, botany etc).
Environmental sustainability and conservation issues were raised and questions were asked about the need for museums to stand behind campaigns addressing such issues, supporting them via their collections and providing insight into the damage done and the precautions and solutions that could assist the natural world in various ways. Questions were raised including “why should museums [perhaps on a smaller scale] bother employing specialist curators to look after these collections, when collection officers can look after collections on a larger scale?”.
Personally, I think the question should be “why arent museums employing specialists?”, for a natural history collection at least. Currently we live in a world where environmental issues such as global warming and loss of habitats are issues that are not getting better but are getting worse on a shockingly swift scale. We live in a time when the hedgehog population has decreased from 30 million to less than 1.5 million since the 1950s and when horrific news like the extinction of the western black rhino is being announced, literally earlier this month. These collections have never been more important. This should not be happening, it should not be allowed to get to this point, by then any efforts will be pointless; extinction should be extinct! Natural history collections can be beneficial in so many ways but only if understood, used correctly and interpreted in a way that then allows them to be engaging and accessible to the public.
Museums have an obligation to preserve the past, to educate the present and to save the future.
I have written about the importance of natural history collections before HERE, and on Thursday I am attending a natural history collections management day, I am hoping to hear more about how other museums curate and care for their collections.
Over the next couple of weeks or so I will write a blog about the whole two days in Liverpool; it was such a great experience and I came away feeling excited and inspired.
Here are some previously unseen (on this blog) natural history collection items currently in storage here at the Curatorial Services: