Bioblitz: Natural History Collections Review 1

It’s been a busy few months. Since my last blog post at the end of my first month at the Horniman, I’ve been working with Jo, the Keeper of Natural History, to finalise the Bioblitz Review method and otherwise prepare for the Bioblitz Reviews themselves. Then we actually blitzed. Without duplicating information already out there (most of which I wrote), I’d rather point you in the direction of that already in existence:

The bird review was done in January and the reptile and mammal reviews all took place last week. Months of work and preparation all paid off and they went without a hitch. Each was also fairly different and not just because of the different animal groups involved: the expert reviewers we invited had their own take on the criteria against which we were judging the specimens, as well as their own experience of biological material. Errol (birds) is an international collector of bird specimens and an artist; Colin (reptiles) is the retired Collections Manager for Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish at the NHM; and Pat (mammals) is a collector and retired biology lecturer at Royal Holloway. The attributes of the different collections also determined how they were reviewed to some degree. It was by turns fascinating, exhausting, exciting, nerve-racking and fun.

To get a bit of an insight into how it went, here is a short taster video of the bird review. I’m keen to know what you think. Please do leave a comment; it will be useful to know whether it’s worth doing more videos or what to do differently. (The reptile and mammal videos are a work in progress at the moment).

One aspect of the project involves dissemination. Not just the results or the method but also the day to day things we’re getting up to. I’m tweeting from @HornimanReviews about how we’re approaching the review, the things we’re finding and I live tweeted as we conducted the reviews themselves. Head to Twitter to have a look and follow if you want to see more interesting pictures and follow our progress. We share this with the Anthropology project, Collections, People, Stories, so do see what they’re getting up to also.

Jo and I are presenting our project at the NatSCA conference at the end of this month. Once we’ve done that, I’ll be able to post the Prezi here to give you a more thorough overview of the project. Presenting a project like this to my peers is going to be great. It’s a shame I have mega-butterflies about it, though. After the talk, we’re holding a session discussing collections reviews in a broader sense and will have a selection of panelists from up and down the country.

When the reviews were happening I somehow managed to find time to take a photograph or seven of things happening around me. I can’t fill the Horniman’s blog with images but I can mine! They will all be available to see on the Horniman’s Flickr but I wanted to share some of them with you on here. It’s been ages since I did a proper post and even longer since I posted decent photos. Take a look and let me know what you think. Keep an eye out for more content on Twitter, the Horniman’s blog and Flickr.

Birds

Errol Fuller researching some of our bird skins.

Errol Fuller researching some of our bird skins.

One of our bird skins, Neochmia temporalis (Red-browed Finch).

One of our bird skins, Neochmia temporalis (Red-browed Finch).

Errol investigating a taxidermy case by torchlight.

Errol investigating a taxidermy case by torchlight.

Kiwi!

Kiwi!

Jo shows Errol our Hart bird cases.

Jo shows Errol our Hart bird cases.

Errol scrutinising the osteology collections.

Errol scrutinising the osteology collections.

Jo and Errol peruse the gallery specimens.

Jo and Errol peruse the gallery specimens.

Reflective moment.

Reflective moment.

Golden Eagle. Quite a specimen.

Golden Eagle. Quite a specimen.

Errol and some Passerines.

Errol and some Passerines.

Jo making a quick note.

Jo making a quick note.

Reptiles

Spectacled Caiman

Spectacled Caiman

Jo and Paolo...IN AWE!

Jo and Paolo…IN AWE!

Colin McCarthy showing some shell.

Colin McCarthy showing some shell.

Paolo checking out the business end of a gharial.

Paolo checking out the business end of a gharial.

Ribbed.

Ribbed.

A snake skull. In a small perspex box. Of course.

A snake skull. In a small perspex box. Of course.

Colin intently considering a chameleon.

Colin intently considering a chameleon.

Osteology collection.

Osteology collection.

Frill-necked lizard under wraps.

Frill-necked lizard under wraps.

Monitor.

Monitor.

Mammals

Pondering, pensive primates.

Pondering, pensive primates.

Close encounter.

Close encounter.

Pat Morris amongst the skeletal material.

Pat Morris amongst the skeletal material.

Paolo shows Pat his wallaby.

Paolo shows Pat his wallaby.

Hodgeheg.

Hodgeheg.

Bone city.

Bone city.

Deep in the osteology collection.

Deep in the osteology collection.

One of my favourite specimens. Half-prep...with guts!

One of my favourite specimens. Half-prep…with guts!

Pat inspects the fluid specimens.

Pat inspects the fluid specimens.

Fluid preserved shimmer ceiling. Or something.

Fluid preserved shimmer ceiling. Or something.

Sweet, little Mustelid.

Sweet, little Mustelid.

I love the eerie stillness fluid preserved material can have.

I love the eerie stillness fluid preserved material can have.

Pat posing with a pied hare.

Pat posing with a pied hare.

Marsupial mole. Rare in collections (apparently).

Marsupial mole. Rare in collections (apparently).

Antlers.

Antlers.

Pat takes a closer look at the mammals in the gallery.

Pat takes a closer look at the mammals in the gallery.

If the squirrel stays perfectly still, maybe Pat won't notice it...

If the squirrel stays perfectly still, maybe Pat won’t notice it…

Jo takes Pat through the gallery.

Jo takes Pat through the gallery.

Elephant evolution in a nutshell.

Elephant evolution in a nutshell.

These domestic dogs are ahead of the game. Ha. Hahaha...

These domestic dogs are ahead of the game. Ha. Hahaha…

Of course no post would be complete without a red fox or two.

Of course no post would be complete without a red fox or two.

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