Posted by: henrymcghie | January 17, 2015

‘Dance of the Butterflies’ coming to Living Worlds soon

Living Worlds side with sheepThis week we’ve been preparing for Romuald Hazoume’s ‘Dance of the Butterflies’, due to open on 14th February. Romuald is one of the leading African artists of today, with work that reflects his interest in inequalities in Africa, explored through a sometimes playful approach. ‘Dance of the Butterflies’ is a specially commissioned piece that chimes with the themes of the Living Worlds gallery that I worked on in 2011. The gallery explores nature and people’s differing relationships with it, both collectively and individually. Romuald has produced a piece of work that will be exhibited in the gallery as a series of interventions, consisting of swarms of fabric ‘butterflies’, representing various political types in operation in society today. Hazoume has taken inspiration from the butterfly effect, a feature of chaotic systems, where small changes can lead to unexpected, faraway and large scale impacts.


Manchester Museum: 17–18 June 2015

 One day: £25 Two days: £40

   (includes refreshments and lunch)

 About this conference

How can museums with natural history collections support high-quality public engagement with nature? How can their collections support scientific research and environmental monitoring? This two-day conference will explore these questions through presentations from leading museum workers, ecologists, citizen science managers, data managers and academics from a variety of fields, with plenty of opportunities to share your views and take part in discussion.

The aim of the conference is to explore how museums can fulfil their potential to support environmental sustainability, and connect people with the natural world. It is aimed at museum workers of all kinds, environmental educators, conservationists, scientific researchers, artists, naturalists, teachers, funders and the biological recording community—and anyone else who is interested in exploring innovative ways to connect people with nature.

Day 1: Engaging the public with environmental sustainability in natural history museums

How can natural history museums effectively connect audiences with nature and environmental issues, and what can they learn from other sectors? How can natural history museums promote pro-environmental behaviour and what responsibilities do they have to do so? What parts can art and science play in museums, to promote environmental awareness and pro-environmental behaviour?

With presentations from Ralph Underhill (Public Interest Research Centre); Bob Bloomfield OBE; Ryan Lumber (Dept. of Life Sciences, University of Derby); Peronel Craddock (Head of Content Development, NHM); Ed Gillespie (co-founder, Futerra); Elee Kirk (museologist, University of Leicester); Petra Tjitske Kalshoven (social anthropologist, University of Manchester), and Ebony Andrews (museologist, University of Leeds).

Day 2: Connecting natural history collections with scientific research

How can museums increase the visibility of collections on a shoestring? How can museums benefit from research funding—and where is it? What future do collections have as scientific infrastructure? How can museums connect with biological recording and environmental monitoring initiatives? How can citizen science approaches engage people with collections? These questions form the basis of the day’s presentations.

With presentations from Paul Smith (Director, Oxford University Museum of Natural History); Imran Rahman (palaeontologist, University of Bristol); Nick Merriman (Director, Manchester Museum); Lucy Robinson (Citizen Science Programme Manager, NHM); Michael Pocock and Helen Roy (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology / Biological Records Centre); Rob Simpson (Zooniverse); Rachel Stroud (National Biodiversity Network); Rob Huxley (Principal Curator, NHM); Paolo Viscardi (Chair, Natural Sciences Collections Association); Paula Brikci and Penny Thompson (Arts Council England); Sharon Heal (Director, Museums Association).


To attend

Please email David Gelsthorpe ( with your name, organisation (if any) and whether you want to attend Day 1, Day 2 or Both Days. 

Posted by: henrymcghie | December 2, 2014

Exploring migrating geese through museums

geeseHello- I’m off to the University of Oslo tomorrow, as part of a project exploring copies and replicas in museums. My project, along with a collaborator, is looking at specimens in museums, specifically a collection of goose specimens in Manchester Museum. Our project will explore how beautiful, untidy, chaotic nature is made comprehensible by standardised practices that help turn nature into numbers. The geese also contribute to a project we are working on in the Museum that seeks to kick start collecting in the museum. But I certainly won’t be going shooting geese- we’re interested in acquiring films, stories, building relationships to explore subjects. So, if you have any thoughts on migration, especially in geese, I’d very much like to hear from you. I can’t wait- it’ll be really interesting.

Posted by: henrymcghie | November 16, 2014

Wonderstruck- performance today

khe-i1xp65ay-6wje2c We’ve been working with ‘People United’ on looking at how arts and culture can promote kindness in society. Artists Daniel Bye, Boff Whalley and Sarah Punshon came up with the idea of having a mass singing in the Manchester Museum, with songs inspired by the wonder of objects in the museum collection. The first performance was yesterday but I couldn’t go to see it. I’m really looking forward to seeing the event today. There is a first performance at 11am, and a second at 1:30pm. Maybe see you there- it should be great. If you want more event details they’re on our website.

8660705722_4626cfecd5_zI’ve put some notes together as an introduction to strategic planning, targeted at natural history museums. Strategic planning might sound really boring, but it’s a great tool to help make significant changes. It is a secret to success. IIf you like sudoku or other puzzles, then strategic planning is almost certainly for you. I hope these notes are useful.

Advocacy toolkit 7 Introduction to strategic planning for natural history museums

Let me know what you think of them,



Hello- I’ve put together some more tools on making use of natural history collections in museums. These ones are about using natural history collections and displays to teach the National Curriculum for Geography. I hope they’re useful. Just so they’re all together, here are links to other bits of this toolkit.

Advocacy toolkit 1 General notes on advocacy

Advocacy toolkit 2 Effective nature messages

Advocacy toolkit 3 Influencing decision makers

Advocacy toolkit 4 Using taxidermy to support the National Curriculum for English, History, Art and Design

Advocacy toolkit 5 Using taxidermy to support the National Curriculum for Science

Advocacy toolkit 6 Using natural history collections to support the National Curriculum for Geography

Feel free to share these, and also let me know if they’re useful or to make suggestions.


Posted by: henrymcghie | November 2, 2014

Wolf taxidermy in Manchester Museum

We have three mounted Wolves in Manchester Museum, but they couldn’t be more different. The oldest one dates from the early 20th century and came from Canada. We got it from Dundee Museum, who had got a number of Wolf and Polar Bear skins from whaling ships returning from Canada and Greenland. The Wolf was stuffed by a local taxidermist, Harry Brazenor, who also prepared our Polar Bear. This Wolf is straight from Little Red Riding Hood and has red paint on its teeth to look like blood. We have it on display in our Living Worlds gallery, in a section that explores the consequences of the stories we are told as children. Attitudes to many animals develop through childhood, and fears are passed from adults to children.

Experience Scary Wolf

The second Wolf can be seen on display in the Living Worlds gallery, in a section about what kind of wildlife can we have in Britain: will people make space for large predatory animals, or, as has often happened, will intolerance, fear and ignorance win the day. Wolves were found in Britain from hundreds of thousands of years before being wiped out by people in the 17th century. Their former presence is still echoed by place-names.

The third Wolf we have was on display in the exhibition From the War of Nature. This Wolf is enormous and is a Canadian Timber Wolf. When it was being prepared, I asked the taxidermist to prepare it in a reasonably neutral pose- certainly not with fangs and red teeth. That way we can use it to explore what people think about Wolves. This Wolf was displayed on a plinth, not in a case, and was enormously popular with visitors: many visitors had their photo taken with the Wolf. It is very beautiful, and a good representation of an individual animal that was as wild and free as it was beautiful.

13779515505_55ed6729c9_c (1)

Museums have an important role in constructing and interpreting images of animals. We have to be careful that we don’t promote images that lead to fear and ignorance. The Wolf with the red fangs is interesting, but needs a bit of interpretation to explain why it looks the way it does.

Meanwhile, live Wolves are increasing in Europe after centuries of human persecution. If they are to return to Britain it will need human intervention, as we are separated from the mainland by the English channel. In America, the Wolf is still a symbol of a malevolent, threatening nature and Wolves are killed as they spread back into areas from which they were formerly extinguished.


Posted by: henrymcghie | October 17, 2014

More advocacy tools: using taxidermy to teach science

6_Siberian_Brown_Bear_Manchester_Museum_c_Paul_Cliff_4202a8_mpHello, I’ve put some more notes together to help people in museums make use of taxidermy specimens. These notes are about how taxidermy specimens can support teaching of the National Curriculum for Science for Key Stages 1-4. Please feel free to use these and pass them around. They aren’t supposed to be ‘the final word’, but are intended to help people find ways to use their collections. I hope they’re useful.

Advocacy toolkit 5 Using taxidermy to support the National Curriculum for Science


Posted by: henrymcghie | October 11, 2014

Nature Connections 2015

Originally posted on Finding Nature:

A brief post to invite submissions to Nature Connections 2015, an interdisciplinary conference to examine routes to nature connectedness. This will take place at the University of Derby, Thursday, 26 March 2015. As the benefits of a connection to nature become more apparent the timing is right for a focussed event to bring together practitioners, researchers and beyond. There will be several themes:

  • Getting Connected to Nature – Moving beyond the barriers and identifying pathways to nature connection for both children and adults.
  • Measuring and evaluating Nature Connection – evaluation practice and impact reporting.
  • Nature Connection and wellbeing – Sharing the benefits of a connection to nature.
  • Nature’s Beauty Discussion Panel – Reflecting on our relationship to nature through the arts.

More details on keynote speaker, submission formats, abstract deadline are available on the Nature Connections 2015 PDF.

View original

Posted by: henrymcghie | October 10, 2014

Using taxidermy animals to support National Curriculum teaching

crane Hello- I’ve put together some more notes for people working with natural history collections in museums. These ones are about how taxidermied animals (‘stuffed animals’) can be used to support teaching the National Curriculum subjects of English, History, Art and Design. These aren’t by any means exhaustive. but are just to help give people ideas about the many, many ways that taxidermy can be used to support learning, inspiration and creativity. Good luck – and let me know how you get on with them.


Advocacy toolkit 4 Using taxidermy to support the National Curriculum for English, History, Art and Design

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