Posted by: henrymcghie | April 5, 2016

A visit to the Arctic

I was very privileged to be invited to take part in a workshop in Spitzbergen last October. The workshop was organised by Tromso Museum and Tromso University (funded by the Norwegian Research Council), to explore ideas of how the Arctic is related to ideas of gender. My contribution was based on work I’d done for researching a book on 19th century bird collectors and ornithologists. Virtually all of these were men, as shooting was a manly activity (ie. one mainly done by men). We were an interdisciplinary group, which made for very rewarding discussion, even if it wasn’t always easy to find common language and approaches. Spitzbergen was the star of the experience. I flew from the UK and stayed overnight in Tromso, gateway to the Norwegian Arctic. A quick walk around Tromso early in the morning found lots (c.1,000) of Common Eider in large rafts among the surf in the fjord in front of the hotel. There was a particularly fine statue of Roald Amundsen there too, looking very distinguished. Other birds I saw included Hooded Crows, which fed on the shore on sea urchins; I saw Great Tits and a White Wagtail. The next day I flew to Spitzbergen, about three hours’ flight. This was about the roughest landing I’ve ever had: people were crossing themselves, as we were hurled about by the updrafts. The landscape was completely amazing, if very strange. No green to be seen. Strangely shaped mountains, like a pyramid with a good chunk of the point removed, to give a flat table-top shape. The other extraordinary thing was that there was a repeating fractal shape in the mountains: they were self-similar, meaning that they looked the same close up as they did at a distance. This wasn’t entirely tied to the bedding of the rock, but I don’t know what caused it. Longyearbyen, where we stayed, was set up as a mining town in the early 20th century. Coal was still extracted and used to power the town’s heating plant. We weren’t allowed to venture from the town, as there are Polar Bears all over the islands. The town was small, about 500-1000 people, who are not supposed to be born or to die on the islands, but to move to the mainland. We stayed in abandoned coal miners’ cabins. There weren’t many birds around, but some Purple Sandpipers were still around, as were some Barnacle, which were very tame and fed near us, and Pink-footed Geese which flew overhead. I saw a beautiful Arctic Fox running along near houses early one morning; apparently many of the locals feed them.

 

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View from the cabins where we stayed, showing a fractal image in the mountain

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Another view from the cabins, after the snow

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There were lots of warnings about Polar Bears

 

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Svalbard Museum had a fantastic exhibition that had a lot of free space around it

Posted by: henrymcghie | April 2, 2016

Transformations #MMClimateControl

Nothing ever stays the same, things are always changing be it our Museum displays, our cities and towns, or the natural world around us. The next part of our #MMClimateControl Social Media campaign…

Source: Transformations #MMClimateControl

Posted by: henrymcghie | March 27, 2016

Take me back to Manchester

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We have a great exhibition opening at Manchester Museum (part of the University of Manchester) on Friday. Take me back to Manchester is an exhibition of illustrations by Oliver East, a Manchester-based artist. Last April, Oliver recreated the walk of Maharajah, an Asian Elephant, and his keeper Lorenzo Lawrence from Edinburgh to Manchester in 1872, when Maharajah moved to live in the famous Belle Vue Zoo in Gorton. After the walk, Oliver spent months drawing a full-length comic combining Maharajah’s story with Oliver’s own recollections of his experiences walking 200-odd miles in all weathers and environments. The exhibition has been specially prepared for the Museum, and Oliver has been busy preparing the illustrations for the last few weeks. His illustrations will  be shown within the Victorian display cases that surround Maharajah’s skeleton in our Manchester Gallery. Oliver’s comic is now on sale, and looks great.

‘Take me back to Manchester’ was co-commissioned by Manchester Museum and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Oliver presented some of his work at the festival last October

 

Posted by: henrymcghie | March 26, 2016

Nature: A New Paradigm for Workplace Wellbeing

This blog introduces key points from our 6500+ word review paper. The paper summarises the benefits of nature for health, wellbeing and restoration and argues that there should be action to bring n…

Source: Nature: A New Paradigm for Workplace Wellbeing

Connecting with nature should be part of every child’s life as it has the potential to aid nature’s revival while benefiting the child. However, to embed nature connection within our social norms, …

Source: Better Well-being and Education Results when Connected to Nature

Posted by: henrymcghie | March 26, 2016

Identity of the “Tully Monster” revealed

News on an amazing fossil animal, a curiosity for a long time.

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Tully Monster rendering by Sean McMahon Tully Monster rendering by Sean McMahon

Today, the researchers from Yale, Argonne National Laboratory, and the American Museum of Natural History released the identity of the “Tully monster” (Tullimonstrum gregarium), an extinct aquatic animal first brought to light by amateur fossil collector Francis Tully in 1958.

Mazon creek region, Illinois. (Sean McMahon/Field Museum of Natural History) Mazon creek region, Illinois. (Sean McMahon/Field Museum of Natural History)

For nearly 60 years, the exact classification of the bizarre creature remained a point of contention, with theories ranging from worms to mollusks. Regardless, it was generally assumed that these creatures were some kind of soft-bodied invertebrate which lived in the area now called the Mazon Creek region of Illinois about 307 million years ago.

Well surprise, surprise! It turns out that these animals were vertebrates and, more specifically, they’re jawless fish! According to the Field Museum’s official press release,

“It’s a beautiful example of how science works to solve mysteries of nature, and how museums…

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Posted by: henrymcghie | March 25, 2016

‘Climate Control’: volunteers needed

This summer, Manchester Museum (part of the University of Manchester) will be staging a series of exhibitions and events that explore the causes of climate change and, most importantly, what we can do about it. Central to this is Climate Control, a thought-provoking exhibition which will tell stories of snowflakes, Peppered Moths and the Arctic, opening on May 11.

We are looking for passionate volunteers who are knowledgeable and care about nature and the environment to encourage curiosity, creative thinking and change. We want to empower visitors to play a part in creating better future and making a difference through the experiences they have and the objects they encounter. As a volunteer, there will be opportunities to facilitate object handling sessions, take part in participatory programmes and lead daily Climate Exchange conversations.

Please email Kate Glynn for an application form and further informationKate.Glynn@manchester.ac.uk0161 275 2473

Closing date: 10 April

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Posted by: henrymcghie | December 19, 2015

Climate control: a series of exhibitions and events for 2016

We at Manchester Museum are working on a series of exhibitions and events for next year exploring climate change- not so much the science, but what people can do about it. Manchester is European City of Science for the next year, and we thought climate change was a great subject to work with. We hear about it constantly on television and news. Is this storm down to climate change, or that flood? Of course, climate change doesn’t work like that. It is the long-term change in weather patterns. I can remember not so long ago when the news stories were along the lines of ‘scientists believe that in 50 or 75 years’ time…’. We are well past that now: the effects of a changing climate are increasingly obvious. The signing of the Paris agreement shows that governments can come together for the greater good, and although the deal is not perfect it is a really good move forward.

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Beautiful complex ice crystals in the garden on saturday morning

For our series of exhibitions, we will be exploring what people can do in their daily lives, and asking them what kind of future do they think people and animals should have. The title taps into the idea that, if people have changed the climate, they have the power to change it again. We have changed the climate accidentally- we can change it back deliberately. What are our individual hopes and responsibilities, and what are our collective responsibilities? What worries do we have about climate change and sustainability, and how can we connect ourselves with what we value? How can we turn thought, feeling and concern into action- small or large? How can we feel empowered to do our bit?

We’ll be using some key ideas to explore the subject. We’ll be collecting people’s memories of snow- everyone has one. A major motif throughout our exhibitions will be the Peppered Moth, as a story and symbol for change and transformation. The Peppered Moth spends the day sitting on tree trunks and branches. Through the 19th century, a black mutant replaced the usual pale speckled form, as it was better camouflaged on sooty bark. Since the clean air acts of the 1950s, the pale moth has again become more common. The story of the moth reminds us that people can have great effects on nature, but that negative changes can often be reversed- if only we care enough to do something about them. The Peppered Moth story is also a Manchester story, linked with industrialisation.

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(images by Olaf Leillinger, used under a creative commons licence)

We’re working in partnership with the Tyndall Centre and with Manchester A Certain Future, to connect people with climate change in  meaningful ways. Forget doom and gloom, this is the time to get really, really creative.

Look out for installations of [artificial] moths, Arctic wildlife, model-making, lots and lots of events, and opportunities to talk with experts, students, people who care, and just to talk about people and nature.

#MMClimateControl

Posted by: David Gelsthorpe | August 20, 2015

Great New Citizen Science project to record our fossils

Palaeo Manchester

We have a fantastic new Citizen Science project to record our fossils called Reading Nature’s Library!

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The idea is to put lots of photographs of our collection online so that anyone can help us record the information. It’s really easy to do and helps make the collection available to everyone. So please have a go! There is a leader board and you can share your images with friends and family. Some are more tricky to read than others, so we have included a help option via social media.

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This project has been put together by a brilliant MSc student from the School of Computer Science Rob Dunne. We have a team of volunteers who are working really hard to photograph our fossils and we hope to put other collections online very shortly.

Reading Nature’s Library is part of our new hands on collections gallery The Study which opens…

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Posted by: henrymcghie | July 28, 2015

Citizen science project on birds’ beaks

Hello- a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield visited the bird collections at the Manchester Museum (part of the University of Manchester) a few months ago. They are trying to understand how the world’s birds diversified over time, looking at the rate of evolution of different body structures. They took 3d scans of hundreds of our birds skins (we have about 15,000), and have now set up a web site where people (you?) can help them map the shape of bird’s beaks, so they can be analysed. The website can be found here and it’s well worth a look. The Sheffield team have a blog where you can find out about their progress.

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