Posted by: henrymcghie | March 27, 2016

Take me back to Manchester


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.

Corner of the Cabinet

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 275 2473

Closing date: 10 April

Posted by 
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.


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.


(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.


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!


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.


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.


Posted by: henrymcghie | June 6, 2015

Refloating the Ark arrangements

Hello- There are less than two weeks to go until ‘Refloating the Ark’. I’ve attached a copy of the delegate list to this email so you know who to look out for. The presentations will take place in Lecture theatre B on the ground floor of the Roscoe Building, which is about 200 metres from the Museum on Brunswick Street, number 53 on the campus map (if you’re in front of the Museum, cross the road, turn right then left, and Roscoe is the 2nd building on the left, set back from the road):

The campus map also gives details of getting to the Museum and the University by car, train and various other means, and car parking. For those of you still needing accommodation, we are very close to the city centre so it is best to take advantage of any last minute deals with any of the city centre hotels. For those of you who are staying over, there are plenty of places to eat to whatever tastes you have.

Ahead of the conference, here is a tiny bit of homework. One of the sessions, at the end of the first day, is about ‘just what is it we’re here for?’ So, here’s the homework, just a couple of questions to think about, there’s no need to prepare anything:

  • What roles and responsibilities do you think museums with natural history collections, and people who work in them, have in terms of connecting people with nature and environmental sustainability?
  • Are we just ‘breathless zoos’ or are we something more, and if so what?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you do for nature and for natural history museums?
  • And finally, what motivates you to do what you do?

Please just have a think about one or more of these if you get a minute before the conference. We’ll have a short discussion about this at the end of the first day.

I am away for the next week, so if you have any questions or problems, please email or

For those of you who use social media, please use the hashtag #nature&museums.

Very best wishes, and I’ll see you in a week and a half,


Posted by: henrymcghie | April 1, 2015

Thoughts on ‘Nature Connections 2015’ conference

Hello- I went to an excellent conference last week, ‘Nature Connections’, at the University of Derby. The conference brought together a wide range of people who are interested or working on the connections between people and nature. One of the main things I took from it was the ongoing problem of discussing people as separate from nature. Ralph Underhill from the Public Interest Research Centre spoke about this, in that the way we introduce and frame subjects sets the discussion down particular paths, and consequently drives or limits the options for discussion. One thing I was interested in from this how we can have conversations that help people define and understand what ways of thinking about nature are useful for them and in what circumstances. This builds on work we did some time ago on our Living Worlds gallery that sought to raise how people think about nature- it could be an interesting/useful next step to combine these two strands and go that one step further: to explore nature through Living Worlds with visitors, and then drill down a bit further on when, how and why people think about nature in particular ways (or they don’t) and their relationships/connections with these ‘different’ natures.

Another thing I took away from the conference was the importance of remembering that nature is not a place or an object, it is a process, a network of which we are part, an ebb and flow. Remembering this, and that we too are ebbing and flowing in response to various rhythms (breath, heartbeats, daylength, seasonality) is important in museums, which can seem, let’s face it, more static and fixed than messy, chaotic, beautiful nature.

The third thing I took away was that there was hardly anyone there from museums- either curators or educators. Museums, and relevant art galleries, have an enormous amount of potential to help people explore the wider world, so I hope more museum people will engage with this area of work.


Just a couple of thoughts,


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