Researcher meets museum staff

Many thanks to all the staff at both Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery and Rossendale Museum for taking the time to introduce me to their wonderful collections and displays. David Craven and I have spent the last few days discussing New Light on Old Bones (NLOB) with the staff at the two contributing institutions. This proved a great chance not only for introductions to be made but to discuss each our own ambitions for the project. There was a great deal of energy and excitement at the meetings over how NLOB can contribute to the activities of these museums and similarly how NLOB will be shaped and filled out by the opportunities each museum will present. While being geographically close, each museum represents a set of markedly different opportunities, which together will enable NLOB to develop a robust methodology useful to others institutions. The collections themselves are amazing, diverse, and undoubtedly important scientifically. However, what clearly resonated from both institutions was the role that people have played and continue to play in the creation and use of the collections. Clearly natural science collections speak of the natural world, but perhaps what we really mean when we say this is that natural science collections speak of our relationship with the natural world — after all, such collections are themselves the product of our intervention with the natural world at some point in the past. Understood as human creations and therefore bound in cultural and social preoccupations and ideologies, such collections can afford new socially orientated sets of insights. Not only can they help us understand our past relationship with the natural world and provide insights into how this has changed over time but in so doing can enable us to reconsider the relationship we currently have with the natural world. The collections at Blackburn and Rossendale also reminded us that such collections speak of the local — the civic — despite their often exotic content. Many entries in the early acquisitions registers of both institutions revealed as much about individual lives as they did of the exotic specimens they recorded, — oftentimes revealing peoples jobs, where they went on their holidays, and what they did in their spare time, all through the specimens they chose to donate to their local museum. Thanks again to everyone — I’m looking forward to next week.


1 Comment

Filed under Museums

One response to “Researcher meets museum staff

  1. David Craven

    It was a really positive couple of days.

    Vinai at Blackburn, and Susan, Gill and Stephen at Rossendale really do deserve credit for the enthusiasm they are showing. They’ve all got a lot on, but are taking the time to help us with this. I’m sure the final result of their efforts will be a better project all round.

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