New Ways of using Natural Science Collections

Monday 12th was spent at the workshop New Ways of using Natural Science Collections at the Arts and Heritage Centre, Rochdale as organised by David Craven of Renaissance North West and NLOB research team-member. Here a number of natural science curators presented the projects they have been working on over the years. The workshop explored a variety of approaches and for those attending provided examples of novel and new ways of using such collections as well as insights into more time honoured experiences, making it a valuable day for me to gather examples and make contacts.

Henry McGhie, Head of Natural Sciences at The Manchester Museum, offered valuable insights into how natural science collections can touch on common activities as a way of developing interest, such as gardening, owning pets, and fishing — each of which are some of the most popular pastimes in this country. I love the idea that one way of engaging audiences with such collections — collections that were themselves born out of hugely popular leisure activities of the nineteenth and early twentieth century — is to connect them with a number of hugely popular current leisure activities. These types of connections broaden the contribution that natural science collections can make and begin to show how they might contribute towards more socially orientated outcomes such as wellbeing and health, as well as stronger and safer communities. Of course, these are themes that square well with the aims and ambitions of NLOB, which places centre-front the development of socially and culturally orientated contributions for these collections. Tony Parker and Donna Young from World Museum Liverpool introduced some excellent examples of how such collections can be used with theatre, song, dance and poetry.

Mark Steadman


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