The weird world of museums

“Oh yes, we’ve just washed our polar bear too”

A taxidermied polar bear, from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Maryland USA (Creative Commons, original image by Quadell)

Every now and again, I’m reminded of what an odd world we operate in. How strange the above comment seems to be, and how weird it would sound to any passer-by. I was down at the NatSCA conference in Plymouth last week (May 6-7). That little snippet was overheard in a conversation between Clare Brown of Leeds City Museum, and Helen Fothergill of Plymouth City Museum. Because I walked into the middle of the conversation, it just allowed me that rare moment of being struck by our unique position.

On similar lines, several years ago, at The Yorkshire Museum, York, I was involved in moving a 5 metre long model of a giant squid. At no point did it seem strange to me. It was only when chatting to some friends later, when asked what I’d done, that their reactions made me see how very unusual it was.

Anyway, the NatSCA conference was very enjoyable. I’m still touched by the passion and hard work curators, educators, and other museum staff put in to their museums. It’s not a wonderfully high-paid profession, and it’s only the love of the subject that drives us. The conference showed what a fantastic range of projects there are out there, and the more we share what we are doing, the better. You may notice I’ve added a link to another blog. It belongs to Paolo Viscardi of the Horniman Museum, and I recommend you take a look.

Incidentally, there’s a polar bear at Rossendale too. Hopefully Mark will post about it in the future.




Filed under Museums

9 responses to “The weird world of museums

  1. My best one is probably when we found a battery stitched into a fluid preserved marsupial.

  2. David Gelsthorpe

    Hi David,

    Can’t find the link to Paolo’s blog. Could I have it again please?


    • David Craven

      On the right of the screen, under Blogroll. It’s the only one, Zygoma. I probably should have put the name in the post.

  3. Mark Steadman

    Perhaps the battery was intended to weigh the specimen down under the spirit… maybe a temporary solution in the field by an amateur collector? Perhaps the rationale was that with some lead in it the battery was the heaviest thing at hand? Certainly a draconian measure. I know this sounds a strange question but what type of battery was it?

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention The weird world of museums « New Light on Old Bones --

  5. It was stuffed in with tissue and was a really really tight fit suggesting that the battery may have just been something conveniently shaped to create the impression of a ‘natural shape’ although you would assume (but we know what assumption makes) that people might not use battery as stuffing for fluid specimens. The internal organs had been removed.

    @Mark Steadman The battery was a Duracell ‘D’ size which dates this experiment to at the very earliest 1970…

  6. georginaferry

    I’m getting an inside look at the weird world of museums in 2010 as Writer in Residence at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History during its anniversary year. I’ve just written a post about cleaning stuffed birds – you’ll find it at And I’m adding your fascinating blog to my blogroll!

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