These images of past curators and technicians from Blackburn Museums reveal an often forgotten human dimension to natural science collections. We often foreground the role of the collector or perhaps the patron behind an acquisition, sometimes even the rationale or motive behind the formation of a collection but rarely do we integrate into our accounts the endeavours of the museum staff who worked on the collections once they arrived at the museum.
The contribution made back of house by curators, conservators, taxidermists, technicians and the like, was just as formative to the trajectory of a collection as any of the forces more commonly studied. Images such as these remind us that the history of an object or collection doesn’t stop when it reaches the museum doors but continues. Sam’s recent publication Nature and Culture as well as the forthcoming The Afterlives of Animals breaks new ground by making use of such material. When looking at late nineteenth century collections, the time an object has spent in a museum often represents the longest part of its life history and warrants greater attention than current scholarship tends to afford it. Representing a wealth of important knowledge, one aim of NLOB’s is to interview retired museum staff, many of whom worked as assistants to yet older generations of museum staff.