Love Fossils? – We need your help!

 

If you love fossils and want to help us unlock the treasures of Manchester Museum’s fossil collection, this is your chance to make a real difference. This Valentine’s day, we are inviting people to unlock the treasures at the heart of the museum through our exciting new online project Reading Nature’s Library.

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Reading Nature’s Library has been developed to reveal information about the museum’s amazing objects to help discover more about our world. The project is part of Zooniverse an online home for interesting projects looking for volunteer help. With over 4.5 million objects in the museum’s collection, recording this information is too great a task for us to tackle alone. The first few thousand objects have been photographed and we want your help to read the labels and record the names, places and other information.

 

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Gneiss new to the collection from beautiful Bhutan #MMCourtyard

We have a new rock in the collection which will help us tell the story of the formation of the Himalayan mountain chain. We are currently developing activities and displays for our Courtyard Project which will include our South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum.

Byron Adams and Frances Cooper  very kindly collected the rock for us on a recent trip to Bumthang, Bhutan where they have been studying the interactions between tectonics climate and surface processes. This is our first rock from Bhutan and it is a stunningly beautiful part of the world.

Bumthang (which means ‘Beautiful field’), Bhutan 2912m above sea level. Image taken by Byron Adams.

The rock is an example of Augen Gneiss (Augen from the German for ‘eyes’) which forms  in extremely high pressure and temperature environments during mountain building. The Augen are the lens-shaped white Plagioclase Feldspar crystals seen in image below.

White lens-shaped augen of Plagioclase Feldspar crystals in layers of black mica

This rock joins our recent acquisition of a piece of Mount Everest piecing together story of the geological history of the region.

Reaching new heights with collecting: Everest specimen

I’m excited to say we have reached new heights with our collection: we’ve acquired a rock fragment from Mount Everest!

The fragment was donated by Nobel Prize winner Professor Andre Geim, who was given it by David Tait MBE, who has climbed Everest five times raising money for the NSPCC.

Mount Everest from the south
By Anju Sherpa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I think I’d be the first to admit that it is not the most spectacular looking specimen in the collection, but it definitely trumps everything on location and effort put in to collecting it. I’ve been in touch with David Tait to thanks him and ask about where it was collected. He said that it was from the ‘upper reaches’ of Mount Everest and he apologised for it being quite small!

The geology of Mount Everest is quite interesting and as our rock is a Schist rather than the Ordovician Limestone, it can’t quite be from the very top.

The best paper I’ve found is: SEARLE, M., SIMPSON, R., LAW, R., PARRISH, R., & WATERS, D. (2003). The structural geometry, metamorphic and magmatic evolution of the Everest massif, High Himalaya of Nepal-South Tibet Journal of the Geological Society, 160 (3), 345-366  DOI: 10.1144/0016-764902-126

We are currently developing activities and displays for our Courtyard Project which will include our South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum. So a piece of Mount Everest will be a fantastic way of helping tell the story of the geological history of the region.

Gold!

Christmas at Manchester Museum

goldGold in quartzite. Geology Collection, Manchester Museum.

Gold – A Gift for a King

A Christian association with gold is the gift the three kings gave to Jesus in recognition of his kingship –

“and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1–2, 11).

the-three-wise-kings-atlas-catalan-1375-fol-v-980x498.pngThe Three Wise Kings – detail from the Catalan Atlas, 1375. Image from springfieldmuseums.org.

Gold is universally considered one of the great earthly treasures and an appropriate gift for rulers throughout history due to its rarity and purity.  The chieftains of pre-Colombian America interpreted its dazzling yellow colour as enchanted with protective powers captured from the sun god, wrought armour from the soft malleable stuff, which of course proved deceptive in battle.  Heavenly associations with gold are repeated…

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Marie Stopes: Social Reformer, Palaeobotanist and… Artist

Guest blog by Clare Debenham, Honorary Researcher at Manchester Museum

Marie Stopes was the first woman science lecturer at what is now the University of Manchester. She went on to be controversially a sexual revolutionary and birth control pioneer.

What is not widely known is that she was also a talented artist. This illustration of a Cycad comes from her book:

Cycad illustration from Ancient Plants, Marie Stopes 1910

We’ve recently discovered this unsigned water colour, found in the Botany collection at Manchester Museum, which may also be her work.

Cycad painting possibly by Marie Stopes. It shows some differences from her illustration above, but dates from the time Marie Stopes was working at Manchester University.

Maximising impact with Social Media: Top Tips

Myself (@paleoManchester) and Rachel Webster (@aristolochia) recently talked about maximising impact of exhibitions with social media at the Museums Association conference in Manchester.

 

Here are our top tips!

  • Be passionate and positive: show off your exhibition
  • Make everybody’s day better
  •  Include pictures on all posts, especially of people having fun
  • Post regularly to ensure a lively feed
  •  Include your # and other people’s
  • Jump on # bandwagons if it works
  • Tag other people who you think will re-post even celebrities
  • Use analytics to learn what content and time works for you
  • Always promote # at events/conferences/openings
  • Re-post relevant content, ‘like’ other’s posts, respond, follow people
  • Keep an eye out for new trends or initiatives and try something new (e.g. Periscope)
  • Have a presence in your exhibition: prompt people and promote your #

And here’s some further reading:

Russel Dornan’s article in Medium on museum personalities

Mar Dixon’s blog

Opportunities and case studies on the MA website: Social Media Trends and Social Media strategy

Useful Hashtags from the Natural Science Collections Association

Do’s and don’ts from MuseumHack

Think you know dinosaurs? Think again…

Most people are familiar with the dinosaur Velociraptor from the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. Represented in the film as a scary reptile, our understanding of Velociraptors are transformed by a recent discovery. 

Palaeontologists have recently found a close cousin of the Velociraptor that lived in China 125 million years ago showing spectacular preserved feathers. Named Zhenyuanlong suni, the fossil remains of the dinosaur suggest it is unlikely it could fly evidenced by the size of its wings and its feathers were probably used for display. The discovery of Zhenyuanlong suni is important because it changes our understanding of what dinosaurs looked like.

Fossil remains of Zhenyuanlong suni. Credit: Junchang Lu

Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester has the model on loan from Studio Liddell. Created by Peter Minister, the new model now on display, shows how our view of dinosaurs has been transformed.

The model of the Velociraptor is a taster of what is to come as Manchester Museum prepares for a blockbuster dinosaur exhibition. This is part of a new exhibition programme which is being planned as part of the museum’s expansion titled The Courtyard Project. Subject to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, work will commence on The Courtyard Project in August 2018 and will comprise of a larger temporary exhibition space, new entrance, improved visitor facilities and a South Asia Gallery in partnership with The British Museum.

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