Geology: the foundation of #Civilizations, Petra @McrMuseum

One of my highlights from the first episode of the stunning new BBC Civilizations series (available on BBC iPlayer) was Simon Schama’s visit to Petra.

Image Wikipedia Berthold Werner

This beautiful building, created during the 4th century Nabataean Kingdom was only possible because of the  the properties of the sandstone it is carved into.

Most buildings are made from rock that has been excavated, shaped into blocks which are then stacked to make walls. Petra is different, the columns, doors and rooms have all been excavated from the bedrock in the side of the gorge.

The Nubian Sandstone

The orange-brown sandstone at Petra was formed over a range of different time periods (from the Cambrian to the Upper Cretaceous) and was formed in a variety of different conditions from desert to shallow seas. The distinctive colour comes from the iron minerals that have reacted with oxygen forming the rusty-red.

Sand from Petra

The sandstone is very similar to the Triassic sandstone found in Cheshire and north-west England. This formed during desert conditions. The remains of the sand dunes can still be seen where the rock is exposed at the Stockport railway viaduct (on the M60) and the railway cutting going into Liverpool Limestreet station.

Triassic desert sandstone from Cheshire, similar to the sandstone at Petra

So what made it possible to create this building at Petra?

Not too hard, not too soft

Like the story of the Three Bears and the porridge, the sandstone here is just right. The strength and hardness come from how strong the cement is that holds the grains together to form the rock.

Too soft and it crumbles into sand. Softer parts of this sandstone have eroded away over the years and now form much of the sand of the Arabian Desert. Too hard and it is difficult to chisel out to form features (such as the details at the top of the columns) and rooms.

Strength

In contrast to buildings made from blocks of rock, Petra is pretty strong when under attack from armies, earthquakes and the ravages of time. Conventional block built buildings inevitably have points of weakness where the blocks meet.

It looks nice

One of the marks of culture and civilization is the desire to be surrounded by beautiful things. I guess it is a matter of personal taste, but the sandstone is a beautiful rusty-red colour reflecting the iron-minerals coating the quartz grains in the sandstone.

Right place at the right time

Petra was on a key trading route. It sits in a narrow sheltered gorge with little room for conventional buildings. The obvious thing to do is tunnel into the soft rock.

I didn’t want to miss an excuse to include a clip of one of my favorite films: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Good opportunity to look at the Nubian Sandstone 🙂

Lamp from Petra, Manchester Museum

Advertisements

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.

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Object Lessons

An exhibition of stunning scientific models and illustrations now at Manchester Museum

The object-rich exhibition looks at this incredible collection through themes such as Craftsmanship, the Teaching Museum and the Microscopic. It combines George’s collection with the best models and illustrations from Manchester Museum and World Museum, Liverpool.

The beautiful objects blurred the boundaries between art and science and brought together the world’s leading scientists and most accomplished craftsmen. They reflect a moment in time when scientific discovery was rapidly developing, but technology could not keep up with techniques to record such findings.

To make sense of the exhibition we have split the displays into seven themes:

Craftsmanship features the highly-acclaimed Blaschka glass models, created by German glassworkers Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolf.

In Understanding the Body models are used to explore the shape, movement and function of the body. A life-size papier-mâché anatomical wild turkey sits alongside an exploded cod skull and early German models used to teach the bite of a rattlesnake.

Recording the Extraordinary focuses on unusual things that are difficult to describe in words. Early illustrations of the Aurora Borealis, sit alongside a plaster moon crater and a globe of the stars. 

Exaggerated papier-mâché flowers and an Edwardian pop-up human anatomy book form part of Looking Inside.

Teaching Museum takes an overarching look at the context in which these models were created. Highlights include Japanese teaching scrolls from 1843 and wax fruits.

Minute details of plants and animals, as well as microscopic creatures are on display in Revealing the Microscopic including Early French flea photographs and models of pollen and penicillin.

Framing Time Some of the first illustrations of the Grand Canyon from the 1870s are shown alongside early reconstructions of long extinct fossils.

 We are also running a conference alongside the exhibition: Unlocking the Vault

Save

Transformations #MMClimateControl

Nothing ever stays the same, things are always changing be it our Museum displays, our cities and towns, or the natural world around us.

The next part of our #MMClimateControl Social Media campaign in the lead up to our Climate Control exhibition is looking at how the world has changed in the past and what changes might look like in the future.

So please help us raise awareness of Climate Change by sharing your pictures and stories of how things have changed over time using #MMClimateControl

Do you remember what Manchester used to be like, or public transport in the 1980S? What were you favorite clothes when you were teenager? What did you think the future would be like when you were a kid?

Harry Braezenor sitting on the Museum's Sperm Whale 1898 and the Whale today

Harry Braezenor sitting on the Museum’s Sperm Whale 1898 and the Whale today

Sperm Whale

Museum collections can give us a fantastic glimpse into the past for everything from Ancient Egypt, to 300million year old fossil plants and the humble Peppered Month. We will be exploring some of these stories in the coming weeks and months, so please join in!

 

 

Memories of snow #MMClimateControl

Do you love snow as much as I do? Share the joy with us using #MMClimateControl

I just love the incredible sense of transformation when the first flakes start falling and the world around us looks utterly different!

CY6Z9-WWkAA4HDKCW10BAyWIAEOoLG

We are gathering memories of snow as part of the build up to:

Climate Control, A long British summer of exhibitions and events, May – October 2016.

Not only is snow amazing, but it could be a good indicator of how our climate is changing. Do you remember more snow when you were a kid? Were you around in the particularly snowy years of 1947 or 1963? Share your memories with us and get involved!

CZBDjNkWsAAJQD0Cat_Snow

The program is part of European City of Science, developed with Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre and Manchester: A Certain Future.

Follow #MMClimateControl to get involved

%d bloggers like this: