Object Lessons exhibition: coming soon

For the past few months I’ve been working on a really exciting exhibition opening on the 20th of May: Object Lessons


Blaschka Portugese man o’war.  Image courtesy of Rosamond Purcell

Blaschka Portugese man o’war.
Image courtesy of Rosamond Purcell

Object Lessons celebrates the scientific model and illustration collection of George Loudon. Each of these finely crafted objects was created for the purpose of understanding the natural world through education, demonstration and display.

The object-rich exhibition will look at this incredible collection through themes such as Craftsmanship, the Teaching Museum and the Microscopic.

George’s collection will be displayed alongside stunning models from Manchester Museum and World Museum, Liverpool.

Brendel plant models.  Image curtesy of Rosamond Purcell

Brendel plant models.
Image courtesy of Rosamond Purcell


A busy week of consulting!

Herbology Manchester

All the curators have been out and about over half term, in Manchester and beyond! We’re helping to spread the word about our new museum development plans. We want to hear what people think about our plans to build an extension to the Manchester Museum. It will house a new permanent gallery focusing on the history and culture of South Asia as well as a new exhibition space for host blockbuster shows. If you want to find out more, keep track of our progress on our Courtyard Project blog.

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Restoring the Geology gallery, Biddulph Grange

Thematic Collecting

We recently visited the amazing Geology gallery at Biddulph Grange to chat to Daniel Atherton about its restoration and development.

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‘Catch a Shooting Star’ – New Display at the Manchester Museum

Earth & Solar System

20151022_125044 Group member John and visitor Louise enjoying the new ‘Catch a Shooting Star’ touch table display. Image: KJoy

Ever wanted to put your hand on Mars, the Moon or an asteroid and can’t wait for commercial spaceflight to one day fly you there as a space tourist? Well imagine no longer, you can get your hands on amazing rocks from other worlds just by visiting Manchester (it might be a little rainier than the Moon though!).

There is now a great new meteorite touchable display at the Manchester Museum that has been developed by the Catch a Shooting Star team, led by our colleagues at the Open University. The exhibit, which has been funded by a public engagement grant by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, is the first permanent display in the UK where you can handle so many different types of meteorites and impact rocks in one…

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Shark and Ray fossils


A fantastic collection of Shark, Ray and Chimaeroid teeth have recently been donated to the museum. The fossils are from the Eocene period, 53- 36 million years ago. Most of the fossils were collected from Reculver Bay and Herne Bay in Kent.

Sharks, rays and chimaeroids all belong to the well-established group known as Chondrichthyes or cartilaginous fishes.

These fishes have a skeleton of firm elastic tissue or cartilage rather than bone. Cartilage is flexible and durable yet is half the normal density of bone.



Otodus obliquus 

The existence of sharks extends back in time approximately 400 million years to the upper Devonian period.

The ancestors of modern sharks were the Placoderm group which through evolution had adapted the dermal denticals (scales) for use as primitive teeth.
Sharks have been successful over millions of years due to their ability to adapt to almost any feeding condition. Sharks have multiple rows of teeth which are constantly replaced throughout its lifetime.

Teeth are often the only part of the shark to be preserved so differences in teeth are the most important means of identifying fossil species.



Myliobatis sp.

Rays feed on molluscs and crustaceans; they have tooth plates to crush shells. Although Manta ray, feed on plankton.

Their teeth grow constantly and old or worn teeth are discarded through the mouth or sometimes swallowed and partly digested in the stomach.



Elasmodus hunteri

Chimaeriformes are an order of cartilaginous fishes, informally named rabbit fish; they are cousins of rays and sharks. They feed on molluscs and have six permanent grinding tooth plates to crush their food.
Kemp, D.J. (1977) A brief illustrated account of the English Eocene Shark and Ray fossils. Gosport Museum.


Refloating the Ark

So excited the conference is inspiring people to get excited about nature already!

Collections in the Landscape


I’m very pleased to be back at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery and to be involved once more in Collections in the Landscape. I’d only been at my desk for a couple of days last week when I was whisked away to attend a conference hosted by Manchester Museum.  Refloating the Ark explored the role natural history collections can play in engaging the public with environmental issues, and also how they can contribute to, and attract, new research.

Collections in the Landscape is all about connecting people with museum collections and the Derbyshire landscape. We want to foster a sense of place, and an appreciation and pride in our heritage. Speakers at the conference spoke of ‘Nature Connectedness’, when people feel like part of a wider, natural community. There’s much to gain from this vision, and in our project we certainly do want to connect people with the…

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The Curious Case of the Train that Vanished

We had our first meeting about an exciting new meteorite project with the Open University. Hear how we got on:


Meteorites: The Blog from the Final Frontier

I think we can all agree that trains are pretty big things; they can’t just disappear without trace, surely? But that’s exactly what happened yesterday to the 10.50am service from Milton Keynes to Manchester Piccadilly. I was heading up with my colleague, Diane Johnson, to the Manchester Museum for the first full team meeting of the Catch a Shooting Star project (more about that in a bit). The 10.50 service was clearly marked on our very official looking tickets. We even had assigned seats! Eager to be on our way, we scrutinised the big electronic departures board, but the service had completely vanished! We asked a couple of nearby train officials for news, but neither of them seemed very clear about its fate. Delayed? “Probably.” Cancelled? “Perhaps.” “Keep an eye on the board,” was their best advice. The Virgin Trains official in the smart red coat said there were…

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