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How Lego lends a hand in digitising 300 year old Herbarium books | Digital Collections Programme

The Museum is on a mission to digitise 80 million specimens. We want to mobilise the collections to give the global community access to this unrivaled historical, cultural, geographical and taxonomic resource.

The Sloane Herbarium at the Natural History Museum, London

The Sir Hans Sloane Herbarium in the Darwin Centre Cocoon at the Museum in London

Carrying out pilot projects helps us to establish bespoke digital capture workflows on areas of the collections. Mercers Trust funded a small scale pilot project to digitise the more difficult to image herbarium specimens from the Samuel Browne Volumes of the Sloane Herbarium that contain specimens of medicinal plants form India. Dr Steen Dupont from the Museum’s Digital Collection programme has been leading on this project. Continue reading

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Tring BioBlitz | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our latest blog by Alex Mills from the current cohort of trainees takes a look back a few weeks to the BioBlitz in Tring, Hertfordshire:

‘What is it? What’s on me?’

‘Wow. It’s huge, Mum!’

‘What’s huge?’

‘Ah, cool. Hold still…’

Tring PlantWalk

Taking the Tring BioBlitz out into the field

Unconventional collection methods can work wonders during a BioBlitz. In this instance a mother accompanying her children on a minibeast hunt found herself functioning as a perfect interception trap for Stenocorus meridianus, a rather imposing longhorn beetle. The beetle was duly potted and admired. Everyone (including the mother/beetle trap…eventually) was transfixed by this magnificent beetle. And that was the order of the day at the highly successful Tring BioBlitz a few weeks ago: enjoyment and biological records, with kids and adults of all ages being transported by the natural world around them.

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13 The snakes of South Kensington | #NHM_Live

This week’s #NHM_Live featured the snakes of our collections in South Kensington, SW7. Joining host Alison Shean was Jeff Streicher, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles, who showed off some of the serpent specimens and shared with us fascinating facts including what it is – exactly – that makes a snake a snake.

This was the final episode of #NHM_Live in this current series, but we will be back for a new series soon. In the meantime catch up with all the episodes and leave us review in iTunes. To hear more about our collections and the new episodes in the next series, be sure to follow @NHM_London on Twitter.

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Flying home: a volume of watercolours and its rather special 4,500 mile journey | Library and Archives

The scope of the Library collections at the Museum is truly international with many items already having travelled a significant distance to reach us. From the artworks of Cook’s Endeavour voyage, through to the Chinese illustrations of plants collected by John Reeves and the sixteen beautifully illustrated sketchbooks of Olivia Tonge detailing her travels in India, many of the items in our collections have undertaken and survived incredible journeys of their own just getting here.

Colour photo taken from above showing a bound manuscript volume sitting in a see through perspex book cradle. The book is sitting diagonally from bottom left to top right. The bottom left hand corner of the left face is out of the photo. Although not readable, it is clear that there is handwritten notes on the left hand page, at intervals from top to bottom. On the right hand page, in landscape, is a coloured watercolour of two small birds facing each other, sitting on a branch with leaves, only the outline is drawn in black. The bird on the left is crouched, has a light green breast, head, dark back and right wing. The left wing is not visible. The bird on the right hand side has an orange breast, dark head, back, left wing and tail. The right wing is not visible. There is a short piece of unreadable text directly underneath the image and another small drawing to the bottom right, but it is not clear what it is. To the right and underneath the perspex support, sitting on the flat cream surface, is an electronic temperature / humidity recorder. It is a small grey plastic box, with a digital display and short stubby aerial. To the left of it is come sort of small grey bowl.

Hodgson’s Birds of Nepal (Appendix 1-187) volume showing watercolour illustrations and accompanying manuscript notes

This is true of a special collection of bound volumes of watercolour illustrations of Nepalese animals that were presented to the Museum by their creator, Brian Houghton Hodgson (1800-1894) the naturalist, ethnologist and founder of the discipline of Himalaya Studies. This blog tells of a very special journey that one of the volumes recently made back to its place of origin. Continue reading

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Horrors of the Green Ground cemetery | Human anthropology

Crania from the Green Ground on Portugal Street

Crania from the Green Ground on Portugal Street

A team of Natural History Museum anthropologists have been digitising and analysing a collection human remains from London in order to learn more about the lives and deaths of people who lived in the capital.

While studying bones from a post-medieval cemetery known as the ‘Green Ground’ on Portugal Street, we dug deeper into the history of this cemetery.

Continue reading

Digitising the Madagascan Lepidoptera type specimens | Digital Collections Programme

We have started digitising the Madagascan moths and butterflies, a project that has been supported by John Franks and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

Photo of pinned specimen with barcode

Holotype of the giant orange-tip (Gideona lucasi) butterfly, with accompanying barcode

This project is different from our previous Lepidoptera digitisation as it is only looking at type specimens.

A type specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) is an example specimen on which the description and name of a new species is based.

Continue reading

Winged wonders in the Wildlife Garden | UK Wildlife

The warm, sunny days that alternate with the frequent, damp weather days this month release a burst of colourful insect activity for visitors to observe amongst the variety of habitats and flowering plants in the Museum’s garden. Joe Beale, who has recently joined the team, tells us more.

Late summer is a lively time in the Museum’s Wildlife Garden. On sunny days you may catch sight of some of our most impressive and colourful insects. Dragonflies that use the garden include the stunning green-striped southern hawker (Aeshna cyanaea), the impressive migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) and the imperious Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator).

Photo showing a dragonfly at rest on a spear of purple flowers, with a green, out of focus backdrop to the left and bottom and the out-of-focus wall and windows of the Museum in the background.

A migrant hawker dragonfly (Aeshna mixta) at rest in the wildlife garden. Photo © Joe Beale

They may buzz you to investigate, but tend to power up and down without stopping like little fighter planes, as they hunt flying insects around the meadow, hedgerows and ponds.

Continue reading

Phase 2 update | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our trainees on the Identification Trainers for the Future project are now well into Phase 2 of their traineeship. Phase 2 is the section where our trainees spend much of their time developing their species identification skills, working with our curators through a series of specialist workshops, as well as helping out in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity with everything from the Identification and Advisory Service, to getting out and about at events. In this first blog from Phase 2, Steph Skipp gives us an overview of how the first half of the traineeship has gone.

To begin our workshop phase, the ID Trainers had a crash course in lichens. April was in her element, having previously discovered the wonders of peatland lichens whilst working in Exmoor National Park. In contrast, I think the rest of us were taken aback by how interesting lichens actually are!

Flies - Laura

Getting to grips with Phase 2 of training

The wealth of colours and forms were very visually exciting, especially under a microscope. After a trip to Bookham Commons, we came back to the lab with some specimens.

Continue reading

12 The mighty megafauna | #NHM_Live

Joining host Alastair Hendry for the latest episode of #NHM_Live was Pip Brewer, Curator of Fossil Mammals, who showed off some of the fossil mammal specimens in the Museum’s collections and answered as many questions as she could about the largest land animals since the dinosaurs to pound the ground, including the American Mastodon, Mylodon and more.

If you enjoyed this podcast please rate and review us in iTunes. To hear more about our collections, follow @NHM_London on Twitter.