Dodo Roadshow: Plymouth City Museum

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To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.

Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.

Plymouth was a special treat; the Museum is currently closed so the Dodo got to explore behind the scenes.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery: Tub Gurnard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
I am a fish. Marine biologists call me Trigla lucerna. But that is a bit of a tongue twister, so you can call me a Tub Gurnard. Marine biologists give me that name so they know what they are looking at when they read about me in books and articles around the world. I was caught in a mackerel fishing net near Plymouth in October 1902 so I’m a pretty old fish – 113 years old in fact! I am a deformed fish, but I have lived a good life. For over 100 years I have been informing researchers about my distribution, as well as the rich ecosystem my species live in.

What is it that makes you so special?
My species can be found in a few spots along the south west and south east coasts of England, along with some spots around Wales and north eastern Scotland. What makes me special is that I am an example of what makes Plymouth the city it is today. Plymouth lies by the sea. This sea has helped to shape Plymouth. The city has a rich maritime history which includes famous characters like Drake and the Spanish Armada. It also has a large Dockyard and Naval Base and occupied a strategic position during World War II. This heritage and more is reflected in the rich collections at the City Museum and Art Gallery and the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.

Who looks after you in this place?
At the minute I am in a store room with my other pickled friends. The Curator of Natural History, Jan Freedman, looks after me here. He is pretty good. He makes sure we are well taken care of, that we don’t get too warm and have enough fluids. He takes me out to teach University students about marine zoology who gaze through my curved jar and always seem excited to see me. In fact I get out quite a lot, to events in the museum and beyond. I like the reaction people have when they see us and the smiles it brings. I am in good, passionate, hands.

Do you remember life before the museum?
I arrived at the Museum and Art Gallery in 2000, as a donation along with 3,500 other creatures in jars. Before that I lived with the collections at the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. I was swimming, like you do, and then used for scientific research. It felt good to be part of science: to help people understand marine ecosystems and the impact of humans on it.

What does the future hold for you?
There are exciting times ahead. We should be ‘online’ in a few years. Photos of me will be available for you to see no matter where you are in the world! The internet is an amazing place with so much potential. It was the stuff of sci-fi novels when I was growing up.

One of the most exciting things in the coming years is the History Centre project. Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, the Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, the South West Film and Television Archive and the South West Image Bank are working together (and with other partners such as Plymouth University), to create a brand new extension to the existing museum to house all our nationally and internationally important collections. Who knows, perhaps my 4000 or so friends and I will be sat comfortably on a glass shelf in a glass store room in the new building. It would be nice to watch you watching me every day.

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More than a Dodo

I'm Public Engagement Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I look after permanent displays and other interpretation. I do a bit of social media on the side, too.

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