by Hannah Allum, Project Assistant
The film ‘Night at the Museum‘ is not as far from the truth as you might think. Museum specimens may not come back to life at night, but they are moving all the time. Whether we’re putting on a new display, loaning a specimen to another museum or using them for teaching sessions, our collections are very active, despite being long dead.
The Oxford University museum collections are about to begin a huge migration as they move from various off-site stores to a new facility. Generally, museum stores are not open to the public and often house important reference and research specimens, which make up a huge proportion of natural history collections. These valuable stored collections require specific environmental conditions to make sure that they last for generations to come. Taxidermy and articulated skeletons make for eye-catching displays, but tend to be a relatively small part of the collection. In fact, having just 1% of your natural history specimens on public display is the norm.
As well as improving the storage conditions and ease of access for staff and researchers, this will also be the first time that the Oxford University museums have shared a storage space. It will be a challenging but rewarding project to re-home such a huge variety of artefacts and specimens that have come from all over the world; each with their own unique story.
As the new Project Assistant working for the Museum of Natural History, I am the lucky person who gets to discover some of these stories. I will be working with specimens from both Earth and Life collections, as well as some material from the Library and Archives. The first stage will be making a detailed list of everything that needs to be moved, then I can go on to prepare the new store and get the supplies I’ll need to document, pack and transport everything safely.
As you can see, I have already come across some fascinating specimens and look forward to getting stuck in to this project.
There will be blog posts throughout the year to update you on our progress and to reveal some exciting stories from the stores.
You can also follow the hashtag #storiesfromthestores on the Museum’s Twitter feed: @morethanadodo