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Another year and another new theme and chance for the Library & Archives to show off and celebrate our wonderful artwork collections! Throughout the centuries women have made significant contributions to natural history art - all of whom shared a fascination and enthusiasm for the natural world. Drawn for a variety of reasons and using a rich mix of artistic techniques, the new theme of Women Artists presents another captivating cross-section of the artwork collections at the Natural History Museum.

 

Over the next 16 months, the specially designated cabinets in the Images of Nature Gallery will showcase the artworks of some of the best women natural history artists spanning the last four centuries. The work of over 60 different women artists, many on public display for the first time, will feature illustrations ranging from the delightful Tawny owls by Sarah Stone (ca. 1760-1844) through to the colourful Hawaiian fishes of E. Gertrude Norrie (active 1900s) and contemporary botanical artists such as Norma Gregory and Olga Makrushenko.

 

 

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The new theme also sees the publication of the fourth book in the Images of Nature series. Titled Women Artists, it features the artwork from over 100 women artists in the Library & Archives collections.

 

The exhibition opens on Saturday 8th March which also happens to be International Womens Day - a day which is celebrated in many different ways to recognise the achievements of women but also to raise awareness of the many social, economic, political situations worldwide affecting women.

 

Public access to the Gallery is free.

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It seems extraordinary now, but if you had entered a lottery in 1786, you might have won a whole museum. The tickets were priced at one guinea each, and the museum up for grabs was that of Sir Ashton Lever, collector of natural history and ethnographical specimens.

 

The museum was based in Leicester Square, London, and contained approximately 27,000 items. Leicester House, a large mansion, cost Lever £600 a year to lease, and when it opened in February 1775 he charged visitors half a guinea to enter, a large sum at the time. Despite the cost, the Leverian Museum proved popular. Those who visited found sixteen rooms of specimens interspersed with corridors lined with cases containing even more items. One room was separate and was billed as containing “very curious monkies and monsters”; ladies were warned that they may not have wished to enter for fear of being disgusted. As well as the specimens, there was a library containing books on natural history. Interestingly, advertisements at the time specify that good fires were to be found in the galleries – not something that one would expect to find in museums now!

 

 

 

 

As well as the general public, artists and natural historians of the time came to draw and study the exhibitions. Lever added to the collections frequently, stocking the cases with zoological and ethnographical items brought back from expeditions such as those of Captain Cook, from exotic locations such as the Americas, Africa and the Far East.

 

 

[Image above] – “Bird display. A perspective view of the grand saloon and gallery [of the Leverian Museum] from A Companion to the [British] Museum (1790) by Sir Ashton Lever.” NHM Picture Library Ref 036756

 

 

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Sarah Stone (ca.1760-1844), the daughter of a fan painter, began painting at the museum in the late 1770s. Her baptism certificate has not been found, so the precise date of her birth is unknown.  She came to the attention of Lever and was commissioned by him to formally record specimens. Her artwork is considered of great importance as it gives some idea of the species collected by explorers and of the long-since demolished museum. Some of the animals she painted are now extinct, or have endangered populations.

 

The Library at the Natural History Museum has a large collection of Stone’s watercolours. Many of the known paintings and drawings in existence (over 900 in total) are of birds, such as the image above of a mandarin duck, Aix galericulata.

 

Stone’s use of colour and shadow, delicate brushwork and faithful representation of her subjects made her work distinctive and admirable at the time. Although these qualities are still prized, some of her drawings can look ‘stiff’ to modern eyes. In particular, the sloth on the left in the picture below looks incapable of climbing its branch. However, this may also be the fault of the taxidermy techniques of the period.

 

[Image on right]   “Mandarin duck, Aix galericulata. Sarah Stone, 1788.” NHM Picture Library Ref 024290

 

 

 

 

So who did win the museum? For five weeks after the lottery, no-one knew. Finally James Parkinson, a barrister, came forward to claim his winnings. The chosen ticket had belonged to his late wife and he had only come across it when sorting through her estate.

 

He owned the museum for twenty years, though kept the ‘Leverian’ name, and oversaw a move to a different site in Albion Place, south of Blackfriars Bridge. Most of Stone’s drawings are dated to before Parkinson took over the museum. In 1806, the collections were broken up and sold at auctions lasting for sixty five days (excluding Sundays and the King’s birthday). Interestingly, two of the lots were Stone’s own watercolours of the specimens.

 

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) webpage hosts some books which contain paintings by Sarah Stone. Some examples are here:

http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/29568342

http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/29568322

 

 

You can also see more of Sarah Stone’s artwork in the forthcoming Images of Nature Gallery exhibition on women artists, which will be on display the Museum from March 2014 and is accompanied by a book by Special Collections Librarian Andrea Hart. Keep a look out for forthcoming blogs providing more information about the new exhibition next month and then throughout 2014/2015.

 

 

Bibliography:

Jackson, C.E. (1998). Sarah Stone: Natural Curiosities from the New Worlds. London: Merrell Publishers Ltd.

 

[Image below] – “Pale-throated three-toed sloth, Bradypus tridactylus. Sarah Stone, c. 1781-1785.” NHM Picture Library Ref 024334

 

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The Images of Nature art gallery has reopened with the new collection of Indian artwork for 2013.

 

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Our Item of the Month blog will focus specifically on this new display. But in the meantime come a take a look for yourself and let us know what you think. The gallery has a new theme each year and within the year artwork is changed every three months. So there is always something new to catch your eye!

 

My favourite new addition is the pangolin!

 

As well as the watercolours, there are interactive touch screens enabling you to learn more about the collections and the importance of art to science.

 

Sunoj D a contemporary artist was invited to interpret the historical collections and create his own works, these can be seen alongside the NHM Library collections in the gallery.

 

Also included in the gallery are oil paintings and a full sized reproduction of the William Smith geological map.

 

Find out more about the gallery

 

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It is your last chance to see the First Fleet artwork currently on display in our Images of Nature gallery. The gallery closes from Monday 25th February and reopens on Wednesday 27th February with a brand NEW theme.

 

Indian artwork will be the theme for the next year, and every three months the artwork on display will be changed. This enables visitors to see other examples from our sizeable collection and allows us to protect our collections from any potential environmental damage such as light or temperature.

 

There will be a blog in March all about the forthcoming theme and examples of the items to be displayed, but in the meantime here is an taster to wet your appetite!

 

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Amorphophallus bulbifer, voodoo lily

NHM Picture Library image reference: 040242

 

Plate 1109 from the Fleming Indian Drawings Collection, c. 1795-1805.

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2012 was an amazing year for our monthly Lates with MasterCard event. We had spectacular special exhibitions, we launched our open-mic night in the Central Hall and introduced a popular speed-sketching activity with the Crazy Artists.

 

Our final Lates of 2012 in November saw our highest visitor numbers ever with over 4,000 people attending and we’ve been collecting lots of feedback about how we can make the event even better.

 

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(Click images to see them full size)

 

So with your suggestions in mind, we’ve made some changes to the 2013 event to ensure everyone has a brilliant Friday night at the Museum.

 

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Many of you wanted to visit the beautiful and imposing blue whale after hours and we have listened so, this month, we are opening the Mammals (blue whale) gallery at Lates for the first time in two years.

 

Our lovely sponsors are adding to the updated event by introducing an exclusive MasterCard cocktail bar in the Images of Nature gallery. If you have one, just flash your MasterCard and you and one guest will be able to get in and enjoy some delicious mixes.

 

We’re gearing up to the opening of our newest exhibition, Extinction: Not the End of the World? next month and so have been busy preparing a fascinating discussion event to kickstart the proceedings. So, on Friday, we have three experts debating the potential for human extinction and you’ll get the chance to ask your questions and meet the experts. You can find out more and book tickets here.

 

The ever popular Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is open until 22.30. It usually sells out well in advance for Lates with just a handful of walk-up tickets available on the night, so make sure you book early to see the exhibition in the evening.

 

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This month’s line-up of open-mic artists is as strong as ever with performances by The Chain, Peter and Susanna, Justin Manville, Two of a Kind, Marian Woods, Andy Kempster, Adam Black and Fran Taylor. You can get a sneak peek of some of their music by checking out the videos below.

 

So we hope you enjoy this month’s Lates and if you have suggestions for activity you’d like to see at future events you can always email them to the team at after-hours@nhm.ac.uk.

 

Check out the website for a full rundown of everything open at Lates on Friday.

 

Andy Glynn

 

 

 

 

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Our art gallery 'Images of Nature' will be closed between 3rd - 12th September 2012 inclusively.

 

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

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To coincide with the new theme of Australian 18th century artwork in the Images of Nature Gallery, our Special Collections Librarian Lisa Di Tommaso and Aboriginal Australian artist Daniel Boyd will be taking part in a Nature Live event on Tuesday 7th February.

 

 

 

 

The Museum holds in its collections fascinating drawings of the Australian landscape and the people of the Eora Nation, seen through the eyes of British settlers. It gives a rare insight into the establishment of the first British penal colony in Port Jackson, from 1788 onwards, and the flora, fauna and people they encountered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an aboriginal man named Balloderree, from the Watling Collection
by Port Jackson painter

Image No.  012058

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Come and join them both discussing their work, learn about this part of Australian history and a chance to see some of these fascinating paintings.

 

 

This event is free and suitable for adults.

 

The talk begins at 14.30 in the Attenborough Studio in the Darwin Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macropus giganteus, eastern gray kangaroo and Xanthorrhoea sp., grasstree

by George Raper

Image No.  015156

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The brand new glossy Winter 2012 edition of the Museum's magazine Evolve is now available to buy.

 

The Library & Archives collections and staff feature in at least three articles!

 

 

The Birds of America - In October 2011 the NHM published a reproduction of John James Audubon's huge work The Birds of America. Learn more about this record breaking book and its author.

 

 

Hoping great things.... the search for early humans - With the 100th anniversary approaching, Karolyn Shindler has been researching the collections relating to the Piltdown Man and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. This is the first of four forthcoming articles.

 

 

 

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Images of Nature: The First Fleet collection - To coincide with the February 2012 change of theme for the Images of Nature art gallery, 18th century Australian artwork, this article is all about the theme, the artists and the artwork.

 

Our Special Collections Librarian, Lisa Di Tommaso has written a publication The Art of the First Fleet all about the unqiue First Fleet artwork collections held in the NHM Library & Archives. Available now from the NHM bookshop.

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Preparations are now well underway for the new Australian theme for the Images of Nature Gallery to open in February 2012.
The original artwork from the Museum Library’s collection that will feature in the gallery was created by those who travelled on board the First Fleet’s ships that sailed to Australia in May 1787, amongst them were seamen and convicts.
These fascinating drawings represent some of the first recorded images of the then unexplored continent.
Seeing the strange new landscapes, peoples, plants and animals through their eyes is a fascinating experience.
To celebrate the new year for the Gallery and the change of the theme, Australian artist Daniel Boyd has created a unique piece that will commemorate the event and the display of such a rare collection of historical artwork:
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Daniel Boyd (left) and staff from the Gasworks Art Gallery, preparing Daniel's art installation to be taken to the Natural History Museum last week
Daniel is a well known young artist, his work raises questions about established notions of the history of Australia and celebrates with gentle irony the expeditions of scientist, sailors and colonizers who opened up the knowledge of the new land to the Europe of the Enlightenment period.
The watercolours in the Gallery rotate every 3 moths within the year, to protect the vibrant and amazing pigments and to give the public an opportunity to see more of our wonderful artwork collections.
2011 was the year of  China, the East India Company and the John Reeves's collection of stunning Zoological and Botanical Chinese watercolours, you still have a chance to catch them until January 2012.
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All change! in Library & Archives

Posted by Andrea Hart Apr 12, 2011

As the new Images of Nature, art gallery has been open for 3 months now, it was time to install the second rotation of drawings from our Reeves collection of Chinese botanical and zoological drawings. It all went very smoothly and all of the illustrations and their description panels were in place with some time to spare before the Museum opened its doors to the Easter holiday crowds.

 

Below is a small selection of the new drawings that are now on display and are freely available to view. We hope you like them!

 

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Top left : Purple heron Ardea purpurea

Top right : Traveller's palm Ravenala madagascariensis

Bottom left : Camellia Camellia japonica

Bottom right : Slow loris Nycticebus coucang

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Hot off the press! A new book published by the Natural History Museum, written by the Library's Special Collections Curator Judith Magee.

 

It focuses on the Library's amazing Reeves artwork collection and coincides with the launch of the Museum's Images of Nature gallery which opened in January 2011.

 

This book can be purchased now from the Museum Bookshop or ordered online.

 

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Free access to art ejournals until 28th Feb!!


Historians and artists as well as scientists make use of our wonderful collections of artwork. The library artworks collections are rich and varied as highlighted in the new museum gallery - Images of Nature.

 

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These beautiful illustrations help to uncover the story of how the natural world was depicted over centuries of scientific investigation. Before the camera artists, such as Sydney Parkinson - a young man who travelled alongside Captain Cook on the first voyage to Australia in 1768, would board ships with bags filled with artists materials in order to document and bring to life these astonishing new lands, animals, plants and peoples for the first time.

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Routledge is making its entire collection of art ejournals freely available for a limited time on Informaworld. There are some excellent articles about natural history art available. Read on and discover more about this fasinating area of research.

 

Here are some pieces to start you off -

 

Nature prints, 18th Century botanical drawings, Art and Science, Landscape history

 

The full list of titles can be accessed here.

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Work for the new gallery is really gathering pace now and most recently Library staff along with one of our paper conservators have been condition reporting every piece that is to feature in the first rotation and undertaking any necessary preparatory work to ensure that the artwork can be displayed without causing any long term damage.
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Hinge removal
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Re-hinging in progress
The main task that needed to be performed, particularly on the larger pieces, was the re-hinging of the artwork to their museum board mounts. For many of the drawings a “V”hinge had been used and whilst this type of hinge has the benefit of being an invisible hinge (i.e. you cannot see it from the front), in the longer term and particularly if the artwork is being displayed upright, it does have the potential to become loose because of the weight and size of the object and cause the original V-hinge to pull away from the board.
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Completed new hinges
We therefore removed all such hinges and replaced them with “T” hinges of Japanese paper and adhered with wheat starch paste (as it is extremely important that any repairs or adjustments can be reversed without causing any damage in the future). Whilst a time consuming task, our efforts will certainly benefit the drawings and their preservation in the future.
Andrea Hart - Assistant Librarian
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Completed artwork
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From 21 January 2011 you can marvel at some of the most beautiful, historic artworks and modern images of nature held by the Museum Library in our newly renovated gallery called Images of Nature.
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The latest edition of Evolve, the Museum's quarterly magazine, is now on sale!

 

Once again we have another great show of articles relating to the Library's collections. A piece by Judith Magee, our Library Special Collections Curator, relating to the new Images of Nature Gallery opening in the New Year. (See our previous blog Images of Nature Gallery.) Alison Harding, Assistant Librarian, tells us about Frederick Du Cane Godman and his legacy to the NHM collections, whilst Karolyn Shindler, NHM Scientific Associate, continues her fasinating series on Richard Owen.

 

Members of the Museum receive Evolve as part of their Membership. But non-members can buy the magazine in our Museum shops (£3.50) or subscribe online.

 

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