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Amazonia... it's art

Posted by Rose Sep 30, 2010

Everyone's being asking me 'what is Amazonia?' So, rather belatedly, let me introduce you to the Museum's latest contemporary art exhibition which will be opening next week on Wednesday 6 October.

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More than 100 tiny toy animals adorn the exhibition's centrepiece boat sculpture, Madre de Dios - Fluval Intervention Unit

 

The Amazonia exhibition was commissioned by the Museum in our International Year of Biodiversity from artists Lucy + Jorge Orta who are known for their art projects with an environmental focus. The artists travelled to the Peruvian rainforest in 2009, joining a scientific expedition, and this inspired their bright and beautiful exhibition here.

 

I had a quick peek in the Jerwood gallery this morning. The artists are here (their studio is in France) busily installing their sculptures, photographs and video projection and it looks fantastic already. From huge decorative porcelain eggs and big bright aluminium bones (below) to gorgeous flower photographs and the centrepiece of the Madre de Dios boat installation with its 100 or more tiny animals, it bustles with life - and death - in the natural world.

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The large 2-screen video installation wasn't quite set up when I visited the gallery, so in the meantime, catch some extracts of the Amazonia video projection that we've just added to the website.

 

Bergit Arends, our Contemporary Arts Curator and organiser of the exhibition, tells me that this one is also special because it's the last to be staged in the Jerwood Gallery.

 

Catch Amazonia if you can, it's free and only here for a short while until 12 December. The Jerwood gallery is in Dinosaur Way just before you enter the Darwin Centre.

 

Watch out for more exhibition gallery highlights on the website next week.

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Our After Hours: Science Uncovered festival is about to start in a few hours. Scientists are gathering their special specimens together in preparation for their shifts in the Central Hall's science stations and adjoining galleries.

 

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We've had some really fabulous coverage this morning and over the last few days. Tonight's event was even on the BBC homepage this morning! Have a look at some of the recent media online to catch a glimpse of the amazing adventures coming your way tonight and see why everyone's raving about it.

 

BBC Today programme online - Night in the museum in pictures


BBC News online - Inside UK forensic insects team

 

BBC Online video - How flies help homicide detectives

 

BBC Today programme - Tom Fielden's blog

 

To recap on the main attractions, we have 3 bars open including The Science Bar and Hendrick's Bar of Curious Concoctions, more than 50 scientists hosting different activities, 100s of star specimens, 26 exclusive Museum tours, 9 science stations, and the Natural History Roadshow. And Cocoon will be open.

 

Especially for families, at the start of the festival this afternoon, we have the Animal Vision show and pond-dipping in the Wildlife Garden. Have a look at the full list of What's on at Science Uncovered.

 

Remember you can download the Science Uncovered map and leaflet to find out where things are.

 

ah-science-zoom.jpgThe spirit of the Science Uncovered night continues online Here you can keep up to date with discussions, blogs, post pics and follow-up on the event, even if you didn't make it.

 

Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night 2010.

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It's only 3 days to go till our After Hours: Science Uncovered big night this Friday, 24 September, and the last operational plans are in frantic motion.

 

Yesterday was the dress rehearsal for scientists to bring out their star specimens and run through setting up the event's science stations in the Central Hall. The 9 Face to Face science stations are mostly located in the Museum's Central Hall bays. Each represents one of the Museum's main science departments and will showcase specimens from our collections and their research.

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Left: This complete skull of the female Yangtze River dolphin (also known as Baiji), was collected from Tung Ting Lake in 1922. It is on show at Science Uncovered and measures 54cm long and has 36 pairs of teeth in its upper and lower jaws.
Right: A live Chinese River dolphin rescued from the Yangtze River in 1980. She died in 2002. AFP/Getty Images

 

At the science stations you'll find some truly precious and extraordinary specimens to explore and discuss face to face with our experts. Many have never been on public display before. It's vital that they are handled securely and the timings of the rota of exhibits runs to schedule. During the evening from 16.00 onwards, different scientists with their different chosen specimens will alternate on shift

 

Of special interest will be the complete skull of the now-extinct Yangtze River dolphin (above) on display at the Zoology Station, courtesy of our renowned mammals curator Richard Sabin. This rare female skull came into the Museum's collection in 1922. There are only a few specimens of this extinct species in museums worldwide, so preserving it is crucial. This is what Richard has to say about the Yangtze River dolphin skull:

 

'The reason I am showcasing this specimen is to highlight how the nature of museum collections and specimens can change, and how they reflect what is taking place in the world. The extinction of a large marine mammal is not only a sad loss to biodiversity, it is also a shock that you cannot adequately prepare yourself for. As curator of marine mammals, I am at a loss to express how I feel about never being able to see this species in the wild. The specimen will be used to investigate the genetic make-up of the species, which will hopefully provide data that can be used to help conserve other closely-related cetacean species.'

 

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Other Zoology Station treats include a skull of a lion kept at the Tower of London more than 500 years ago. The lions were part of the Royal Menagerie, or zoo. And Richard is also going to show some of the Museum's mummified cats (right)... I did say there would be beauties and beasts, didn't I? Our Head of zoology collections Clare Valentine will also be featuring some unusual sponges (below).

 

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Insect lovers should head off to the Past and Present Insects Station in Fossil Way for the chance to meet live creatures like the rather pretty Therea petiveriana, Domino Cockroach (pictured left), which our entomologist Ed Baker will be bringing along. These cockroaches are often kept as pets. Ed is joined by palaeontologist David Nicholson who will also present some 100-million-year-old insect fossil specimens.

 

Meteorite fans should check out the Mineralogy Station in the Central Hall. We'll have a piece of the very rare Allende carbonaceous chrondrite meteorite (below) that fell as a huge fireball in Mexico in 1969. The Museum has about 5,000 meteorite samples, which hold secrets of the formation of the solar system.

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We hear mutterings that Alan Hart, who is leading The Vault gallery tours, will be showing some excavated Devonshire gold at the Mineralogy Station.

 

sponge-800.jpgTomatoes and poisonous algae are just a few of the botanical delights at the Botany Station, including an actual old-fashioned plant press.

 

And there is the enigma of the giant beasts on the Dinosaurs and Whale Hall torchlit gallery tours, with the chance to learn about identifying worms at the Natural History Roadshow in Dinosaur Way.

 

Moving over to the Darwin Centre Forensics Station, you'll be able to glimpse the first maggots used as forensic evidence (below) to convict a criminal in a court of law. This formed part of the famous 1935 Ruxton murder case.


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In short, 100s of star specimens and gallery treasures await you at Science Uncovered. This is your chance to witness them close up with the people who know them best.

 

After Hours: Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night.

 

Read the latest news story about some of these rare specimens at Science Uncovered

 

Here are some links to related news stories about a few of these specimens that might also be of interest:

 

Did Egyptian mummification lead to the domestic cat? - news story

The Tower of London lion origins revealed - news story

Museum insect detectives join forensic team - news story

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

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On Friday 24 September, 2 weeks from now, we are planning our biggest-ever after hours event, Science Uncovered. It promises to be an amazing science festival and more.

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The Museum opens its doors until 22.00 on Friday 24 September for its biggest-ever After Hours

If you've ever wanted to visit the Museum for an evening drink and never quite made it, this is the night you should come.

 

As well as being a historic, atmospheric venue for Friday night drinks, it's the perfect event to recapture your first vivid Museum encounters as a child, like T.rex and the blue whale. As well as discover new treasures and the latest scientific and natural history research going on behind the scenes.


The event is free and the Museum's doors will stay open until 22.00. Although it's mainly for adults, there are earlier family events and shows starting about 16.00 in the afternoon. Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night happening across Europe, so on the night there will be over 200 cities in Europe having their own celebrations.

 

You'll find all the details of the event on our Science Uncovered website. But in a nutshell here's what's happening:

 

We'll have 3 bars open, 26 exclusive Museum tours you can join, 9 science stations around the Central Hall to stop by and meet scientists and explore 'star' specimens, 5 special nature talks in the Darwin Centre Attenborough Studio and a Natural History Roadshow in Dinosaur Way.

 

Over 50 of our scientists and curators are your friendly hosts throughout the evening.

 

In the next 2 weeks you'll be hearing more about the exciting and inspiring things to enjoy on the night.

 

One of the special attractions of our big event is The Science Bar in the Central Hall Cafe. Here you can join scientists for a drink at tables, in an informal atmosphere, and chat about hot science topics listed on the menu cards at the tables. You'll also be able to chat with scientists face-to-face at a variety of science stations that you'll find around the Central Hall and in the Darwin Centre and Fossil Way.

 

Before you come, maybe think about some questions you've always wanted to ask a scientist or curator. This is your chance to ask them face to face. But don't worry if you haven't got any questions, the night is for you to enjoy the galleries and listen in too.

 

Here are just a few of the scientists you may bump into during the evening.

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At the Science Bar. L to r: Roland Jenner, zoologist, on 'Is science noble?'. Karen James, botanist, on 'What stops women in science?'. Paul Taylor, palaeontologist, on 'Are we in the midst of a mass extinction?' Amoret Whitaker, forensic entomologist, on 'Would you donate your body to a body farm?'

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Face to Face science stations. L to r: Richard Sabin, mammals curator, zoology station. Sandy Knapp, botanist, botany station. Eva Valsami-Jones, nanosciences researcher, European Researchers' station. Mike Rumsey, mineralogist, mineralogy station.

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Museum tours. L to r: Alan Hart, mineralogist, The Vault gallery. Susie Maidment, palaeontology researcher, Dinosaurs torchlit tour. Roberto Miguez, zoologist, Whale Hall tour. Alex Martin, science lab manager, DNA lab tour.

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Scientists talks. L to r: Jon Ablett, zoology curator, The Giant Squid. Heather Bonney, human remains palaeontologist, A Body of Evidence. Geoff Boxshall, zoologist, Life in the Oceans. Adrian Glover, marine biologist, Mysteries of the Deep.

 

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Return of the sheep

Posted by Rose Sep 8, 2010

Remember the Dartmoor Tor family who grazed in the Wildlife Garden last year? They're back and they're larger, woollier and hungrier than ever before. Since their return last week, Bella and Bee with Little Mis have lost no time in eating the leaves of their favourite trees. Which is great news, says Caroline the garden's manager, as there's now a lot more light on the horizon at the edge of the meadow.

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Bella, her half-sister Little Mis and Bee, Bella's little one who's now 16 months old, in the Wildlife Garden meadow

 

Our 3 Greyface Dartmoors spent last year at the London Wetland Centre, with extended family members Kitty and Honey (part of the Wildlife Garden Tor sheep fraternity), grazing the meadows and the islands of the beautiful wetland reserve. The sheep were all shorn in May, but are looking large and woolly again.

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The Wildlife Garden's meadow and chalk downland will be grazed by our sheep over the coming weeks and their trampling actions help seeds to germinate.

 

When I visited the garden to greet the sheep, I also spotted a tiny frog jumping in the meadow with them, several wood mice scampering by the secluded logpile, some beautiful dragonflies on the fence and a family of humans investigating the Bee Tree. Have a look at the garden's Recent sightings sign below to see what's around.

 

Find out about the Wildlife Garden

 

Read last year's sheep blog

 

Discover the London Wetland Centre

 

Images: Bella's shaggy smile. Garden's Recent Sightings sign, below.  Click on the images to enlarge them. Thanks to Matt for them.

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Today I entered the dark, spooky walkways of The Deep Sea exhibtion for one last time to marvel at the beasts and the beauties of this weird underwater world we re-created in our Waterhouse gallery. It seems like yesterday that I first encountered them and I can't quite believe the exhibition closes this Sunday on 5 September.

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If you haven't been already, this is your last chance to go. Here's a reminder of some of the exhibition highlights

 

The exhibition has been a really successful one for the Museum attracting many more visitors in the summer holidays than we'd ever envisaged.

 

So what happens next to these creatures of the deep that we've had in our midst?

 

specimen-fish.jpgThe giant sperm whale bones are going into the expert hands of our Mammals curator, Richard Sabin for further research. All our own fishy specimens and HMS Challenger exhibits return to their Museum cribs after a bit of tender loving care and a check-up  And most of the other deep sea models, including the submersible, will swim over to Dresden for their next exhibition appearance.

 

It takes about 2 to 3 weeks to dismantle everything I'm told. Then, it's all hands on deck for setting up the next Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in the gallery space. This opens on 22 October. More about that coming soon.