We've just had the pleasure of showing 41 teenagers (16-19yrs old) behind the scenes in the Library. Each year the Museum takes part in the Young Graduate for Museums and Galleries (YGMG) programme and we are always really impressed by their reaction when they see some of the special material we get out for them in the Library. The project gives high-achieving young people from different backgrounds the chance to see behind the scenes in Museums and Galleries across the country. They go to seminars, workshops and open days and are given the chance to complete a two week internship in the institution of their choice.
This year we displayed a mix of gems from our collections including Charles Darwin's manuscript pages of Origin of Species, the Library's oldest book (dated 1469) and designs for terracotta figures drawn by the architect of the NHM, Alfred Waterhouse.
It is always really interesting to see how the group react when they are presented with our treasures and what kinds of questions they ask, and this year was no exception. They were fascinated with the cover of the old book rather than what it contained, particularly the vellum covering and metal hinges, and took pictures with their mobiles! When we showed them the designs by Waterhouse of the Museum building, they promised to make sure they’d have a good look at the animals in the architecture as many of them hadn’t noticed them when they arrived. With the Darwin material, there were many comments on the state of his handwriting.
At one point we had a discussion about how many of them kept personal diaries and how today's 'Darwin' was probably tweeting, blogging and emailing, and therefore in the future there could be less handwritten notes and sketches as they saw in front of them.
A really bright group of teenagers and as always a pleasure to show round (especially when they gave us a round of applause!).