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Rod has been volunteering with us as part of the Wallace Correspondence Project since August 2012. But it isn't until you take the time to sit down and have a chat with him, that you realise we are one of four places he gives his time to.

 

The National Army Museum was the first experience of volunteering that Rod encountered. There is currently a huge behind-the-scenes effort by their staff and volunteers to prepare the Museum for a significant closure for building works. Rod has been working in the Department of Printed of Books, assisting to catalogue, scan, barcode and package a whole variety of material, ready to be moved off site. This has been a fascinating experience and has enabled him to see some very interesting material. A particular highlight has been MOD Army training manuals from the early 20th century, which included procedures for trench design.

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The second place that Rod gives his time to is The Children's Society. His first project with them was to clean and flatten files dating from the 1880s to early 1900s. These related to successful applications made to the Society for individual children to be rehomed, the large majority having had some level of disability. This work was part of a project called 'Including the excluded', which Rod described as very interesting but emotionally charged, because you are learning about the circumstances these children found themselves in.

 

His current project involves going through the Society's quarterly journal and annual reports for the period covering the mid 1960s to the late 1990s, looking for references to specific CS homes and projects. The idea behind this is to build up a timeline of how the Society changed and developed during this time.

 

Rod's third volunteering position is as a reading helper at a primary school in Westminster. Here he supports children on a one to one basis, reading together for 30 minutes, with 3 children twice a week. He recalls on the first day being slightly apprehensive not knowing what to expect and whether the children would like him.  However, once his first day was completed, he couldn't wait to go back!

 

 

His work with us is one day a week for the Wallace Correspondence Project. It involves transcribing letters written by Alfred Russel Wallace to people all around the world, covering a myriad of subjects. He is given a batch at a time to go through, and has strict procedures to follow  in regard to how he types up each transcription. Since starting he estimates he has dealt with approximately 100 letters. Originally Rod completed a Geography degree which included a Geology module which he thoroughly enjoyed. It has been fascinating for Rod to be able to read letters between Wallace and the great names in geology such as Charles Lyell. Rod is well read up in regard to Darwin and evolution, and therefore had a general awareness of who Wallace was, but it wasn’t until he volunteered with us, that he was able to really gain a true understanding of the man himself. One particular set of letters were written to a young entomologist called Frederick Birch, fl.1905, who was working in Trinidad at the time of the correspondence. Rod found it interesting because Wallace is giving his younger counterpart practical tips and advice regarding areas such as getting the right price from dealers and sourcing supplies. Currently we know little about Birch, which is a little frustrating because it would be nice to find out how he got on in his profession. Another interesting example were letters from Wallace as he tried to secure work for his son, having returned from his travels.

 

Whilst working with us, Rod has made sure to take advantage of our temporary exhibitions: in particular he thoroughly enjoyed the Salgado Photography display in 2013, taking his daughter on the Darwin Centre Spirit Tour, and the current Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story Exhibition.

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This week we have 27 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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In March we welcomed Kate to our team as Assistant Archivist. A museum archive is familiar territory for Kate, having joined us from the Royal College of Surgeons and the Hunterian Museum, where for three years she worked as Project Assistant, cataloguing their institutional records. There is much common ground between our two organisations, and consequently she is already familiar with important individuals such as Richard Owen, who became Hunterian Professor (1836) and first Superintendent of British Museum (Natural History) in 1856, which was to later become the NHM.

 

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When walking around the museum there are specimens that she recognises, and a number of NHM staff are already familiar to her as visitors to the Hunterian, researching subjects such as Human Remains.

 

Now that Kate is part of our team, one of the biggest adjustments she has had to make, is getting used the how much bigger we are, both in the number of staff but also the size of the South Kensington site. This is a common problem of being new here, finding your way around in your first few months! She describes her experience of going to attend her first lunchtime staff yoga class, located in the basement as "being like Alice in Wonderland, because I felt like I was going down, down, down!".

 

How did Kate originally find herself becoming interested in the world of archives? As part of her English Literature Degree, she worked on a project to rewrite the guidebook for a National Trust property, and found that she thoroughly enjoyed doing the research. Since then she has obtained an Archives Masters Degree at Liverpool University, so there is no turning back now!!

 

What has the new job involved so far? Her biggest role is to provide access to the Museum's Business Archive, by answering enquiries from both staff and the public, and cataloguing the collection. One example of the latter that she has worked on, is the draft Bird Report by Edward A Wilson, from the Terra Nova Expedition of Antarctica. Sadly Wilson was to later perish there with Captain Scott in 1912. For Kate it was very poignant looking at this collection, which includes some drawings, not just due to the inevitable sad conclusion, but because you are reading some of the very first descriptions and observations of this part of the world.

 

Kate has a particular interest in expeditions, and is very much looking forward to learning more through her work about the museum's role since 1881, in expeditions all over the world.

 

The other major part of her job is to answer enquiries about the archive. Some of the subjects she has handled so far have involved architectural plans for our building, and the provenance of specific specimens from the scientific collections. She has liaised not only with our own staff, but other museum staff and researchers from all over world.

 

She is looking forward to seeing the Mammoths Exhibition, and in July her first visit to our Natural History Museum, Tring.

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Ruth has been with us since mid-January as Archivist for the Wallace Correspondence Project. She is perfectly suited to the role, having joined us from a similar project at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). That project concerned the correspondence of Victorian painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts (1817-1904). Her work involved organising, cataloguing and digitising a collection of 1500 letters. There are comparisons to be drawn between Watts and Alfred Russel Wallace. Both came from a poor background, became social reformers, their interests were much wider than just the study of the arts or natural history, and since the popularity of their day, are now relatively less known.

 

Ruth's first introduction to using archives came whilst completing her BA in History during 2005, which inspired her to apply for a post at Lambeth Palace Library. This interest encouraged her to undertake a Archives Records Management MA at UCL, where her dissertation studied black, minority and ethnic archives.

 

Since Ruth has taken over as Archivist to the Wallace Correspondence project, more than 40 extra letters have been added to the online collection. One of her main responsibilities is to increase the total number that have been transcribed: currently nearly 50% have been. As well as her own contributions, she manages a team of volunteer transcribers and proof reading their work before they are added to the website.

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Each year for two weeks during the summer, the Library & Archives hosts a group of Harvard students as part of their 8 week summer school programme here in the UK. So in July, Ruth will provide the next group of students with a chance to learn about the work of Wallace, by meeting scientists and specimens behind the scenes and giving them each a selection of letters to transcribe. At the end of their visit, these will then be proof read and added to the online resource.

 

Part of Ruth's role includes finding letters in other repositories and arranging for scans of letters to be included in the Wallace Correspondence Project.

 

 

 

An exciting development is that one of Wallace's notebooks from Rio Negro, which is extremely faint and therefore illegible, is being sent to the British Library (BL) to be scanned on their new spectral imaging machine. This technique was used by the BL for their Livingstone Project. Once this is complete Ruth will ensure it is added to the website, making it accessible to all.

Currently Ruth is preparing extra unpublished material including some drawings, from the Wallace collection held in the Library & Archives, to be scanned in-house and added.

 

With a zoologist mother and geologist sister, Ruth was already immersed in the world of natural history, but has already learnt a lot through her work here. She grew up in London and of course visited the museum as a child, but "it's so cool going behind the scenes and being here before the museum opens its doors to the public each day!".  Some of her highlights are the stain glass windows in the Central Hall, the Herbarium, the Bird Gallery and the Wildlife Garden. She, along with many others, is looking forward to seeing the new Mammoths exhibition.

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This week we have 29 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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This week we have 20 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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by Konstantina Konstantinidou

Paper Conservator

 

 

 

Check it, pack it, wrap it, seal it. Relax at business lounge. Ensure it's in the same plane with you, and then relax. 20 + hours later... Unwrap it, unpack it, check it, and see it safely put in place.

 

 

The Art Gallery of Ballarat (Victoria, Australia) has installed a new exhibition For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation celebrating the influence of Scotland in Australia, by uniting items from across Australia and beyond. The exhibition explores the way Scottish people and culture have influenced the development of the Australian nation.

 

The Gallery have done a great job bringing together a varied international collection to tell this part of the country's cultural history, many of which have never been seen alongside each other. The Natural History Museum Library & Archives were very happy to contribute 8 watercolours by Thomas Watling (c1767-1797), from Dumfries.  Watling arrived in Australia with the First Fleet, not as an artist however, but as a convicted forger.

 

 

 

 

 

So, finally, the Watling drawings are back in Australia, and on the opening night find themselves displayed in front of viewers dressed in tartan and all things Scottish, and suddenly they fall into place. Mission accomplished, and now the long journey home.

 

More information about the First Fleet Collection and specifically The Watling Collection.

 

 

The exhibition runs until 27th July 2014.

For more information follow The Art Gallery of Ballarat via Twitter @artgalbal

 

(Many thanks to The Art Gallery of Ballarat for the use of their images from Twitter.)

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This week we have 17 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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by Paul Henderson

(Professor at UCL and Scientific Associate, NHM)

 

This passport dated 15 June 1820 is for James De Carle Sowerby (1787-1871) to go to Paris via Dieppe. He was accompanying his sister Charlotte who was to stay in Paris for some weeks to learn French and presumably to help establish relationships between some French natural historians and the Sowerbys. James had left Paris by 16 July 1820 to return home. Charlotte returned home in October.


After an initial stay in a hotel, it was arranged for Charlotte  to lodge with an old military man, Monsieur Barzentin. His home was very close to that of Monsieur Dufresne (naturaliste-en-chef au Muséum d’histoire naturelle) who, with his family, kept a friendly eye on matters. The cost was £5 per month. She would have her own room and “will board with the family with the liberty of choosing tea or coffee”.


Soon after their arrival, James wrote to his father (James Sowerby 1757-1822) on 25 June 1820 to say “Mdme Dufresne & her daughter will lend their assistance in supplying Charlotte with fashions and making purchases for her so that she may not be imposed upon by the tradesfolk of Paris who charge the English frequently double price.”


On 1 August 1820 he wrote (now from London) to Charlotte to tell her that their father was unhappy with the cost of her stay in Paris and refuses her money to buy a watch.

 

 

 

Dates: James De Carle Sowerby was the oldest son of James Sowerby and Anne De Carle – born 5 June 1787. Charlotte Ann was the eighth and penultimate child, born 26 April 1802. 

 

 

Prof Henderson is currently writing a biography on James Sowerby to be published next year. The piece of ephemera referred to here is one small example from the Sowerby Family manuscript collection that we hold here at the Library & Archives. The collection includes a significant amount of correspondence and family papers, documents relating to specific Sowerby publications, drawings, biographical materials and portraits.

 

 

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This week we have 43  new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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On 3rd March we welcomed Rachael Gibson into our team as the Departmental Coordinator for the Library & Archives. Rachael graduated from Liverpool University in May last year with an English Degree and now, whilst working in her part time post with us, is embarking on the road to a PhD. She has a huge love of poetry and, as a result, her subject of choice is Christina Rossetti, a nineteenth century poet. It was a Victorian module during her degree that originally introduced her to Christina and, finding there wasn’t much information to hand about her, became increasingly fascinated. “Christina was single all her life, but was actually proposed to 3 times in 2 years!”. Now Rachael has set herself a personal challenge to complete her PhD.

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Rachael joins the NHM with a love of travelling, having lived in both Mexico and Barcelona. She spent just under a year in Mexico teaching English and one year teaching and tutoring in Barcelona. This city was her favourite, although after six years she admits her Spanish is a little rusty!

 

When her family moved to the South East, Rachael recalls as a seven year old the Natural History Museum was the first place visited in London. “I remember thinking how pretty the building was and how lovely it would be to live there!”.  She remembers seeing Dippy, but not going to the Whale Hall.

 

 

 

 

She also has  memories of seeing cased butterflies and being fascinated that she could get so close to them, not like the ones back in her garden at home. Rachael was therefore so excited when she came back all those years later for her interview, and now since starting work, she has redressed the balance and visited the Blue Whale and wants to try and be proactive in her lunch break visiting all the public galleries, including our art gallery Images of Nature. In particular she is very much looking forward to the May opening of the new Mammoth Exhibition.

 

Since starting, Rachael has had to learn a lot, including a new finance system that went live only a few weeks ago, so definitely a good time to have started. She has also introduced a new fortnightly internal staff newsletter, encouraging our busy department to keep up to date with everything that we are all doing.  As Departmental Coordinator Rachael is responsible for the day to day smooth running of the L&A in a role similar to a secretary. This includes; arranging meetings, taking minutes, organising paperwork and emails, and liaising with other Coordinator’s in different departments. All this involves visiting  the many different parts of the museum, and Rachael has had to learn her way around the building as quickly as possible, which is not easy with such a large site. She admits to having copious notes to help her remember where to find everyone.

 

Welcome to the team!

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This week we have 17 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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This week we have 15 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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This week we have 12 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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This week we have 10 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.


If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment library@nhm.ac.uk or 020 7942 5460

 

The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website

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