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Curator of Micropalaeontology's blog

2 Posts tagged with the christmas_card_slides_foraminfera tag
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Last month a new temporary display featuring some of our foraminiferal specimens and models was placed in the Museum gallery. This features real microfossils on one of our foraminiferal Christmas card slides alongside 20 scale models, part of a set of 120 models generously donated to us last year by Chinese scientist Zheng Shouyi.

 

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Senior Microfossil Curator Steve Stukins admiring some of the specimens and models on display and thinking "this is a much better place for them than the Curator of Micropalaeontology's office!"

 

As a curator dealing with items generally a millimetre or less in size I have not often been involved in developing exhibits other than to provide images or scale models like the Blaschka glass models of radiolarians. Displaying magnified models is one of the best ways to show the relevance of some of the smallest specimens in the Museum collection, the beauty and composition of foraminifera and to highlight our unseen collections.

 

This display features one of our most treasured items, a slide with microscopic foraminifera arranged in patterns to spell out the words 'XMAS 1912'.

 

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A festive slide of foraminifera created by Arthur Earland.

 

This was created by Arthur Earland for his long time collaborator Edward Heron-Allen. A previous blog tells of the sad end to the relationship between these two early 20th Century foraminiferal experts, a story that featured in the Independent under the heading 'shell loving scientists torn apart by mystery woman'.

 

The slide itself is amazingly beautiful under the microscope and a close up view (see above) is shown on the back board of the exhibit. The naked eye can show the arrangement of the specimens on the slide but cannot really pick out the beauty of the foraminifera. I was at a collections management conference about a year ago where it was suggested that the public feel duped by seeing models rather than real specimens on display. In this instance, the scale models serve to show the beauty as well as to enhance the relevance of the real specimens on display.

 

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Foraminiferal models by Alcide d'Orbigny that also feature in the display.

 

French scientist d'Orbigny (1802-1857) was the first to recognise that creating models was a good way to show his studies on the foraminifera. These models were created to illustrate the first classification of the foraminifera, a group that at the time were classified as molluscs.

 

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A selection of Zheng Shouyi's models of foraminifera.


Chinese scientist Zheng Shouyi was inspired by d'Orbigny to create models of foraminifera to illustrate her work and to show the beauty of the Foraminifera. Of the 120 models she donated to us in 2014, 20 have been carefully selected for this exhibit. The selection shows a variety of different wall structures, a range of shapes, species for which we have the type specimen as well as some species of planktonic foraminifera relevant to current research at the Museum. Zheng Shouyi is also famous for encouraging and overseeing the production of the world's first foraminiferal sculpture park in Zhongshan, China.

 

If you are able to pop into the Museum, please come and see this free display. It is situated just after the exit from the dinosaur exhibition on the opposite wall to the dino shop. We can't promise any giant scuptures but I'm sure that you'll agree that these models certainly illustrate the beauty and help to explain the relevance of some of the smallest specimens hidden behind the scenes at the Museum.

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Microfossil Christmas cards

Posted by Giles Miller Dec 20, 2011

At this time of year it is customary to exchange Christmas cards so I thought I would post some images of some 'Christmas Card' slides from our collections. A slide was exchanged each Christmas between Edward Heron-Allen (1861-1943) and Arthur Earland (1866-1958) until they fell out in about 1933. The circular views are about the size of a thumb print so you an imagine the time it took to create each one by carefully selecting, laying out and sticking down individual foraminiferal microfossils.

 

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The 1912 slide with the initials AE (Arthur Earland) clearly visible as well as the date. Written on the cardboard of the slide is "Xmas 1912 Prosit! AE"

 

Edward Heron-Allen, a Lawyer by profession, had an unpaid position at the British Museum (Natural History) and was allowed a room in which he was able to study the Foraminifera. He was responsible for gathering much of the early microfossil collection as well as a vast library of foraminiferal books which he donated to the museum. They are now housed, along with more recent microfossil library acquisitions in the 'Heron-Allen Library'.

 

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Details of the 1921 slide. On the card surround is written "Greetings from AE Xmas 1921"

 

Arthur Earland and Edward Heron-Allen collaborated for over 25 years, most notably publishing on the Foraminifera of the Antarctic expedition of the Terra Nova (the expedition also known as Scott's Last Expedition). In around 1933 they had a number of misunderstandings and subsequently fell out. These slides and the archives of letters and books in the Heron-Allen Library here at the Museum hide many interesting historical details. The collections are consulted by social historians as well as scientists for that reason.

 

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Details of a slide given to Heron-Allen by Arthur Earland in 1922.

 

Edward Heron-Allen had many interests including violin making! (As a violinist myself I would love to have a go on one of his violins). The web site of the Heron-Allen Society lists his interests: violins, palmistry, Persian texts, Selsey, esoteric fiction and asparagus. More details about Heron-Allen can be found by joining the Heron-Allen Society. I shall be providing more details about Heron-Allen and the the foraminiferal collections via this blog. In the meantime I wish you all a very happy Christmas!



Giles Miller

Giles Miller

Member since: Apr 21, 2010

This is Giles Miller's Curator of Micropalaeontology blog. I make the Museum micropalaeontology collections available to visitors from all over the world, publish articles on the collections, give public talks and occasionally make collections myself.

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