I’ve spent the last two days at the annual conference of the Natural Sciences Collections Association. It was, admittedly, something of a busman’s holiday for me, especially as it was partly hosted by the museum in which I work (the wonderful Horniman Museum), but it was a great couple of days spent learning useful things, talking to lovely people, and eating surprisingly good food…institutional catering is always somewhat variable, but both the Horniman and the Grant Museum put on an excellent spread!
The theme of the conference this year was ‘Use It or Lose It’, and many of the talks focused on public engagement, the importance of collections for research (and the importance of research on collections), and the use of museum objects for teaching. With the focus of the Museums Association having been on the active use of collections (through the Effective Collections project, which is just coming to a close) and the disposal of objects that are not used (see the MA’s Disposal Toolkit) over the last few years, these talks were all very timely and raised a lot of important points about how we use collections and why/how we value them.
In addition to talks, there were also lots of tours available during the conference, including a the chance to see the Crystal Palace Park dinosaurs in the company of the extremely knowledgeable Dr Joe Cain, head of the Department of Science and Technology Studies at UCL. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, we had ice cream, and Waterhouse-Hawkins’ dinosaur models are absolutely amazing. We also had the opportunity to see the Petrie Museum, and parts of the Wellcome Collection, both of which were extremely impressive. I’ll have to go back to the Wellcome sometime for a proper look around, and to see their new Brains exhibition.
I took a large number of photos during the conference, especially of the dinosaurs, so I will stop typing now and let you look at pretty things (NB: if you see yourself in a photo and would rather not, let me know and I’ll remove it!)…