There more than 100 natural history collections across Wales, containing a fantastic record of Welsh (and international) fauna, flora and geology. Many of these collections go back to the early 19th century. They are an irreplaceable resource for public exhibitions, teaching and scientific research. These collections include some real jewels, such as a King Penguin from the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica more than 100 years ago, an early Neolithic bone flute, and a 19th century turnspit dog (stuffed).
One of the best ways scientists and researchers can gather information about the importance of our environment is through studying museum collections. For example, biological specimens are used to study changes in biodiversity over time, and geological specimens can help us understand climate change. Preserving these collections is an absolute necessity. If a 200-year-old collection can tell us something about how to save the environment tomorrow, it has to be worth preserving.
Unfortunately, many natural science collections across Wales are at real risk of deterioration. The only subject specialists in Wales work at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. This means that many museums do not have the knowhow to interpret their collections to their full potential, some collections are neglected and museum visitors do not get to see everything they possibly could.
A new project is now trying to address this issue. The Linking Natural Science Collections project will review a large part of the Welsh natural history collections and combine them – at least in the virtual reality of the internet – by bringing together collections records in an online database. This means that all the individual collections across Wales can then be treated as pieces of one large natural science collection. These collections will therefore form part of a Distributed National Collection – a concept from the Welsh government’s Museum Strategy.
The project will conclude after three years with a touring exhibition of spectacular or significant natural science objects from across Wales. There will also be many other benefits, for example training for curators who will then be able to better understand and use their collections, and to share their knowledge with museum visitors and users.
If you have a natural sciences collection or are interested in knowing more about this project please get in touch with the project manager, who is based at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (firstname.lastname@example.org).