I Belong in a Museum

In 2008, Kat Bolstad visited the British Museum of Natural History in London and shared her experience with the TONMO community.

by Kat Bolstad (tintenfisch)
Last updated: Dec 2008

I would love to conduct a study on the different associations people have with the word 'museum.' Dusty historical dioramas? Vivid paintings? Curious antiquities? Dinosaurs? Lady Elaine Fairchild? Visitors' guides generally list museums among the local attractions for any given region, but I suspect this is often a cover-all-bases strategy, as if to say, 'there are some cultural relics over there for you three die-hard enthusiasts [yawn], but over here is DISNEY WORLD!'

Last year, in the course of completing a world-wide study on a particular squid group, I was fortunate enough to visit ten natural history museums in seven countries. Some collections I had visited previously, but many were new to me - in fact, many of the host countries were new to me. And while I looked forward to exploring these new places in my scattered days off and a few stolen afternoons, mostly I was eager to head behind the scenes, crack the lids off jars that hadn't been opened in thirty to a hundred years, and peer inside. Not surprisingly, the public displays in many natural history museums run along common themes. Evolution galleries, glass cases of beautifully pinned butterflies and iridescent beetles, the obligatory weird-looking taxidermied mammals, and stone artifacts from early civilizations with some visual representation of where in the grand scheme of geological time man actually appeared. (I believe, if Earth's history were compressed into 24 hours, man evolved at approximately 23:59:55.)

Behind the scenes there are also...
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About the Author
Tintenfisch
Kat joined the TONMO.com staff in November 2002. She completed her PhD thesis (Systematics of the Squid Family Onychoteuthidae Gray, 1847) and graduated in 2008 from the EOS Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand). She is now a Research Fellow in EOS, and also works at Kelly Tarlton's, the local aquarium in Auckland. Originally from Minnesota, she has spent recent years variously visiting overseas squid collections, diving, teaching ecology, biology and German. Her previous marine experience includes a semester at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian) studying isopod systematics, three years at the New England Aquarium working on lobster and jellyfish husbandry, and a behavioral field study on Hector's Dolphin in Akaroa, New Zealand.

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