Living Worlds/ Nature’s Library volunteer handling collection

Figure 1: The ever popular fox will remain part of the Living Worlds/ Nature's Library handling collection.

Figure 1: The ever popular fox will remain part of the Living Worlds/ Nature’s Library handling collection.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on a small project in relation to the opening of the new Nature’s Library gallery.  The project has been to refresh the objects offered as part of the Living Worlds (and now Nature’s Library too) volunteer handling table.  The handling tables, as you may have seen in some of my earlier posts, are very popular amongst visitors, and the volunteers enjoy hosting them throughout the week.

Figure 2: The rabbit is also another popular object.

Figure 2: The rabbit is also another popular object.

In order to tie in with the opening of Nature’s Library, I was invited by David to produce a training booklet and run a training course for the volunteers.  The first task I needed to do was to select the objects.  This involved working with the curators of all the natural science collections (zoology, botany, entomology, and earth sciences) to come up with suitable objects.  Most of the objects I selected were approved by both the curators and conservation, who needed to make sure they were robust enough to stand up to being handled by visitors.

Figure 3: The sea beans or drift fruit as they're sometimes called, are great tactile objects to use on a handling table

Figure 3: The sea beans or drift fruit as they’re sometimes called, are great tactile objects to use on a handling table

The final object selections were: red fox, rabbit, sea beans/ drift fruit, coco de mer seed pod (both of which I’d experienced using on a handling table before), Giant African longhorn beetle (as featured in a previous blog post), and an ammonite.

Figure 4: Hopefully we'll soon have a coco de mer seed pod like this to use on the handling table (the ones currently in the collection are going to be displayed on Nature's Library).

Figure 4: Hopefully we’ll soon have a coco de mer seed pod like this to use on the handling table (the ones currently in the collection are going to be displayed on Nature’s Library).

It was great to be able to include things from all the different collection areas.  The beetle, sea beans and ammonite are in a box to protect them but the sea beans and ammonite can also be touched.

Figure 5: The giant African longhorn beetle has fantastically long antennae!

Figure 5: The giant African longhorn beetle has fantastically long antennae!

The training booklet I prepared gave an introduction to Living Worlds and Nature’s Library; gave a bit of information about what the different galleries were about; and also listed a ‘mock conversation’ detailing some of the questions that visitors might ask about Nature’s Library.

Figure 6: This ammonite is 160 million years old!

Figure 6: This ammonite is 160 million years old!

I then took a photo of all the different objects and wrote a short biography of each of them and posed some questions the volunteers could ask visitors to aid them with their engagement.

The training on the day itself was given by myself and Irit from conservation.  Irit went through how to handle the objects correctly before I went through the booklet with the volunteers.  We then shared the objects out and engineered a role play.  I was pleased the volunteers were so receptive to the new objects and hope they enjoy using them on their handling tables in the future.

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About Trainee Curator

I will be writing a blog about the next twelve months spent as a trainee biological curator based at Manchester Museum.
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