To conserve and protect


It’s no surprise that people working in the Museum are rather partial to poking around in dusty storerooms to see what they might find. It’s an extra pleasure then, when we get the chance to do some sniffing about in another museum’s collection and help them with some conservation work at the same time.

Bethany Palumbo examining the collections at Abingdon County Museum

Bethany Palumbo examining the natural history collections at Abingdon County Hall Museum

Our head of Life Collections, Darren Mann, and conservator Bethany Palumbo recently got such an opportunity when they visited Abingdon County Hall Museum to condition-assess some natural history specimens there. The museum wanted to work through the material as part of a larger effort to de-clutter its collections. Bringing in Darren and Bethany helped curators there to work out the value of what they have got.

There were lots of treasures in there. They found an assortment of non-native shells, a large tortoise shell, and many pieces of mammalian sub-fossil dredged from a local river, including pieces of antler and bone. As well as assessing the condition of each item, Bethany and Darren also advised on the potential function within the museum. Specimens without any accompanying data, for example, were separated into a handling collection for use in the museum’s outreach activities.


Working with local museums in this way is a wonderful way to share skills and expertise with other professionals, and helps to build a stronger base of knowledge in the Oxford area. Besides, it’s always cool to see what can be found lurking in an old storeroom or two…

Bethany Palumbo, Conservator of Life Collections
Scott Billings, Communications coordinator

1683 and all that…

16836Just a quick post to say that things are pressing ahead with our Natural Histories exhibition, which is being hosted and co-curated by the Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street.

Jewson delivery

This morning, as I arrived at the MHS, Jewson had just delivered the pre-cut MDF boards that we will use to make various plinths and structures for many of the specimens in the exhibition.

But along with this delivery came a sweet little coincidence; perhaps even a good omen. On one of the Jewson boards the order number had been written in black marker pen and the number, which you can see above, was 16836, tantalisingly close to 1683, the year this building was founded by Elias Ashmole as the original Ashmolean Museum. The ‘6’ is even written just a little bit smaller than the ‘year’.

Given that Natural Histories is partly about a temporary return of Oxford University‘s natural history collections to their original home in the building in Broad Street, this is an unusually apposite order reference.

I don’t know when in 1683 the building opened, but I really hope it was June.

Cheryl helps bring the boards into the Museum of the History of Science

Scott Billings, Communications coordinator