Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum (part of the University of Manchester) is undertaking a study, funded by the British Ecological Society, that aims to help strengthen and develop UK natural sciences collections as a research-useful infrastructure in support of nature conservation and ecological research.  The methodology draws on Prof Bill Sutherland’s ‘100 questions’ approach, which identified a number of key research areas that would help progress environmental research and the conservation of global biodiversity. The project asks relevant researchers, policy makers and funders which of these research areas they think museums either do, or could, support; responses are individual, not organisational/institutional. This helps shape a more strategic approach to the development of collections, and the training and development of researchers and museum curators, through a greater shared awareness of the research potential, and development needs of collections, researchers and curators.  Information is gathered through Survey Monkey and this is an invitation to take part.  Henry says that the questionnaire will take about 10 minutes to complete, and can be saved and returned to.

The rationale is as follows:

UK museums contain roughly 140 million natural history specimens (c.80 million in the Natural History Museum, and 60 million in other museums). Most of these were collected from 1800 onwards, with the majority dating from c.1850–1950. These collections include mammal and bird study skins, taxidermy mounts, bones, pinned insects, dried molluscs and other invertebrates, dried plants, lichens and fungi, specimens on microscope slides and preserved in alcohol/formalin, as well as fossils, rocks and minerals. The great majority of these specimens have data on where they were collected, when and who by.  A great deal of research use is made of these collections, especially in national and university museums, but many collections are underused.

This project seeks to understand what researchers, policy makers, wildlife managers and curators consider the research use and potential of collections to be, and the results will help establish a collaborative agenda for collections use, development, and training for researchers, policy makers, practitioners and curators, and help support the ongoing usefulness of these collections as a research infrastructure in support of nature conservation, ecological research, and environmental management.

The research will form the basis of reports and publication[s] in 2019–20, and to make recommendations to the museum sector, BES, funders and research agencies/councils. Data will not be attributable to individuals or organisations without their consent, nor will it be shared with third parties. Data will be stored securely and archived by the University of Manchester.

Further information is available from Henry McGhie BSc MA AMA| Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology | Manchester Museum | The University of Manchester | Oxford Road | Manchester | M13 9PL | 0161 275 2482 | www.manchester.ac.uk/museum