Research and Inspiration / The Natural History Museum

Final Major project, Inventivity / Level 6, Visual Research and Inspiration

As I research for my FMP one of the places I couldn’t miss is the Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum is one of the largest collections of Entomology, Zoology, Palaeontology and Mineralogy in the world. Cabinets of Curiosities are based on a deep desire to understand the world around us, through collecting natural and man made wonders and the layouts that tell stories through these objects. I have always had a love of collecting and the items I collect play a large role in inspiring and driving my creative practice forward. Which is part of the reason that I have chosen to focus these Cabinets of curiosities as my FMP theme.

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Within the Natural History Museum you can view thousands of natural collections from across the globe which tell the story of the human quest for knowledge and understanding of the world we inhabit. I think this need to know more about the world is inherently human and part of what makes our species so special. My favourite collection is the Entomology exhibit which is the oldest, largest and most important collection of insects in the world today.

Coleoptera specimens

“Gathered over 300 years, these specimens are key to telling the history of collecting, the science of taxonomy and the human desire to understand the natural world”

One of the great things about the Natural History Museum is once you’ve visited and gained an understanding of the Museum curation and displays, you can further explore through their online archives. With new technology today, if your looking for something specific, its literally at your fingertips.

Part of what I love about the Museum is the huge range of taxidermy on show. Taxidermy gives us a unique understanding of the range of animal life on Earth and can really bring animals you may not ordinarily be able to view to life. For those living in the 18th and 19th centuries taxidermy was a way of understanding how animal life was linked, how their bodies functioned and it was an educational and scientific tool. Taxidermy is also a way of preserving animals for future generations, literally freezing a moment in time.

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Hein van Grouw is one of the Curators for the Natural History Museum and explains the use of taxidermy. He says, “For a lot of people it feels old-fashioned, but taxidermy is a vital tool that allows us to teach about the huge range of life on Earth. Good taxidermists can display animals in anatomically correct positions, so that they come to life before your eyes.”

“We haven’t found a better way do that yet, even with all the technology available to us. Having the real thing in front of you will always make more of an impact than a plastic model, digital reconstruction or photo.”

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