Until March 2021 we will be working with museums across Scotland to increase engagement with natural science collections. With generous funding from the John Ellerman Foundation, this project will advance curatorial expertise and improve collections care with the aim of enhancing the impact of locally held natural science materials for audiences throughout the country.

Focusing primarily on fossil collections, an extensive programme of site visits by project curator Dr Sue Beardmore will result in a report entitled Review of Fossil Collections in Scottish Museums.

Fossils in Scotland

Scotland has a long list of important localities where fossils have been excavated over the last two hundred years. While much of the material held in the national collection and elsewhere is used for museum displays and contributes to scientific research, there are collections across the country which remain relatively unknown resources, with huge potential for use in a range of public engagement activities. The review will describe the dispersal of fossil collections around the country, including type, origin (stratigraphic age, geographic locality) and condition and will identify items of scientific and historical significance. How fossils are stored will also be examined and best practice implemented to improve collection care. With a better idea of the fossil resources across Scotland, recommendations will be put forward for increased future use.

Natural Science collections

Materials from other natural science subjects will also be investigated, as they tend to be collected and displayed alongside fossils. This aspect has a wide scope, including rocks, minerals, gemstones, taxidermy, osteology (bones and skeletons), herbaria (plants), bird eggs and spirit collections (animals stored in alcohol in glass jars), and will provide a foundation for more detailed work. A second report will make recommendations on the priorities for these collections for future research and public engagement.

Training programme

We will also deliver a programme of basic collections knowledge and skills training for Scottish museums, providing support and guidance on identifying, caring for and interpreting natural science collections. Individuals either directly employed by or volunteering with a museum organisation in Scotland, who can demonstrate the benefit of training to their collections, are eligible to apply for a place on any of our advertised courses.

We hope that the project will extend our knowledge about natural science collections throughout the country and support new ways of using them, locally and beyond. Throughout the project, we will share information and stories from these collections on the National Museums Scotland blog.

Introduction to the Documentation of Fossils and other Natural Science Collections

On 27 January 2021 we delivered an online training event for museums on the topic of documentation of natural science collections, with a specific focus on fossils. The event was delivered by Sue Beardmore, John Ellerman Project Curator, and Jo Thomson, Collections Information Officer. Recordings of the presentations are available below.



Museums visited

For more information about the project please contact Dr Sue Beardmore, John Ellerman Project Curator: s.beardmore@nms.ac.uk.

Supported by

John Ellerman Foundation

Header image: A well-preserved Devonian fish Gyroptychius milleri from the Sandwick Fish Bed, Orkney in the Aberdeen University Collections.


Blog posts by Sue Beardmore

Join John Ellerman Project Curator Sue Beardmore as she works with museums across Scotland to increase engagement with natural science collections
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Dr Sue Beardmore
John Ellerman Project Curator

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