Monthly Archive: December Coll
Guest blog by Environmental Visual Communication graduate David Coulson
Deborah Samuel's latest book, “The Extraordinary Beauty of Birds” is a stunning exposé of the ROM ornithology collection; an attempt, in her words, to bring these birds and feathers back to life. Here, EVC graduate David Coulson interviews Deborah about her photography and experiences working in collaboration with the ROM's Natural History collections.
Guest blog by Environmental Visual Communication student Samantha Stephens
The sign on the door seemed quite appropriate. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” I imagine that, as this quote from Dante’s Inferno indicates, this might be what hell feels like. As this last barrier swings open and the dim room is revealed, the swarm of hundreds of tiny creatures moving across the concrete floor completes that vision. However, for some of the ROM’s tireless workers, this environment is heaven. Here resides the dermestid beetle colony. These ravenous beetles are eagerly seeking their next meal. Manoeuvring themselves into the crevices of skeletons, they strip the flesh from delicate specimens with more precision and speed than the nimblest of human fingers.
Museum collections are often undervalued and misunderstood. Regular visitors to the ROM don’t get to see what lies behind the public galleries, and yet less than 1% of the ROM’s collections are on display. These collections do far more than gather dust: they are a reference point in time, and, from a natural history perspective, provide a baseline for our understanding of life. I have received a lot of data requests from inside and outside the ROM. Some I can answer, and some I automatically forward along to collections. A group of recent emails stood out in particular...
Glass is probably the most fluid of solids. Looking at blown glass, such as that in the ROM's Chihuly exhibition, is like watching movement made still. If you look carefully at the handles of the perfectly preserved handles of this Roman glass vase from Syria (above), it looks as though it is still a fluid, still dynamically moving along its flow. In a way, that is because it is. Glass essentially has the atomic structure of a fluid, but it has been so rapidly cooled that it is essentially stuck in that condition.
By: Ian Nicklin
Hematite is a common ore of iron that was extensively mined in northern England in the 19th century. The miners referrred to globular aggregates of hematite, such as this, as "kidney-ore" since it reminded them of the organ. We call this shape "reniform," which means the same thing: kidney-shaped.
Guest blog post by Environmental Visual Communication alumnus Matt Jenkins.
Celebrating its centennial birthday this year, the ROM has always stood as a place of education, family enjoyment and research. That is why I found it surprising that the ROM identifies nearly one quarter of its roughly one thousand pelts as ‘seized’ or illegal. Fear not though, as I learned, they are at the museum with the proper permits and have actually played integral roles in assisting the prevention of illegal pelt trading.
Sophia Chowdhury (far right) with her sister Meena (second in from left) and the next generation: Aneesa (far left), Zakary (centre), and baby Anarah. In the ROM’s curatorial area with the dagger, August, 14 2014. Photo Deepali Dewan, posted with permission of the family.
A long time ago, in a ROM gallery quite different from today’s, there was a diorama that showcased a migrating flock of passenger pigeons....
“That egg is approximately one hundred and forty-four years old,” says Brad Millen, a technician who works in the ROM’s Natural History collections. Suddenly the large speckled shell that sits in the palm of my hand feels just a little bit heavier. I feel the weight of its place in the world - it is the egg of a passenger pigeon, and its species has been extinct for a hundred years.