The Victoria Gallery and Museum (VGM) started in 2008 as the University’s contribution to Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations. As well as paintings, sculpture and ceramics it displays objects of historic, cultural or aesthetic value from the University’s science and engineering departments. It receives around 4000 visitors per month.
A few years ago, my search for insects for a school visit led me to the Heritage Curator, Leonie Sedman. I visited the VGM stores with her and saw shelves of objects once used in the University’s zoology teaching and research.
From this chance meeting came a plan to bring some of them back to public display through collaboration between the VGM and B. Sc. Life Sciences degree students. Four students have worked on their final year projects using this material with Leonie, Lu Vieira de Mello and myself.
The result is thought-provoking exhibits at the VGM about egg collecting, critically endangered pangolins and rhinos – and a witchitty grub embedded in resin for visitors to handle.
The museum materials are at the centre, but other objects like a 3D print of a rhino horn (thanks to the School of Architecture/Creative Workshop), molecular image of keratin and video of live pangolins put them into a twenty-first century context.
What do the students get from this? Project results that communicate science to visitors, an insider’s introduction to museum curation and the challenge of bringing objects, research and imagination together.