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Collections Close-Up: Keeping Up With the Past

It has been over a month since the Museum closed for public safety, and the world is full of changes.

For many of us, this means reconfiguring our sense of community in a world of physical distancing and protective barriers. Although it is hard, community is about more than shared physical presence. Among other things, it is also about identity, common values, and a sense of history. For this month’s collections close-up, we invite you to take a closer look into one such history – that of the museum itself. 

A clipping describing the ecology of honeybees
The newsletter outlines the difference between bees in our exhibit

Building on last month’s Close-Up, our commitment to digitization doesn’t stop with our specimens. The story of keeping those things safe and making them accessible is as much about the keepers as it is about the objects themselves. We maintain an archive of documents, flyers, posters, pictures, receipts and records related to the history and happenings of the Museum and its keepers. This includes the forerunner of today’s email: newsletters.

These physical, mailer-style newsletters, spanning decades from the seventies to the late aughts, paint a vivid portrait of daily life at the museum. There are postings for classes and lectures, announcements for exhibits and fundraisers, listings for volunteer activities and kids camps. And, perhaps most exciting to those of us of a collecting mind, recurring lists of specimens and objects accessioned by the museum in a given month. 

Visitor Services Representative Mary Verutti is the Collections Department’s guest star on this project. She is charting a path through the past by investigating the articles and advertisements for details that will resolve inconsistencies and span gaps of knowledge about both the Collections and the Museum itself.

Clipping from when the museum first got a new macintosh
Announcing new Museum technology!

Mary is a big fan of history, and the newsletters don’t disappoint – she feels as if all the when, where, how and why of our Museum are in these pages. As our most veteran employee, she’d be the one to know! They even give glimpses into stories of other local institutions like Santa Cruz Surf Museum, where Mary also works. She especially enjoyed seeing continuities, like the establishment of our docent program, and evolutions, like the transition of our Illustrating Nature exhibit series into today’s Art of Nature.

Name changes like this one can be a confusing part of reading primary documents, as Mary points out. In exploring these pages, one encounters a variety of names including the Seabright Museum, Carnegie Museum, City Museum, Whale Museum, Crafts House, Main Library Museum, Tyrell House – all used to describe our institution and collections in some form. Tracking name changes like this is not so different from keeping up to date on the changes in the scientific names of specimens – both tasks are an important part of maintaining good records. 

These newsletters also attest to broader challenges in the Museum’s history, including difficult economic times. Mary speaks for all us when she says that the Museum community’s response to challenges never ceases to amaze her.

While we work to make all existing newsletter issues available online, we are providing a sneak peek here at some of the newsletters Mary is currently working on. In the spirit of International Museum Day (May 18th), find your favorite and share it with someone who, like Mary, finds the Museum to be an “easy place for a heart to land.” For a more narrative take on our history, check out Frank Perry’s history lecture or explore other posts here in the Collections Close-Up blog. 

A program listing for the Nautical Neighbors series
A program listing for the Nautical Neighbors series

Nature Journal from Your Window

Window looking out over the water

Spending time outside can help you feel connected to nature, but there are ways to connect to nature without leaving your house. Find a comfy spot to sit near a window and take 20 minutes to gaze out at the world. What will you notice during this time?  

Capture a moment in time out your window through writing, questioning, and drawing. For further instructions, follow along with the  activity guide.

Explore these other posts about journaling:

Post by: Elise

Sound Map Activity

Sound map

Slowing down and taking a small part of your day to be silent and listen can help you feel more relaxed and calm. Tune in to what is around you by making a map of sounds. Is there a bird chirping in the tree to your right? Water running in a creek behind you? Footsteps crossing on the sidewalk in front of you? 

This 10-20 minute activity can be done with all ages and at any time of day. You will be surprised at how energetic kids (and adults) will calm down and sit for extended periods of time during this activity. For tips and tricks to do this listening activity with your whole, take a look at the Sound Map Activity Guide.

Explore these other posts about observing nature:

Post by: Elise

Lecture: Exploring Science Through Art with Andrea Dingeldein

Art is essential to increasing scientific knowledge and inspiring conservation. This lecture from Andrea Dingeldein, a local artist and educator featured in the Museum’s 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature, explores science illustration, both historical and contemporary, and its importance as a tool to observe and connect with nature.

Andrea Dingeldein is a marine biologist, naturalist, and general lover of nature. Andrea’s focus is in marine illustration, but she enjoys drawing insects, reptiles, and any other creepy-crawlies she can get her hands on. She specializes in illustrations for peer-reviewed science articles and has published illustrations in Ecological Modeling and Bulletin of Marine Science. Other clients include NC Department of Marine Fisheries, Friday Harbor Laboratories, and Western Society of Naturalists. Explore her work.

Andrea has two pieces in our 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature. Explore the virtual exhibit.

Bird Beak Activity | 2nd grade

Red-shouldered hawk

You can learn a lot about an animal just by making careful observations. If you want to know what an animal eats, a good place to start is by looking at the teeth. But what if they don’t have teeth? When looking at birds, it’s all about the beak! Different beaks can tell us quite a bit about what that particular bird eats.

Explore different bird species through this short presentation and figure out what they eat by making careful observations of their beak shape.The next time you go outside, try paying close attention to any birds you see – what does their beak look like? What are they eating? You might start to notice all kinds of interesting behaviors and adaptations!

Learn more about birds with the resources in our Online Museum Store.

Post by: Ellen

Animals in Their Habitat Activity | 2nd grade

Redwood forest

What do animals need to survive? This short lesson explores that question and dives into the different kinds of places where animals can live, and how different animals can survive in their habitats. It’s up to you to use the clues to figure out which animals live nearby! 

Learn more about mammals with these resources in our Online Museum Store.

Post by: Ellen