The Zoology Museum turns 50 on the 17th December 2020. I thought I’d use this blog to talk a bit about what the Zoology Museum means to me.
I am the Education and Outreach Officer for the School of Biological Sciences, and have been involved in doing public engagement for the school in one form or another for the past 7 years. The Zoology Museum is a key tool to help us engage with the local community, and to let the local community engage with science. I use it for both formal and informal education of local school children, teaching them about wildlife from Scotland as well as more exotic creatures from countries and habitats they can scarcely imagine. As a tool, for my job, it is invaluable.
But it is much, much more than that.
It’s a hidden gem in Aberdeen. People who have lived here for many years visit for the first time, and wonder how they have never been here before.
It’s “the dead zoo”. Children have described the museum like this to me before. They mean it (I think!) in a good way: all the fun animals of the zoo, without them hiding from you, and the allure of skeletons and dinosaurs too.
It’s moments of discovery. “Wow, look at how big this Eagle is!”, “ I didn’t know Hippos had such big teeth!”, “Look at how similar a human and chimpanzee skeleton is. We really are nearly the same” Overhearing these moments makes my job so rewarding.
It’s being Super Mum. Bringing my own preschool aged children here, and telling them that I worked here, gave me super mum status, at least for a little while. Seeing the wonder in their faces, and amazement as I could answer all their (sometimes quirky) questions was a delight.
2020 has been a year like no other. Since early March, the museum has been closed to the public. The cases are dark, and no eager little fingers are being pushed up against the glass as children strive to count all the seashells or see the platypus up close. Only the echoes of past wonder remain.
But as the museum moves in to its second half century, we will move forward. As we look forward to a time when the museum can welcome visitors back in person, the small but amazingly hardworking team of museum staff have been tirelessly working on ways for people to enjoy this hidden gem remotely. Online exhibitions and resources have been made available. Ideas have been floated for ways to make it more accessible to everyone in our local community, and further afield. I am optimistic that the next 50 years will bring even more Moments of Discovery.