Sunday, 28 December 2014

Dry Store Room No. 1

Finished December 28
Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey

This book is a personal exploration of the the work going on at the Natural History Museum in London, and the people doing that work. Fortey worked at the Museum for decades, specializing in trilobites. The book tells a little of his own history, but also looks at the various departments contained within the Museum, from his initial wanderings as a young scientist there to those projects that caught his interest over the years. He looks at how these projects relate to the larger world, and how the current funding model may not meet the real needs of science going forward, particularly in light of the environmental challenges our world is now facing.
Fortey begins with an initial look at the vast network of rooms, offices, labs, and storage areas behind the public galleries, continues with a chapter explaining taxonomy, the naming of names, and how this is the underlying language that connects scientists work around the world and across time.
He then looks at the traditional world of natural science and how that has changed over time.
The next four chapters look at particular departments within the museum, and at a selection of the projects and personalities that have caught Fortey's interest. These include animals (both current and fossilized), plants (again, both current and fossilized), insects (the largest area of species and in many ways the most challenging), and geology (how rocks can tell us history, evolution, migration, and other stories about our world). The next chapter brings all of these together, and shows where the Museum is now in terms of research and priorities.
The last chapter is a call to all of us to recognize how important this work is to our world, our future, and our continuing existence.
A personal, yet highly enlightening look at the world of natural science, with its diversity, range of studies, and the people that dedicate their lives to it.

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