Saturday, January 8, 2011

Just Another Year

So PoH makes it into a third year, to my great surprise. Events over the last 12 months have consprired to keep the number of posts down, and I've spent too much time highlighting other people's articles for my own liking. But you can't have everything.

Those of you that have read this blog for a while (and there are about two of you by my reckoning) will know that my view of the museum world tends to involves looking back at where I came from (i.e the UK) or looking around at where I am now (the USA). This year the contrast between the two has been stark.

In America, for example, we achieved the extraordinary goal of taking a national strategy for the digitization of biological collections from discussion to a $100 million (hopefully) NSF program in a mere 12 months. In truth this is the end result of years of lobbying by a host of people in the natural science collections community (especially the late Terry Yates), but my colleague Rob Guralnick from the University of Colorado deserves a particular shout-out for wrangling a very diverse (and sometimes quite fractious) cast of characters to achieve this reamarkable outcome.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic... well, I've exhausted myself blogging on this over the course of the year. Over the last decade, when I and my American colleagues have visited Britain, we've been blown away by the achievements of the UK natural history collections community and their European colleagues. Sadly, it looks like 2010 may be the year that this all came to a grinding halt.

The austerity drive being undertaken by the Cameron government has already resulted in the abolition of the Museums, Libraries, and Archives Council, a series of sweeping departmental budget cuts at a national level, and the perversion of the volunteer culture in UK museums in order to plug the gaps caused by staff losses. In the year to come, colleagues in local authority museums can look forward to their own round of funding cuts as the austerity measures begin to bite at a regional level.

In the USA, by contrast, the president has just signed into law the renewal of the IMLS for another 5 years. Before everyone starts patting themselves on the back, however, this was one of the last acts of the Democrat-led House of Representatives. Its Republican successor is unlikely to look so kindly on museums and museum collections - we've already seen what conservatives think about collection improvement, and the recent You Cut initiative puts a marker out for the fun and games we can expect over the next couple of years. And after that it may get worse.

But enough of this Debbie Downer stuff. There is one unarguable source for celebration in this cold, dark January. Primeval has returned from the TV grave! Connor and Abbie have returned from exile in the Cretaceous!! Jason Flemying has been banished to the Pliocene version of Hollywood!!! I'm still digesting the first episode, but rest assured that a full breakdown is coming in a future post. Then, if that wasn't enough, in the Fall of 2011 we will have Terra Nova. I would like to say that this show offers more prospects for bad paleontology but as its star, Jason O'Mara, was kind enough to come visit our collections a few months ago, I might only have myself to blame. Come on Jason, I'm counting on you...

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on making it past that milestone, hopefully many more posts to come. I always seem to get lured out from lurking by mentions of Primeval, which only screened fitfully here in NZ and (on average) left me wanting more. On a completely different note, your blog came to mind when I was reading China Mieville's latest "Kraken", I thought it was an interesting take on museums and their collections. And giant squids.

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