Natural History Museum ‘descending into irrelevance’, claims employee


Since opening its doors in 1881, the Organic History Museum has been regarded as a cathedral to character a beacon of scientific egalitarianism that opened the public’s eyes to species from distant lands and times.

But now the London museum has been accused of losing its way in a row that threatens to lead to a deep schism by way of the establishment.

Fred Naggs, a scientific associate at the Division of Lifetime Sciences, has penned an excoriating report in the journal Megataxa professing his employer is no longer led by scientists and is “descending into irrelevance”.

Criticising the establishment for “aspirational virtue signalling”, he accuses the recent management of obsessing about Victorian collections in its place of preserving endangered modern specimens.

He also described the the latest conclusion to transfer some of the collection and scientific team to the University of Looking through as “a self-imposed act of institutional vandalism” that will “mutilate a nationwide treasure”.

In May possibly, the museum announced that a lot more than 27 million specimens, as very well as more than 5,500 metres of accompanying Natural Record Museum Library content, would be rehoused at the Thames Valley Science Park.

‘Actively committed to combating local weather change’

“It is not just the collections that are staying split up, but the scientific personnel and assistance facilities” Mr Naggs instructed The Telegraph. “It can only have been conceived by those who simply just have no concept of what they are performing.

“I have gained a good deal of assistance from inside of the museum but no a single is in a position to speak out.”

In response, the museum denied that it was failing its duty, and said it was actively committed to combating weather change and biodiversity loss.

The post, which was revealed past week, argues that the museum has deviated from its unique mission of storing and recording the world’s specimens at a time when Earth is going through a sixth extinction occasion and desperately requires an “ark” for threatened species.

It has turn into also “backward-looking”, focusing on specimens collected largely in the 19th century, the post argues, relatively than maintaining up to date and bolstering the assortment.

‘Prioritising jobs of very little use’

Mr Naggs stated that contemporary preservation approaches, this sort of as cryogenics, meant that museums could now come to be repositories for dwelling samples, which could support investigate when also making certain their survival.

“It is about maximising selections for potential generations to restore a biologically numerous world,” he told The Telegraph.

“But, in addition, feasible cells supply the best possible product for molecular exploration into knowing the range of everyday living they can be applied for exploration now.

“A severe issue is that the museum has disposed of most of its experience and is trying to interact in locations of research that have absolutely nothing to do with organic history and are undertaken in various other institutions.”

Mr Naggs stated as a substitute of concentrating on its core mission, the museum had moved toward prioritising initiatives of minor use, these types of as digitising its collection.

He also argued quite a few of the older specimens have been collected by persons with restricted experience and frequently terribly labelled or mis-discovered. Introducing them into a database basically digitises the faults, he warned.

A ‘false concept of hope’

Even the determination to set up Hope the blue whale in the grand entrance hall, to change Dippy the dinosaur, has occur in for criticism, with Mr Naggs proclaiming that it presents a “false information of hope” about the state of the world’s oceans.

“The  upbeat assertion that we can offer with the environmental and biodiversity disaster and dismissive rejection of so-known as doom-mongering is not just irresponsible and dishonest but deluded and perilous,” the posting proceeds.

“The tragedy is that there has in no way been a increased need to have for a collections based institution in the daily life sciences to harness scientific advances.

“When the NHM ought to have entered the twenty-very first century as a science-led organisation , it finds alone managed by a corporate clique incapable of recognising what the museum can and should be accomplishing.”

In reaction to the article, a spokesman for the museum said: “Our scientifically-significant collections and environment-leading investigate experience equally participate in a pivotal function in locating methods to the planetary emergency.

“We are dedicated, via initiatives these as our planned digitisation and science facility, to making certain the collections and the vast data contained in them are safe, accessible and digitally accessible for researchers all around the globe, enabling slicing-edge investigation and big scientific collaboration to aid tackle difficulties these types of as biodiversity decline, climate change and meals insecurity.”


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Natasha M. McKnight

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