Some time ago, it was suggested that The Manitoba Museum would be adding curatorial blogs to our website, as a feature that would take visitors “behind the scenes.” This seemed like a fantastic idea, but I also wondered how I would approach this; I already have a blog in which I talk about paleontology, geology, and landscape, and it attracts a reasonable and steady following. It is a lot of fun to have personal blog in which I am free to muse about what I see as I wander around the world. Certainly Ancientshore is relevant to my work, but it also is not limited to my work or to this region of the world, and it is largely a collection of pieces about my personal travels.
So how could I develop another blog that would complement the existing one without conflicting with it? I was sitting at my desk, here in the perennially chaotic curatorial office, when I realized that the answer lay all around me.
We are living in an age where we are constantly encouraged to recognize our local environment, and our commitment to it, by eating locally, shopping locally, thinking locally. So why not blog locally? And in this particular instance, I am thinking very locally. I sit in an office where I am surrounded by strange and remarkable things: corals from the south Pacific, fossils from the Grand Rapids Uplands, antiquarian paleontology books, and ancient lamp shells that I pulled out of a ditch in England. Next door is the Geology Lab, filled to the brim with an endless variety of rocks and fossils, and right across the hall, in the Natural History Collections Room, I can open drawers to examine many thousands of objects, everything from mammoth tusks to meteorites to marcasite.
Every one of these objects has at least one story, and many of them hold remarkable tales: tales of Arctic exploration, heroism, bizarre field events, exhibits, even politics. By limiting myself to writing about things that are within 20 metres of this computer, I am forcing myself to consider and develop those wonderful stories. But I do not consider this to be at all limiting, since so many will reach outward to explanations of fieldwork and other travels. It would not be at all difficult to write for a year just about items that I can reach from this comfortable chair, so extending the reach to 20 metres, or about 60 feet, could permit a lifetime of writing!
This Museum is a fascinating place. I hope you will revisit this page to see some of the stories behind our collections and exhibits.