First Published: February 21, 2017 8:09 pm
Museums are ace, but few people really understand how accessible they really are, we all queue up waiting for the doors are open, charge round the exhibits and then, in true consumer fashion head to the eagerly awaited giftshop. sure there's lots to see, and there's always the popup exhibitions to look out for but museums are SO MUCH more than that.
Museums are full of amazing hidden treasures, hidden in back rooms and locked drawers, but most of the time access is simply a case of asking nicely. I've seen some cool things through volunteering in the Coleoptera section in the summer, but the truth is, you don't even need to do that.
The Natural history museum has an area called the Angela marmot centre, its basically a collection of British fauna and flora, that with permission is freely accessible to the public. There's microscopes, a library and a couple of photo stacking rigs.
One of the photo stacking rigs being invaded with dinosaurs
For those that aren't sure what photo stacking is, its essentially the act of taking lots of pictures that are slightly differently focused and stitching them all together with a computer program to get lovely pictures of very small things with a larger field of focus (the higher the magnification of an object the less depth of focus you can achieve through normal photography methods).
So I gave Medway's resident spider fanatic Luke a call and asked if he fancied playing with the stacking equipment (i am a complete photography novice and hoped he knew a little more than me). He was a little apprehensive at first, but I managed to convince him to set a date, we sent the relevant emails, and before we knew it, we had an 8 hour slot with the machine.
Luke imaging some Arachnids
We were given a crash course by the guardian of the AMC, Florin, who is not only incredibly welcoming, but eager to help up with the sheer volume of requests we had for him.
Within Half hour we were away!
Luke was lucky enough as to find a selection of dry mounted spiders (spiders as a rule are typically stored in alcohol tubes) which he was able to photograph... and me, I had plenty of beetles to shoot.
A photo of the impossibly rare male Eresus cinnaberinus
The process takes a while, about 10 - 15 minutes depending on the amount of images you want (deeper specimens take longer than smaller flatter ones) from start to finish. With the only down side being that I realised how filthy some of my specimens were!
Look at all those bog roll fibres!
Initially we had to play with some of the settings to figure out what worked best for us, which essentially boiled down to us pressing buttons to see what happened, but after the first few goes we managed to get the hang of it and came out with some lovely images, my favourite being that of a Willow flea beetle.
Crepidodera aurata, the willow flea beetle
I think its a testament to how accessible museums can be, as long as you are able to ask what facilities they have on offer. I know Luke has already begun to plan his next visit!