I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in I’m a Scientist and winning the prize money was an unexpected bonus of a great experience. I donated the money to the Trinity College Dublin Zoological Museum: a beautiful, unusual collection of animals which forms an important part of the Zoology department’s public outreach activities.
Founded in 1777, the museum houses a collection of over 25,000 unusual specimens, some of which date back to the voyages of Captain Cook. It is an important teaching resource for the college and contains many examples of extinct and endangered species including a Tasmanian wolf, passenger pigeon, kakapo and Giant Irish Deer remains. The museum is in the midst of major refurbishment while we welcome more public visitors and school groups than ever before.
My prize money is being used to make the museum more accessible and appealing to wider audiences. To complement the stories and expertise of our museum guides, the museum’s curator, Dr. Martyn Linnie, is investing the prize money into new, interactive digital information platforms. We are using Intuiface software to create visually appealing, informative content about the exhibits including images and text about the specimens as well as external links to further information about the species. These multimedia packages will enrich the visitor experience as well as highlighting the educational value of the museum as a public resource.
Many of the specimens have fascinating stories to tell. For example, the Indian elephant skeleton belonged to Prince Tom: a celebrity of the Victorian age who was the first elephant to visit New Zealand, a notorious alcoholic and a star of Dublin Zoo where he quickly learned to buy his own treats with money that visitors placed in his trunk. Another prized specimen is Ireland’s last Great Auk (killed in 1834), a sad reminder of the fate of many species which fall victim to human over exploitation and one of only 20 surviving museum specimens of this beautiful aquatic bird.
Thank you to the I’m a Scientist team for helping us to spread the word about the weird and wonderful stories to be discovered at the TCD Zoological Museum.