Friday mystery object #256

I was working my way through a box of large ratite bone the other day and stumbled across this out-of-place object: mystery256 Any ideas on what it might have come from and why it might have been in a box of Ostrich bits? As usual, you can put your questions, thoughts and suggestions below – if you think it’s easy then maybe try using a clue to give other people a chance of working it out for themselves. Have fun!

Friday mystery object #255 answer

Last Friday I gave you this rather interesting looking object to identify, preferably using a rhyme:

wpid-img_20150626_095757-1_20150626095918070.jpg

Believe it or not the photographs show either side of the same object – on one side it just looks like a rugose lump and on the other it shows a rather nice natural spiral.

Aside from some great humorous comments by 4utu and Henrik Nielsen, there were some of you who worked out that this is the operculum from a marine snail and even managed to explain that in rhyme – so very well done to Barbara, Chris and especially Lee Post who upped the ante by writing a full verse:

oh purr Q lum from foreign shores
possibly from a near ites door
side door -back door does not exist
main door -strong door , built to resist

Flick Baker went a step further (taxonomically) by identifying that this operculum is from a snail in the genus Turbo with the rhyme: “Gives your engine serious puff, even when she’s running rough“.

Green Turban Shell (Turbo marmoratus) showing aperture closed by the operculum

Green Turban Shell (Turbo marmoratus) showing aperture closed by the operculum

More specifically, this operculum is from the South African Turban Shell Turbo sarmaticus Linnaeus, 1758.

The operculum is a part of many snails that is often forgotten about – it forms a protective trapdoor that the snail closes behind itself when it retreats inside its shell (‘operculum’ means ‘cover’ or ‘lid’ in Latin). This trapdoor helps prevent desiccation in land snails and helps protect against predators in marine snails.

When the animal dies the operculum will often fall off as the body of the animal decays or is eaten, so often it won’t find its way into a museum collection with the rest of the shell. However, opercula can be quite distinctive and are sometimes more useful for identifying a species than the rest of the shell – a handy point to remember.

Friday mystery object #254 answer

Last Friday I gave you this odd bit of bone (or should I say bones) from a box of mixed objects to identify:

mystery254

As Ellen Going immediately recognised, it’s a scapula and clavicle – which in itself tells us that it can’t be from a Carnivore or Ungulate, since they lack a well-developed clavicle.

The open articulation with large acromial and coracoid processes and the symmetrical, blade-like scapula body suggest that this is an animal with a lot of movement in the shoulder, and reciprocal movement at that (hence the symmetry). This suggests a flapping animal, but without the extreme clavicle adaptation (i.e. the wishbone) seen in birds.

So as Flick Baker, Ric Morris and Joey Williams all realised, this is the shoulder and clavicle of a large fruit bat, in the family Pteropodidae. Good work!

fruitbat-processed

Friday mystery object #253 answer

Last Friday I gave you this lovely specimen from the King’s College Museum of Life Sciences to try your hand at identifying:

mystery253

It wasn’t easy, since there were limited views, so the dentition wasn’t entirely visible and the bones of the palate are not shown. Also, there was no scale bar – something that Ric Morris gently reprimanded me for.

Despite these limitations, many of you correctly managed to work out that this is the skull of a Mongoose of some sort. So congratulations to bugblokenzFlick Bakerhenstridgesj, Michelle and Allen Hazen for recognising that this is a member of the Herpestidae.

Narrowing it down beyond that is more of a challenge and without better images it’s a bit unfair to expect a species level identification – but I’m going to have a go.

Scouring through Mongoose skulls in collections and various images online (especially using the fantastic Animal Diversity Web resource, the ever helpful Skulls Unlimited and the brilliant Mammals of Tanzania Skull Key), I came to realise that the teeth are visible enough to discount many Mongoose species. Also, the shape of the zygomatic region and facial profile was quite distinctive (most Mongooses have cheekbones that are flat under the eye sockets – but not this chap).

Excluding the options that didn’t quite fit, left me with a few that did – the Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon, Slender Mongoose Herpestes sanguinea, and White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda.

Not a clear-cut identification, but better than nothing, and it might be possible to refine it by looking at the specimen in the flesh… as it were.

#TwitteratiChallenge Museums Bolt-on = #MuseumTwitterati

I love social media. In particular I enjoy using Twitter because it provides me with a wonderful opportunity to engage in dialogue with interesting and knowledgeable people who have helped me develop in my profession, and I hope that I have been able to enrich other people’s experience in turn.

It was therefore a real pleasure to have been nominated by Katie Hobbs for the #TwitteratiChallenge, which was originally started by @TeacherToolkit to “recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators [museologists] should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support“.

Note that I have slightly tweaked the focus of the challenge from the original – it’s such a nice idea that I think it’s worth borrowing (stealing?) for the museum sector. To help prevent the original intent of the challenge (i.e. finding helpful educators) from being diluted, I’m going to suggest that a new/additional hashtag be applied – so witness the birth of #MuseumTwitterati!

This is quite timely, as I recently attended the NatSCA conference, which was called Museums Unleashed and it focussed, in large part, on the role of social media in the museum profession.

NatSCA2015

As new tools are introduced, we need to be willing to give them a go, to see if they can be used to improve how we work. But Twitter is no longer a new tool.  It has proved its worth as a way of communicating and I see it rapidly becoming as important for museum professionals to use as email (although there are still a few people in the museum sector who haven’t quite got to grips with email yet).

For colleagues who are just starting out on Twitter, the #MuseumTwitterati hashtag may provide a helpful trail for identifying good people to follow.

Subversive as always, I’ve tweaked the original #TwitteratiChallenge rules, and simplified the ‘What to do’ section:

Rules:

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life (ex-colleagues are fine, it’s a small sector and we’d run out of people in no time otherwise).
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge or #MuseumTwitterati (sorry Jan Freedman)
  3. Copy and paste the ‘Rules’ and ‘What to do’ information into your own blog post and be sure to cite @TeacherToolkit since they came up with the idea.

What to do:

  1. Within 7 days of being nominated you must write your own blogpost identifying the top-5 museologists that you regularly go to for ideas, support and challenge. Share this on Twitter using the hashtag #MuseumTwitterati and tag them in – they are thus nominated.
  2. If you do not have your own blog, write your list by hand or on a computer, take a photo/screenshot and upload it to Twitter, tagging the people mentioned (yes, you can do that) and using the hashtag #MuseumTwitterati – they are thus nominated.

So here is my selection, which sadly omits a lot of fantastic people who I engage with regularly about my specialist interests, but who are not really museum professionals per se (people like Jake, Ric and Ben). There are also a lot of notable absences because I work with some excellent Twitterers (Tweeters? Tweeps? Whatever – check out this #TwitteratiChallenge post by Rupert Shepherd who is one of them, and he lists most of the others):

My #MuseumTwitterati

Mar Dixon (@MarDixon) – Doyenne of digital media for the museum sector. Trendsetter and maverick empowerer of the people, who has probably done more to unstarch the undies of the stiffest museum staff through the innovative Culture Themes than anyone could have imagined possible.

Erica McAlister (@

Mark Carnall (@mark_carnall) – Incisive and provocative natural science curator, with a playful sense of humour and a passion for Lego.

Tincture Of Museum (@TinctureOfMuse) – Another Lego lover, museum volunteer and a passionate advocate for access in museums, with a special insight into autism.

Nicholas Poole (@NickPoole1) – Trend tracker, strategist and big picture thinker. Tweets to share nuggets of museum management gold.

Apologies to many of the other fantastic people I engage with on Twitter who didn’t make the list – nothing personal, since I used commun.it to help me decide; it’s a very useful tool for managing your online community!