Tuesday 24 March 2009

April 2nd - 'After Darwin: where is evolution going?'

This lecture will be given by Professor Simon Conway-Morris from the University of Cambridge for Bath Geological Society
'Darwin still bestrides the evolutionary stage, but is it time to call for a scene change? Darwin got it very largely right, but is that all there is to say? Whispers of a post-Darwinian world are growing: a world where evolution has learnt to evolve and by no means is everything as random as is often thought.'
This lecture is celebrating
Darwin200, a national programme of events celebrating Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday on 12th February 2009. The BRLSI has organised its own programme, ‘Darwin and Beyond’ - further details on the BRLSI website.
BRLSI, 16 Queen Square, Bath at 7.15 p.m.
Everyone is welcome to this lecture - free to members - £4 for visitors.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Geology collection under threat

Bristol City Museum’s world class geology collection is under threat and your support is urgently needed.
Currently there is now only one person actively employed across both the Geology and Biology departments at Bristol City Museum's Galleries and Archives. This situation has been created by the reluctance of senior management to replace curatorial staff. This is a highly unsustainable and unacceptable situation considering the large size (over 1 million specimens in total) and national importance (designated status of the geology collections) of these collections.
Requests for access to material by researchers have been met with some degree of reluctance and consequently researchers should not expect to be able to visit the collections or loan material easily. Potential donors may also find the museum reluctant to accept material.
This situation is to be further compounded by a proposed staff restructuring and a “shift in focus to the Visual Arts”. Senior management want a reduction in museum visitor opening hours with further reductions in front of house, curatorial and conservation staffing. The latter will result in the loss of 9 out of 26 curatorial and conservation posts as well as the merger of the remaining conservation and curation posts. The resultant savings are to be channelled towards public engagement and completion of the faltering Museum of Bristol project (See MA Journal Issue 109/01, p6, January 2009).
Although no official word on the detail of the new structure has been released and staff are apparently unable to comment, it is thought likely that the biology and geology departments will be combined to create a “Natural History Department” that will be staffed by a Senior Curator and a Curator, one with a biology background and the other with geology. This will entail a 60% reduction in staff with natural history backgrounds and provide no specialist conservation cover. The reason why this complex and confusing approach has been adopted is to reduce staffing resources whilst attempting to maintain designated status for the geology collections and thereby avoid compromising the service’s registered status. Instead of improving the service, management are opting for tokenistic curatorial care with essentially non-existent conservation cover. These proposals will reduce staffing to a skeleton level that will clearly compromise basic accessibility and collections care.
These problems are further exacerbated by a proposed “shift in focus towards the visual arts”, which, given the above, can only lead to the City Museum and Art Gallery primarily becoming an Art gallery. The management suggests in public documents that the intention is to retain an ‘encyclopaedic’ museum. However, the staffing proposals and the shift in emphasis toward visual arts suggest that this will be merely a token gesture. This amounts to neglect of public accessibility to a fundamental part of their heritage. It is also a stunning abrogation of the management’s and/or council’s responsibilities to a world class and UK designated collection.
Currently senior management is involved in discussions with union representatives (contact between management and staff has been inconsistent, disparate and vague) to discuss changes.
Bristol City Council has set up a select committee of councillors to oversee the changes. However, this group to date has only rubber-stamped the new staffing restructure on January 14th without even consulting staff or unions. A question signed by c.80 members of staff has been submitted to the select committee due to meet on 23rd March, asking that they reconsider their position and talk to staff.
This committee has invited statements and questions regarding the staffing structure in Bristol and the potential impacts this will have on existing collections. The more questions to the select committee the better so I hope that readers will duly oblige and send their statements and questions to this forum.
Questions and statements could focus on requesting reassurances that the geology collections will not only be adequately cared for but also continue to be developed and used for the public benefit.
Please send letters or e-mails to the councillors listed.
As internal negotiations are still taking place, the process of implementation has not yet started but if readers are concerned now is the time to act if there is to be any chance to influence the situation.

Thursday 12 March 2009

GA Field trip to Forest of Dean - 4th - 5th April

We still have places available on our Forest of Dean Field trip, 4-5th April
This trip will be led by Dr Bernard Cooper a consulting geologist. It will be a weekend looking at the beautiful landscapes of the Forest of Dean. There will be interesting walks, industrial archaeology going back to the Romans and, hopefully, the opportunity to go down one of the last remaining free mines in the forest
Contact Sarah Stafford at the GA as son as possible if you are interested.

Friday 6 March 2009

Osmington Mills Field Trip - March 15th

Bath Geological Society is organising a day trip to Dorset on March 15th. This will be led by Alan Holiday of the Dorset GA Group. It will be a brilliant day working west and east along the coast from Osmington Mills - Jurassic and Cretaceous geology.
Meet at 11.00 a.m. Smugglers car park GR SY735816. You will need a hard hat, boots and a packed lunch. We can provide some hard hats. Visitors £4.00.
Please let us know if you coming - email.

9th March - Obsidians

WEGA invites you to a lecture on 9th March - 'Obsidians' by Dr. Alison Rust. Alison will have some specimens to show at the cheese and wine party after her talk.
SH Reynolds Lecture Theatre,
Wills Memorial Building
Queens Road,
Bristol at 7.30 p.m.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

March 5th - Tsunami in the Bristol Channel

'The 1607 Flood: a Tsunami in the Bristol Channel?' This is the title of Professor Simon Haslett's talk to be given at the BRLSI, 16 Queen Square, Bath on Thursday March 5th.
The Killer Wave of 1607 which caused the flood in the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary was the worst ever recorded in the British Isles. The area affected stretched from North Devon, through Somerset and Gloucestershire, and along the South Wales coast from Monmouthshire to Carmarthenshire, some 570 km of coast! The coastal population was devastated with at least 2000 fatalities, according to one of the contemporary sources. In some parts of the coast the population never recovered from the social and economic disaster. Professor Haslett has used documentary and fieldwork evidence to propose a new interpretation of its cause as a tsunami.
Everyone is welcome to this talk - £4 entry fee for visitors.