Mary, museums, science and students

Lucy, BSc Natural History student at the University of South Wales and Mary Gillham Project volunteer

When I first heard about Mary Gillham I knew very little of her or her work. Maybe this is because I grew up outside of Wales and knew nothing of her legacy. It was when I attended a Wildlife Trust event that I saw the Mary Gillham Archive Project were looking for volunteers to help with the digitisation of her records. As I am interested in a career in science communication I thought the project would be a good opportunity for me to get a little voluntary experience under my belt, but it has now become a much bigger part of my life than that.

After a few weeks of volunteering I was soon getting to know Mary and her work, and after a chat with Al (Mary Gillham Project Officer) we realised that she could be the subject for my final year project at university. I was immediately excited – what an amazing person to research! I definitely had the best project out of anyone on my course! However, I soon realised it wasn’t going to be as easy as first thought.

Mary’s work has spanned over many decades and reached many parts of the world and so deciding what to focus on for the project was a difficult task. After a number of meetings Al, my supervisor and I decided I would create a small museum-style display that would take a biographical look at Mary and her most influential achievements.

To create this display I am researching museum displays and the methods behind them, particularly when looking at someone’s life and work. The project has been very lucky recently, as they acquired some of the specimens that Mary collected, mostly consisting of varied shells from around the world. This made me particularly pleased, as some can now be included in my project. I want to make the exhibit as interesting and engaging as possible.

Just some of Mary’s teaching aids.

As Mary’s archive also includes thousands of photographs I am also going to trawl through these to find some to use as part of the display, to highlight the changes in some of the places that Mary visited such as Forest Farm and elsewhere.

Wynn Thomas: Aberdare canal. 1973 and the man who excavated it.

Once I have finished the project I hope that it will be a useful tool to educate and engage the public, not just about Mary, but her work too. I am confident that the display will compliment the other work taking place and help the project to tell the story of this remarkable naturalist.

Any thoughts on what makes an engaging and interesting display welcome! Post your thoughts below or contact the project through Facebook, Twitter or email!


The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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