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Case Study: Nomenclature in Natural Science

The Role of Natural Science Curators

Natural science curators, and all those engaging with natural science collections have a responsibility to reveal these layers of knowledge. Rebecca Machin, one of the natural sciences curators at Leeds Museums and Galleries explains her view:

'When we write exhibition text, we don’t have to focus on the rich White men whose names are associated with objects. We can talk about the people who did most of the hard work instead. We don’t have to use racist names for plants and animals. If we think we can’t avoid it, we can talk about why it’s wrong. There are lots of small decisions we make every day in our work, and each of these can be made with a little internal check for how these decisions reflect race in our museums.'

She adds:

'We need to look again at our collections, with fresh, colour-sensitive eyes, to make our collections relevant and interesting to everyone.'


The Leeds Tiger

The collection at Leeds Museums and Galleries includes a taxidermied tiger that was shot in India by a British soldier at a time when India was under British colonial rule. The skin was brought back to England, stuffed by a London taxidermist and eventually came to be part of the collection at Leeds.

In the audio below, Curator of Natural Science, Clare Brown and Assistant Community Curator Rathi Tamiselvan discuss the tiger, their ideas around its place in the collection and how it should be displayed and interpreted.