Project update 12 month update

Herbarium finished 20.8.2015IPS 8.2015

The first year of the HLF funded looking through a lens project is complete over 6000 images have been taken, more minerals are on display, volunteers have built planters and storage of the collections has been improved. The second year of the project looks set to be just as exciting as the collections will be shared with the community and beyond. There will be a website with a library of images as well as providing facinating information about the herbarium, minerals and the stories of the people who collected them. There will be a touring exhibition around various venues in Cumbria, I have had a sneak peek of the banners designed by photographer George Platt they beautifully showcase the wonderful collections, so look out for the exhibition coming to a venue near you soon.

Volunteers and students have been a massive part of the project with their hard work and commitment the ambitious target to digitise over 6000 museum specimens in 12 months has been completed. Already the collection of beautiful pressed flowers and the colourful minerals have inspired artists, gardening projects.

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Due to its fragile nature many of the herbarium specimens are not on display but students have produced mini exhibits about the herbarium and the digitisation process to change this and make the collections accessible for all visitors.

There have been fascinating well attended talks by local experts about nineteenth century botanist in Cumbria and the extensive mining history of Cumbria.

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The digitisation of the collections has sparked photography workshops and digitisation training for students and museum professionals to pass on the knowledge we have gained to others.

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Digitising the collections is just the start, during the second year of the project we will be sharing the collections and getting the community involved coming up there will be seed planting, artist workshops , be a miner day with Young archaeologist club and much much more.

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Young curators at Kendal Museum

young curator

During the summer holidays a week long workshop took place inspiring young curators to get creative and learn about the history of Kendal. Ailsa Gill a previous museum and gallery skills student at Kendal College put together a varied programme of activities for the children to enjoy.

The week started with a day full of all things Roman. On display at Kendal museum there are many artefacts from Watercrook a Roman fort just South of Kendal. The children explored the museum looking for Roman objects and were given the freedom to write or draw about anything they found particularly interesting. In the afternoon the children learnt how to care and conserve museum artefacts. They got hands on cleaning Roman artefacts.

Day 2 was Victorian day, with a bit of pre-history thrown in. The morning was spent looking around the museum discovering Victorian Kendal.  We had a trip around the natural history store where the children were given the chance to explore some of the objects not on display in the museum. They were also shown the process of cleaning a taxidermy specimen, great fun was had cleaning an otter.
in the afternoon George Platt the photographer at Kendal museum gave a tour of the photographic studio and talked about digitising a mineral and herbarium collection at Kendal museum.

Day 3 was medieval day there was a trip to the castle.  The kids got to explore and imagine what life would have been like in medieval Kendal.

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On the final day the now experienced young curators prepared and created their own public display for the museum. Each young curator chose an object which had interested them during the week, they then explored the history of the object and wrote a small label to accompany the display, with help from George adding photographs. They put together the display and the results are fantastic, visit Kendal museum to see for yourself.

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How to digitise museum collections

A few weeks ago training sessions took place at Kendal museum for volunteers and cultural heritage students to learn how to start a digitisation project on a limited budget. The training sessions were passing on the knowledge we had learnt during the HLF project, so I thought it would be useful to share on here too.

Before starting your digitisation project it is important to have clear visions of what you want to achieve. Why it is important to digitise the collection? What the images will be used for? How will you make the collections accessible?

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The next stage is to consider practicalities such as setting up camera equipment and lighting, this will depend on the collection you are digitising. The project at Kendal museum has been digitising a geology collection and a herbarium, each collection required a different photographic set up. The herbarium is 2D and required a fixed camera position whereas the minerals are 3D and vary in size so the camera position was changed. Before starting a project it is important to have suitable storage space for your images such as a hard drive, the images should be backed up to at least two locations.

digital work flow

It is useful to have a digital workflow to plan and organise how you will achieve image capture. A necessary part of the process is to organise image files and process/ edit images to produce files for different outputs such as for the web or posters or preservation images. This will help you to achieve your goal to share previously inaccessible collections.

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Redisplaying the Hamer mineral collection

Volunteers have been helping to re-display the mineral collection at Kendal museum.

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Volunteers Ruth and Ian were very keen to help with the project, they were able to use their design skills as they have previously worked as installation artists.
Their vision was to turn the small space into a mine complete with stones on the wall and a corrugated iron roof.

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The Hamer mineral collection contains over 1000 minerals from local Cumbrian mines as well as minerals from around the world. Only a small percentage of this collection was on display so our curator, Carol Davies was keen to display more minerals that were previously in the store. There is now a new mini exhibit displaying some fascinating fossils from the Hamer collection.

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The collection has an interesting social history John Hamer was a dedicated mineral collector; almost every room in his house was full to the brim with shelves and cabinets containing thousands of mineral specimens. Hamer was a reclusive character and his extensive collection was only discovered and rescued after his death. Potholing and mineral collecting was obviously John Hamer’s lifetime passion. Some photographs and his detailed notebooks are now on display.

Why not visit Kendal museum to take a look at the display for yourself?

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Project update 10 months

IPS 8.2015  lucy studio

Hello its has been a while since I last updated you on the progress of the HLF funded project to digitise two mineral collections and large herbarium containing over 4000 specimens at Kendal museum. A lot has been happening at the museum there is a new team in the image preservation studio. Lucy Passman has taken over as the collections assistant intern organising the collections in preparation for photography. George Platt is the new digital imaging scientist taking high quality preservation images to the Metamorfoze standard for paper heritage.
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Since the new team started in July great progress has been made, 1231 herbarium images have been captured leaving only 434 images left to take. We are well ahead of schedule to meet project deadlines for digitisation to be completed by mid September. All the images will be available online for you to enjoy when the website goes live in November.

imaging herbariadigitisation in action

An important part of the HLF looking through the lens project is passing on the skills and knowledge we have gained.

The mission statement for kendal Museum is: ‘To share our heritage collections and site, pioneering occupational teaching and community engagement’

As I mentioned in my previous blog post myself and George Platt ran a training session for volunteers and students providing practical information about how to digitise museum collections. There was also the opportunity to get hands on and take some photographs.
Ailsa Wendy Lucy

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Uses of photography at Kendal Museum

An important part of the HLF looking through the lens project is passing on the skills and knowledge we have gained, so over the past three days myself and George a keen photographer and cultural heritage student at Kendal museum, have been running training sessions all about museum digitisation.
I thought it would also be useful to share some of this information on the blog, so let me give you an introduction to how photography has been used at Kendal museum.
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Project update 7 months

The digitisation project is now entering its 7th month the geology collection containing 1500 specimens has been digitised.

Great progress is being made on capturing herbarium images, 600 images have been taken so far with the help of a production line of cultural heritage students and volunteers.

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The herbarium collection, all 4338 specimens have been completely restored and accessioned in order to preserve and protect the collection. All data relating to the herbarium has been uploaded to Modes complete so information about the collection is secure and easily accessible.

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Volunteer projects and events have started. Volunteers are currently redisplaying the Hamer mineral collection in the Lakeland Natural History Gallery. Flower beds outside the museum have been built and planted with flowers from the herbarium. Soon there will be striking images of herbarium specimens displayed on the planters before you enter the museum.

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Look out for mini exhibits exploring digitisation and the collections coming soon to Kendal museum.

There are also upcoming talks with local experts about the herbarium and geology collections. The talks will give you an opportunity to see the collections and learn more about them. For information please see the Kendal Museum website.

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Digitising the herbarium collection at Kendal museum

We have started digitising the herbarium collection at Kendal museum in this post I will give you a behind the scenes look at the digitisation process.

The Martindale herbarium collection contains over 4000 specimens of flower plants, mosses, grasses and ferns collected in locally in Cumbria as well as specimens collected further afield in Germany, Hungary and America.

An important aspect of digitisation is organising the collections so that all the information about the collection is available and can be linked with the images. Each herbarium sheet in the collection has been given a unique accession number so that its is easily identifiable. The herbarium has been restored, new folders have been made and archival tissue paper has been placed between sheets to protect specimens.


The herbarium collection is being digitised following metamorfoze standards, the National programme for the preservation of paper heritage; set out by the National Library of the Netherlands and the National archives.

The digitisation process requires a human production line to carefully handle and move herbarium sheets into position ready to be photographed. Volunteers and students from the cultural heritage course at the museum have been helping with the process.


Each sheet is carefully placed on the board parallel to the camera, a colour target and gray scale are used to measure colour, resolution and scale.


After the images have been taken the next stage is to process the images. Preservation images will provide a snapshot in time giving a record of the collection now before further deterioration occurs. All images will be available on purpose built website launching in November 2015.

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The Blue Orchid – Vanda coerulea supra

My previous blog posts about orchids have proved very popular so here is my final post from my visit to see the orchid collection at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh.

Whilst on a tour around the greenhouses we came across a very interesting orchid, the Vanda coerulea supra, it is a hybrid species, violet blue in colour.

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Vanda is an orchid genus which is highly evolved; it is widespread in East Asia and South-east Asia.

This species is unusual as not many flowers in nature are blue. Flowers are often yellow or red as pollinators are attracted to these colours. One reason blue flowers are rare in nature is that the colour blue is not attractive to pollinators; consequently blue flowers have not evolved. Blue flowers are created artificially by humans selecting desired characteristics in species bred over several generations, or by hybridising two different species of orchids.

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Another notable feature of this specimen of Vanda is that it is growing in the air; this plant is gaining all of its nutrients from the atmosphere. This is possible as it has an organ called a velum within the root structures, which is highly efficient at extracting nutrients. This species is epiphytic and is very resourceful at using only a small amount of nutrients.

The Martindale herbarium collection at Kendal museum is currently being digitised it is a large collection containing over 4000 specimens, including some beautiful orchid specimens collected locally in Cumbria. Images of the collection will soon be available to view on new website launching in November 2015.

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Orchid Adaptations

As promised another post about orchids from my visit to The Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh. DSCN1550

The Orchids are a highly evolved family of flowering plants. There are over ten thousand species of orchids found in the tropics, most are epiphytes they grow on other plants and trees.

Orchids growing in the tropics face competition for light, nutrients and water. Orchids can grow in trees up to thirty meters above the ground but this limits their access to water. Orchids have evolved a unique structure called pseudobulbs, a storage organ for water and nutrients; they are also green and photosynthesize.


Pseudobulb Lycaste ciliata

Orchids have varying pollination strategies many orchid flowers remain receptive for long periods of time. In contrast the Sobralia genus, has a very short flowering time some species only flower for a few hours. Flowering is synchronised with the life cycle of pollinators.

"Sobralia macrantha (1847)" by Charles Morren

“Sobralia macrantha (1847)” by Charles Morren

Orchid flower bud

Orchid flower bud

The Joseph Martindale herbarium collection at Kendal museum is currently being digitised it is a large collection containing over 4000 specimens, including some beautiful orchid specimens collected locally in Cumbria. Images of the collection will soon be available to view on new website launching in November 2015.

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