The BSHS is delighted to have awarded our first BSHS Engagement Fellowships to support small and local museums, archives, galleries and libraries whose collections connect to themes in the history of science, technology, engineering and medicine. This scheme funds the placement of Master’s or PhD students with heritage organisations and museums for the equivalent of a month’s work (timescales can be arranged between the partner museum and student) as an Engagement Fellow and make a significant contribution towards the costs.

This year’s successful institutions are as follows:

The Bristol Museum has extensive natural history collections, and their Fellow will engage with a project entitled, “Jamaican Natural History Collections: Illustrated Manuscripts and Herbarium of 1750’s – 1790’s.” These collections include botanical material from a key period in history, providing unique opportunities for cross-disciplinary research and engagement. Historic herbaria are critical resources for understanding the development of scientific ideas, human influences on the natural world through time, and for increasing scientific knowledge of botanical species. The BSHS Engagement Fellowship will provide the opportunity to develop and extend the enormous potential of this collection, and link it to Jamaican communities in Bristol and Jamaica. The Fellow’s main output will be engaging with the local community, and making the collections available online.

The Linnean Society holds a number of important collections of material relating to both natural history and the history of science, dating mainly from the mid-18th Century. The Linnaean Specimen Collections include 14,000 plants, 168 fish, 1,564 shells and 3,198 insects as well as 1,600 books, 4,000 letters and 300 manuscripts, collected by Sir James Edward Smith. Smith’s material is a valuable source of information on insects from around the globe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Engagement Fellow will research how methods and techniques in classification and taxonomy have changed over the last few hundred years. The Fellow will be invited to use their research to create a fixed public engagement exhibit within the Linnean Society headquarters for public viewing.

The Royal Pump Room Museum, Harrogate, was built in 1842 to house four sulphur wells. There are eighty five springs and wells within two miles of the museum, including thirty five in the nearby Valley Gardens. Sixteen of these were used medicinally as the sulphur waters were very popular as a medicinal remedy for digestive ailments, gout, rheumatism and skin disease. The Museum has not looked in any detail at the science behind the sulphur before, despite its prominence in the building’s history, and the BSHS Engagement Fellowship will help foster academic research on the history of sulphur, while building up a programme of participatory and compelling activities for local people and tourists.

The projects will start early in 2017 and we will be showcasing them at the forthcoming BSHS Annual Conference in York. The Fellowships are worth £1000 and are open to current postgraduate students. They will provide valuable experience in working with non-academic partners, important collections and public audiences. Host organisations will receive £500 towards costs and an additional budget of £500 to support Fellowship activities. We are very excited to be kick-starting a new series of collaborations, opening up possibilities in public engagement with the history of science and providing valuable experience for researchers at the very start of their careers.

Keep a close eye out for the adverts for these positions, which will be coming very soon!