Published on August 15th, 2018 | by David Marshall


Episode 93: The History of Palaeontological Outreach

Palaeontology has an ability to grab the public’s attention like no other subject. Perhaps it’s the size and ferocity of something like a T. rex, or maybe it’s the alien nature of something like Hallucigenia. Irrespective of whatever it is that makes the subject interesting to any given individual, it’s important because palaeontology is a great gateway into STEM subjects and is, in itself, one of the few ways in which we can understand about the evolution of life and the planet.

But how has the public’s perception of palaeontology changed with the times? Was it more popular in its infancy, when huge questions were still left unanswered, or is it more popular now, in the era of Jurassic Park, where animatronics and CGI can bring fossils ‘back to life’?

Joining us to discuss how palaeontological outreach has been conducted and received throughout its history is Dr Chris Manias, King’s College London. Chris is a historian of palaeontology and founder of ‘Popularizing Palaeontology‘, a network of scholars, scientists, museum professionals, artists, etc. who reflect on trends in palaeontological communication and build future collaborations.

An example of a museum archive, with folders full of documents. It is within archives such as these that Chris is able to piece back together historical events and perspectives.

An early natural history museum: the Gallery of Palaeontology in Paris, from Albert Gaudry, Les ancêtres de nos animaux dans les temps géologiques (1888). Image from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Digitized by Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library. www.biodiversitylibrary.org

Early-twentieth century interest in dinosaurs frequently revolved around Sauropods. “Children viewing Brontosaurus (Apatosaurus) exhibit, 1927.” Image from Research Library | Digital Special Collections, American Museum of Natural History, accessed June 27, 2018, http://lbry-web-007.amnh.org/digital/index.php/items/show/22670.

Discussions at the first Popularizing Palaeontology workshop, held at King’s College London, September 2016.

“The Art of Extinct Animals” Pop-up Palaeoart Exhibition at King’s College London, December 2017, held as part of Popularizing Palaeontology Workshop 2 (Photography by Katya Morgunova)

Introduction from the first PopPalaeo workshop. Three workshops in total are available here.

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