At the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Collections Up Close tabling events enable the public to see parts of research collections that are not commonly shown to the public.
Normally at the museum, KU students and Lawrence community members see various parts of history. Yet, only 1% of the museum’s collections are on display every day.
“Collections Up Close is a monthly ‘drop by’ tabling event program of the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute, designed to showcase portions of our research collections normally not on view to the public,” said Anne Tangeman, communication and events coordinator for the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute.
The motive behind Collections Up Close is to provide the Lawrence community with opportunities to learn about different types of specimens.
“The purpose of Collections Up Close is to bring the fabulous biodiversity [of the] planet of living and fossils close and personal to KU students and the public,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute. “[And] to demonstrate some of the research that we do and deciphering fantastic diversity of life.”
There are two opportunities to experience the program each month: Saturdays at the museum, generally held noon to 1:30 p.m., and Tuesdays at the Kansas Union from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Throughout the year, the museum displays a vast range of plants, fossils and animals.
During Tuesday’s event, the museum displayed sea anemones. Many different types of jellyfish and sea life were also brought out for the event, including Amakusa jellyfish and dry coral specimens, which are all in the same category — known as cnidarians.
Doctoral candidate Anna Klompen, who specializes in the evolution of venom in jellyfish, tabled at the event and gave people a chance to learn more about the animals.
“Many students probably would not guess that there are live jellyfish on campus, or that there is a large sea anemone collection at the Natural History Museum,” Klompen said. “But in fact, we have a reasonably impressive collection of live jellies and sea anemones.”
This event also gives Klompen and other graduate students the opportunity to show their work to a wider audience.
“This gives the KU community a chance to interact with some of the graduate students on campus that are in the process of becoming world experts in their fields,” Klompen said. “It is also a chance to learn about how museum specimens and collections are used for research.”
In addition to promoting the work of faculty and graduate students, Tangeman said Collections Up Close provides the campus community with education about different life forms on Earth.
“This program increases education, creates more awareness about our work and also provides an opportunity for graduate researchers to discuss their research with the general public,” Tangeman said.
The Natural History Museum was created in 1864 and is written in the charter of the University for the study of nature. Since 1864, many of the items on display have been collected and brought to the University for research purposes.
“Naturalists collected specimens and donated them to the museum for display, for study, for research and for education,” Leonard said. “Our collections come from all over the world.”
This research continues to be a crucial part of graduate students’ work at the University, Klompen said, and impacts the education of the community.
“I really love the research that I do at KU, and I think it is important to share what I am learning and doing with the public,” Klompen said. “I also think jellyfish are amazing creatures, and I really enjoy teaching and often surprising people with some of the knowledge I have gained in the past few years.”