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Manchester Hermit Continues his Quest to Challenge the Importance of Museum Archives
Darwin moss. ©Stephen Devine at The Manchester Museum.

MANCHESTER.- Since entering The Manchester Museum’s Gothic tower on 27th June, Ansuman Biswas has identified a separate object on each day of his residency, calling on the public to reassess the value of museums’ hidden collections, and encouraging debate around the issues of conservation and extinction.

Presenting objects including a human skull, beautiful diatoms (microscopic algae), a malaria-bearing Anopheles mosquito and even snail shells collected after a takeaway meal, the Hermit has questioned whether museums need to keep such large collections, many of them rarely if ever seen by anyone, and has addressed much larger themes of the fragility of ecosystems and the necessity to protect all vulnerable forms of life.

Today’s object, a piece of moss collected by Darwin in 1833 during the legendary Voyage of the Beagle, is one of fifteen Charles Darwin specimens held by The Manchester Museum. Through his daily blog, the hermit will draw attention to this small sample of moss, and will ask whether such a specimen, lying for years in a drawer in the Museum, is really worth retaining. He will argue that it should be discarded, unless someone can convince him, by contributing to the blog, that it is worthy of long term preservation. The Manchester Museum will be displaying the moss alongside other Darwin specimens at Big Saturday on 8th August 2009, as part of The Evolutionist: A Darwin Extravaganza.

Since the launch of the initiative, the Hermit has had a dedicated following of bloggers, one member of the public commented; “It’s terrible, this project of yours is so fascinating, it stops me from doing all the things I so urgently need to do, like admin, tax return etc. I read all your posts and the comments and it stops me in my tracks and gets me thinking, the mind going in all sorts of directions. There is so much we don’t know.”

With still another 28 days left in the tower and objects including an East African dowry bow, 430 million year old sea bed fossil and flint eoliths yet to analyse, the Hermit is set to further the discussion of the historical and biological value of objects in museum archives, and will bring into question the greater themes of preservation, extinction and loss. To follow the Manchester Hermit visit

Manchester Museum | Ansuman Biswas | Charles Darwin | Anopheles |

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