Roots n’ Herbs (2003-2006)
Root’s n’ herbs was a small but significant citizen engagement research project led by Bob. It was developed around an on-line image-base of the Natural History Museum’s founding collection; the botanical herbarium of the young English doctor Hans Sloane, collected on his visit to Jamaica in 1687-1689. Working with elders in the Caribbean people in London the project explored ways to encourage BAME communities to engage with the Museums collections. The project recognised the potential value of the the community’s elder’s lay and indigenous knowledge of the plants, which, through the engagement activities on-line and in work-shops around the projects could be recorded alongside the science data related to the founding collection.
The Darwin Center (1999-2001)
Over a number of years from late 1996 Bob began to explore approaches through dialogue and open forums for the public to engage with scientists and collections, rather than through exhibitions which had become the norm. These ideas were first articulated in papers on ‘Shop window for science’ and ‘Science forum’ and became translated in his brief for the approach to public engagement in Phase 1 of the Darwin Centre. Bob as SRo for the public space project led the creative development of the Phase 1 scheme; supported the cultural change programme to bring the science teams to contribute to the engagement programme; and build the host teams which were to fascilitiate the ‘Nature live’ programme where the public could meet with museums scientists to explore their work and its significance. The Darwin Centre Phase ! was a highly-novel approach which was influentially internationally, particularly evident in the development of the Natural Science Centre at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science in the US. The engagement approach was designed to address sereval perspectives around science in society by breaking down barriers and making scientists and their work more accessible. The work led the way for the Museum’s successful fundraising of the second phase development which was substantially supported by the Wellcome Trust.
The Earth Galleries (1994-1998)
When the Natural History Museum inherited the former BGS Geology Museum it secured one for the first Heritage Lottery grants for its complete redevelopment. Bob as Head of Exhibit led the brief development for the new scheme. This bought together a complete open call to earth sciences to review the most important issues to share with the public; as review of the emerging national curriculum to cover all relevant key stage attainment goals as well as a significant study of the interests and expectations and level of understanding of non-specialist visitors. Bob championed an over-riding narrative led by the emergent earth system science and perspectives on human risks, impacts and questions of sustainability. The approach was initially resisted by the museum curators until the case was fully supported by the independent panel of Trustees appointed to support the development. Bob led the content coordination and creative direction of the 60o0m² project working over four years with seven external exhibition companies working on component parts of the scheme.
The ecology gallery was developed over 1989-1990 in a turbulent period for the Museum. The brief developed by Bob was significant in securing one of the museum’s first significant major private sector donors – British Petroleum PLC. The project in the highly sensitive grade one listed building involved for the first-time in the museum the incorporation of a significant architect – Ian Ritchie, working alongside the internal development team. Bob led the content development which focused on understanding basic movement of energy and nutrients, through food chains and webs, exploring the relationships between the living world and the physical environment. As is signature in Bob’s work he introduced a significant section on the future of biological systems given the growing impact of human activities on the environment; the exhibit calling for a more sustainable relationship between people and the natural world.