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12th November 2014, 4:31pm  (updated 13th November 2014, 8:48am)
Natural History Museum curator to give Joseph Banks lecture
Dr Mark Spencer A senior curator from the Natural History Museum in London will describe how historical treasures housed in British museums and archives are informing contemporary research in a guest lecture at the University of Lincoln.

Dr Mark Spencer, who curates the British and Irish Herbarium section of the world-famous London museum, is giving the Sir Joseph Banks Society President’s Lecture as part of the Great Minds series hosted by the University. Dr Spencer curates 620,000 plant specimens, a small part of the Museum’s total collection of 80 million objects!

His talk will detail the relationship between museums and researchers from external organisations such as universities, and how natural history collections can enrich cultural and scientific research.

The talk, entitled Museum Natural History Collections and Modern Science – our ‘historic’ cultural and scientific assets and their role in current research, will take place on Thursday 27th November in the EMMTEC building on the University of Lincoln’s main Brayford Pool campus, on November 27th 2014, starting at 6.15pm, with registration from 5.30pm. It will be followed by a drinks reception.

“Our nation’s museums are full of objects that have the potential to tell us a huge amount about the world we live in,” said Dr Spencer.

“Even though we treasure these collections, as a society we massively underuse them, and we need to learn new ways in which they can help improve our lives. For us to continue undertaking research, we don’t necessarily need to launch new expeditions of discovery to far-flung parts of the planet; a wealth of scientific information already awaits discovery in our museums.

“To do that research, however, we need data. Data collection is often expensive and the frequent inaccessibility of data often impedes research. Natural history collections can offer a cost effective means of accessing data, yet ‘connectivity’ between those collections and the non-museum research communities is often limited. I want to help people understand the origins of this situation and examine the strengths and weaknesses of natural history collection data."

Dr Spencer is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.  He studied at the University of Reading for his first degree in Botany, followed by a PhD on the systematics of water mould fungi. He is the Botanical Society of the British Isles Vice-County Recorder for Middlesex and the Vascular Plant Recorder for the London Natural History Society.

Since 2011 he has worked on forensic botany and participated in several major criminal investigations.

The University of Lincoln’s Great Minds guest lecture series aims to provide inspirational insights into different aspects of society – from the entertainment world to elite sport – for school and college students in Years 11, 12 and 13. A limited number of places are also available to the public.

Previous Great Minds speakers include the multi-award-winning John Hurt, the Olympian and sports broadcaster Steve Cram,  award-winning actor John Hurt and leader of the Red Arrows, ‘Red 1’ Squadron Leader David Montenegro.

To register for the Great Minds talk by Dr Mark Spencer, or find out more about upcoming events at the University of Lincoln, visit Keep up with the conversation on Twitter using #GreatMindsUoL

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