Conference Report NATHIST 2018

Natural History Museums in Time and Place

Natural History Museums spearhead our understanding of the Universe. Times have changed. So too has our understanding of our place on Earth. In the conference it was time to address the present and examine our museums in time and place. For three days we gathered together to meet each other, to present, discuss and exchange ideas about our museums. We had about 70 participants, from Israel and countries in Asia, Europe and North America.

The first two days took place in The Steinhardt Museum on Natural History, recently opened to the public. The museum harbors an impressive collection of about 5.7 million specimens, which declared to be part of the National Natural History collection of Israel. We had three sessions of presentation and profound tour of the museums’ exhibition and collections.

The first session was dedicated to museum collection and was opened with words from ICOM NATHIST Chair, Dr. Eric Dorfman about the recent fire in the National museum of Brazil and similar situations of museum around the world being subject to hazards of fire or other dangers due to lack of funding. A keynote presentation of Prof. Tamar Dayan, Chair of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History: building a Natural History museum for the 21st century. The session presentations discussed museum collections and research: collecting policies, collections new research, collections new technologies and methods, and sharing databases.

The second session was dedicated to engaging the museums visitors. The keynote of this session was Prof. Orit Ben Zvi Assaraf, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva,  Israel, encouraging students’ engagement in inquiry- based evolution learning within integrated informal learning environments. The session presentations discussed new ways for engaging our visitors with collaborative adventures, with interdisciplinary, innovative and creative approach in building our educational programs to school groups and the general public.

The third session was opened by Dr. Hooley McLaughlin, whose talk, Climate Change and Museums: Are we being active or passive?, was flowed with presentation of different interesting ideas for exhibition in our museums.
The talks invoked many interesting discussions, around the social role of Natural History museums as taking part in science literacy, being a place where controversial issues can be discussed, our role in citizens’ science activities and should we be more active about environmental issues.

On the morning of the third day we visited the Man and the Living World museum, had a short tour in the park where the museum is situated and had a enjoyable experience in the escape rooms in the museum. At 11:00 we had our Annual General Meeting, the minutes of the meeting will be published on NATHIST website, during the AGM we agreed on the Ramat-Gan Declaration: ICOM NATHIST would like to express its deep concern regarding the preservation of natural history collections world-wide. These collections face unique and mounting risks regarding their preservation and care. ICOM NATHIST urges those entrusted with resourcing the stewardship of these treasures to recognize their value and ensure their ongoing protection.

In the afternoon we visited the National Natural History collection at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, we had a glimpse at the wild wheat which is the origin of the cultivated wheat we grow around the world and saw some brand-new paleontological discoveries. Later, we visited the Bloomfield Science museum and heard about their planes for their future Natural History wing.

In the evening we a culinary tour to Machne Yehuda market an tasted some local food. In the fourth day of the conference we had an exciting tour un Jerusalem.

The post-conference tour to the Dead Sea and Masada was an enormous treat for those visiting Israel.

I want to thank all our colleagues who took part in organizing the conference and hope that our guests had a good experience of Israel and enjoyed the conference.

Dorit Wolenitz,
Board member of ICOM NATHIST and chair of the organizing committee of the conference.

Note: Abstracts of the Conference can be found at this link:

Our heartfelt thanks go to the many members who recorded the events on camera and provided the images for us to share…