Blog

Specimens, Spiders and Science – oh my!

By: Vanessa Gardos, Category: Lifelong Learning, Date: 06 Mar 2017

The Australian Museum is more than it appears on the surface.

Work Experience for Secondary School Students

Work Experience for Secondary School Students
Photographer: James Horan © Australian Museum

The Australian Museum - a place where science meets history and facts meet fun. I have just spent a week at the Australian Museum as a work experience student because I wanted to open my eyes to what really goes on behind the exhibits and presentation of the objects held within its walls.

Arriving at the Museum on my first day was nerve-racking, although I was bubbling with excitement. Suddenly, while crossing the road, I spied a large sign outside the Museum labelled ‘SPIDERS: Alive and Deadly’. My stomach dropped and my heart rate grew uncontrollably fast. Images of huntsman spiders on my bedroom wall filled my head as I entered the doorways through to the Crystal Hall. I took a deep breath and continued further in to the Museum – how bad could it really be?

I was greeted by Vanessa and other kind and welcoming staff as I toured around the Museum – finally, reaching the spider exhibit. The entrance floor is covered in a projection of spiders crawling in all directions. Like a gazelle, I bounded across the floor in two giant leaps, avoiding contact with the small arachnids. I weaved through the maze of preserved (and alive!) spiders and information as I made my way to watch a live milking of a huntsman spider. Calm and collected, Lachlan (the spider wrangler) handled the large spider, delicately milking its small fangs. As I wandered about the exhibit, interacting with the projections and games, my unnecessary fear of spiders began to dull. Seeing the amazing spiders in their habitats and learning interesting facts gave me a new appreciation of this incredible group of animals – although I still don’t think I will hold one!

Later in the week I was taken to some labs located in the depths of the Museum. I was introduced to the DigiVol team who were passionate researchers and volunteers who photograph specimens and transcribe them onto a database. My volunteer partner, Nick, had his ear chewed off with my never-ending questions as I tried to grasp the complexity of this amazing place. Although the DigiVol team have been working for 5 years, it is estimated that it will take another 160 years to digitally transcribe all the specimens in the Museum.

During my tour through the beautiful entomology and mammalogy collections I began to understand the sheer number of specimens the Australian Museum holds. Did you know that the Australian Museum has 18.4 million specimens, with only 1% of those being on display in the public part of the Museum?

My brief but fulfilling time at the Australian Museum has forever changed my perceptions on what makes a Museum. You have to dive in deeper under the surface to discover the efforts people go to in order to maintain this incredible facility. I was overwhelmed with interesting facts, specimens, technology and enthusiastic and passionate staff. This week of work experience at the Museum has created an experience I will never forget and who knows, maybe one day I will go and visit the spiders again.

India, Work Experience Student, December 2016

In 2017, the Australian Museum (AM) will offer work experience opportunities to students in Years 10, 11 and 12. Opportunities will be offered across a variety of AM departments, including areas of the AM focussed on scientific exploration and discovery, as well as ‘behind-the-scenes’ departments such as education, public programming and exhibitions whose work relates to the general running of the AM.

The work experience program opens for applications on 13 March 2017 and closes on 7 April 2017.

For more information visit our website