Archive for January, 2010

Darwin’s birthday 12 February, stamps, teasets, the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects and the new Royal Mail stamps for 2010

January 31, 2010
Charles Darwin young man St helena stamp

Charles Darwin the young Victorian gentleman of science, before the famous beard was established - image taken from a portrait sketch as a young man in the late 1830s around the time of his marriage to Emma Wedgewood and shortly after his return in 1836 from the Voyage of The HMS Beagle, during which he visited the island of St. Helena. Stamp issue 1982, marking 100 years since his death. An attractive border showing 'biodiversity' links this portrait set of Darwin linked 1982 island issue stamps.

“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Charles Darwin …”  Maybe not. Although this tune was late Victorian, it was composed  after Darwin’s death , whilst  the words emerged in the early 20th century. However it’s a chance for a school assembly theme, craft idea or a beautifully designed stamp page: Charles Darwin’s birthday is coming up on Friday 12 February 2010. This is  celebrated each year in Shrewsbury (his birthplace) and in  many unusual ways around the world. Many unusual events are registered at www.darwinday.org  and you can find out more about Darwin on our Blogroll links.  

2010 will see not only the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity (biodiversity being now under threat in  many of the areas Darwin visited) but also the 150th anniversary of the famous Oxford ‘Evolution’ and ‘Creation’  debate between the Victorian church (in the church corner: Bishop Wilberforce) and Victorian Science (in the ‘red in tooth and claw’ corner, not Tennyson but Darwin’s ‘bulldog’ T.H. Huxley). Darwin was, by nature, quite a shy man and wisely working elsewhere! 

The Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps is now published. It is aimed at schools and a copy will be available free to schools on request (while stocks last) but it is also of general interest and can be purchased for £6 (plus p&p). Our Darwin stamp book is available from Sandie Robb at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo or from Mark Norris at Newquay Zoo – see blog entry 25th Nov 2009 for details. 

Charles Darwin the old Victorian gentleman of science, after the famous beard was long established and Darwin was nearing his death- the famous image based on the photograph portrait by pioneer Victorian lady photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Stamp issue 1982, marking 100 years since his death. Darwin passed Mauritius on his Beagle voyage home. Again an attractive border showing 'biodiversity' links this portrait set of Darwin linked island 1982 stamps.

We’d nominate this 1982 stamp series (shown opposite) to join the BBC Radio 4’s series A History of the World in 100 Objects. This  has a fine section on Victorian objects submitted by museums around the country, individuals and an ‘Early Victorian Tea Set’  (for serving early Victorian tea). The Darwin link? The tea set was  designed by Wedgewood, Darwin’s relation by marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgewood. You can see the tea objects in a fabulous new digital museum online at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/FWYgWOCSSpKKuF3pctC6tA  There are  plenty more  Victorian objects at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/explorerflash/?tag=63&tagname=The%20Victorians&/#/culture/63 with lots of other learning resources and even a CBBC website game called Relic : Guardians of the Museum http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/   There are hundreds of fabulous objects on this BBC / British Museum site. Our other zoo blog World War Zoo gardens http://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com has nominated a child’s ‘wartime handmade sliding puzzle’ toy featured from the 1940s but which could easily have come from the 1840s and the Darwin children’s  nursery.   They still make such sliding toys in plastic and still make tea sets much like the early Victorians – some objects do not change design or purpose very quickly, others rapidly become obsolete or extinct. 

Finally, it’s 175 years this year since Darwin visited the Galapagos islands in 1835.  Whilst there are no Darwin stamps for  2010 from the Royal Mail (2009 saw a fine ‘jigsaw’ set for Darwin’s bicentenary),  we need time to catch up with all the Darwin 200 bicentenary issue stamps and Galapagos visit anniversary from elsewhere around the world! There are  plenty of new thematic or commemorative releases by the Royal Mail. These  include Children’s literature, the Royal Society, Railways, Mammals and others which may feature Victorian subjects, science or animals. Unusually the centenary of Florence Nightingale’s death in 2010 is not obviously commemorated (but there are Florence Nightingale Royal Mail issues from the past). For more stamp collecting information, to inspire you to set up a stamp club in school or collect yourself  http://www.royalmail.com/portal/stamps/content1?catId=32300678&mediaId=32600692 

New Releases 2010 http://www.royalmail.com/portal/stamps/jump1?catId=32200669&mediaId=32300674  

7th January – Classic Album Covers – 
26th January – Smilers 2010  –
2nd February – Girl Guiding UK –
25th February – The Royal Society
11th March – Battersea Dogs & Cats
13th April – Mammals (Action for Species 4)
6th & 8th May – London 2010 Festival of Stamps
13th May – Britain Alone
*15th June – House of Stuarts
27th July – The London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games
19th August – Musicals
16th September – Great British Railways
*12th October – Children’s Books
2nd November – Christmas
*New issue date for this Special Stamp Issue 

Happy stamp collecting! Happy Darwin’s birthday on the 12th!

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China – Darwin link – Dinosaurs

January 29, 2010

The Chinese word for dinosaurs is ‘Konglong’ and translates as terrible dragon. (Dinosaur is from the Greek words, deinos meaning fearful and sauros meaning lizard.) China is one of the most popular areas in the world for new dinosaur discoveries. Well over a hundred species have been described since 1925 and many eggs and trackways have also been uncovered. Large bones have been found in China for centuries and early manuscripts refer to ‘dragon’ bones that we would now call dinosaurs. Bone carvings from the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) mention the existence of dragons.

Lufengosaurus was first found in 1930 and was one of the most complete dinosaurs found in China up until then. It came from Upper Triassic rocks of about 200mya in Yunnan Province in the south west. It was about 20ft/6m long, probably moved on all fours for some of the time and could easily have stood on its hind legs to reach tree top foliage.

Here is a picture of a rare first day cover featuring Lufengosaurus and the other two stamps in the set – a trilobite, Kaolishania and a deer, Sinomegaceros.

China – Darwin Link

January 29, 2010

RZSS is celebrating Chinese New Year at Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park with activities and stamp displays  on the 13th and 14th February 2010. China has some wonderful stamps and they will be used in all our information displays on the culture and wildlife of the country.

Anyway it got me thinking about any links with Darwin. And in 2009, a new fossil, a missing link which is a transitional form between animals, was found in north-east China. It has been named Darwinopterus after Charles Darwin!

It is a type of pterosaur, ‘flying dinosaurs’. They lived between 220million and 65million years ago. Read all about it at the following links:

http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2009/10/darwinopterus_transitional.php

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8306060.stm

Care for the rare – What connects Charles Darwin, postage stamps, evolution, conservation, zoos and extinction and rarity value?

January 18, 2010

Charles Darwin first day cover Falklands 1982

 

Last week from Stanley Gibbons I received an inviting offer to invest in a very, very rare Victorian stamp. 

Here at Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk  and my colleagues at Edinburgh Zoo www.edinburghzoo.org,  we are very used to working with often very, very rare animals. The kind that feature  on the IUCN Red Data list www.iucnredlist.org of endangered animals.  If we do our work well, they will became less rare and more common (or at least less endangered and better protected). 

Charles Darwin on his travels around the world and his visits to early zoos like London Zoo ZSL saw some now exceptionally rare animals, even some that are now extinct.  The Warrah or Falkland Islands wolf (Dusicyon australis, pictured above) is one such recently extinct animal.  So no chance of Sandie Robb (co-compiler of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps) seeing one on her recent Falklands expedition twinning Falklands schools with ones in Scotland. http://rzssfalklands.wordpress.com and www.rzss.org.uk/education/school/falkland_islands_project.html 

Darwin discovered dinosaur bones for other long extinct creatures in South America, being an early palaeontologist and geologist. He even stopped passed Mauritius on his route home on the HMS Beagle, narrowly missing seeing the Dodo by a century or two. 

 

 

 

Breeding rare animals in a well-managed conservation programme is obviously important and you can find more about this on our zoo websites, along with our networks www.biaza.org.uk, www.eaza.net and www.waza.org .  

I’m  not sure if Stanley Gibbons or collectors and investors in very rare stamps would be very impressed if we suddenly produced lots more of a rare stamp like the one we were offered by their investment site. They might be a bit suspicious of forgery. 

  

” Today’s Top Tip – An Undervalued Rarity received from marketing@stanleygibbons.co.uk 10th January 2009 

“One of the most important stamps from the British Empire. Our Philatelic Director produced the description of this item. As it is a bit technical in nature, I have simply highlighted in “bold” the important aspects influencing its investment quality to help you understand why it is so special. 

NEW ZEALAND 1855 SG: 3b–StockCode–P09004882 
1855 (Dec) 1d orange on white paper, watermark large star, imperforate with large margins and brilliant colour, part original gum.Plated as position 5 on the sheet, the centre stamp from the reconstructed strip of 3 (position 4-6) assembled by H. Gordon Kaye (CRL 12/11/91, lots 65-67), and much the finest of the three.

Slight gum crease at foot but very fine appearance and excessively rare

This first Richardson printing, using paper supplied from London, represents the initial production of postage stamps in New Zealand. A very important and desirable stamp. Stamp comes with a British Philatelic Association certificate (1990).(catalogue value: £32,000

Price: £24,000   This stamp is the finest of the three in existence …”      

New Zealand 1855 (Dec) 1d orange on white paper a very very rare stamp from the Stanley Gibbons website - probably the closest you'll ever come to seeing one!

and so the email temptingly went on. Not having £32,000 or even £24,000 spare, I didn’t take Stanley Gibbons up on their kind offer. Our zoo directors might wonder where their zoo budgets had gone. 

Island life
Stamps from small islands like the animals from small islands tend to be at risk of becoming rare because of the very few produced or surviving, compared to the thousands of everyday definitive (penny and pound) postage stamps used in Britain each year for example. Many of our rarest creatures in zoos today are from islands. Many of the extinction lists feature island species quite heavily.
Darwin noticed that island life tends to create perfect conditions for speciation and evolution of certain features that help you survive or adapt to each unique environment, often favouring certain natural individual variations (height, speed, bill shape etc) within any animal or plant population.
 
Even more like evolution, it is often the tiniest variations, tiny mistakes or errors (famously missing colours or printing pictures of airplanes upside down) that escape the printers’ censorious eyes and the ‘error’ stamps become worth a fortune.  
There are many stories about rare stamps or errors that we will share with you on the blog, even the odd Victorian murder by crazed collectors to gain the only copy of a stamp known to survive. Some animal collectors hoard rare animals such as the Spix’s Macaw until they have the last few left. Other people illegally collect rare bird’s eggs.  Stamp collecting  is much less destructive or murderous than that. 
 
You don’t have to bankrupt your school, classroom or own budget to collect some inspiring and beautiful stamps on almost any thematic subject you can think of to illustrate your teaching and brighten your day !
 
Stamps can easily be obtained from dealers, auction sites like E-Bay, kindly collectors, friends or lucky charity / junk shop finds.  Look at the blogroll for more links.
 
If you do have a spare £24,000 or £32,000 and don’t want to spend it on beautiful rare stamps, both Edinburgh Zoo and Newquay Zoo are conservation charities. We’ve lots of ideas on what to do with the money. You could buy and protect a lot of rainforest habitat for that sort of money through the World Land Trust!
 
Alternatively, you could buy all several hundred  first edition copies of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps  (for price and postage, see Sandie’s comments on the comments page). Even better, we  will send one copy free to any UK primary school that requests one, thanks to a legacy from Beryl Rennie, a Scottish stamp collector to encourage schools and youth stamp work.   
 
Teaching Tips  – Extinction and Conservation
It is important to distinguish what different causes made animals disappear such as dodos, dinosaurs and more recently extinct animals such as the Falklands Wolf  or Dusky Seaside Sparrow. This can create lots of questions in class to investigate:
  • Was this a natural extinction such as the dinosaurs? 
  • Was it unnatural and influenced by man such as the Dodo or Falklands Wolf?
  • What causes animals to become extinct?
  • What causes animals to become endangered?
  • What rare or endangered animals do we have in Britain?
  • What can zoos, conservation  and nature organisations do to help prevent extinction in the future?

We look forward to hearing from you via the blog about ways that you have used the Darwin book or stamps in your classroom or craftroom.

 

  

 

Postman (or woman) in the family tree?

January 11, 2010

The recent  edition of Your Family Tree magazine NO. 85 had a fabulous article on tracing postmen and Post Office links in your family tree http://www.yourfamilytreemag.co.uk/ with some fascinating facts about how the postal service developed throughout the Victorian period and how many of us are likely to have postmen or women in the family some time in the past. lots of excellent links and ideas

Lots of this (and how to search Local History records, census returns etc.) would be very useful in the classroom especailly covering local history for the primary curriculum.  

Lark Rise to Candleford, the trilogy of books based on her life by Flora Thompson featured the footslogging approach to being a country postman or postwoman. The series is now out on DVD, a good way of giving an insight into the hard work involved in an everyday Victorian invention, the penny postal system.