Posts Tagged ‘extinction’

Famous footsteps, incredible journeys: Happy New Darwin Anniversary Year 2011 – 175 years on, and a bit more of our Victorian Time Safari …

January 2, 2011

It’s 175 years this year since Charles Darwin returned to Britain at the end of his five-year voyage, just as the Victorian period was beginning. He had spent his last Christmas 1835 away from home and was heading back in HMS Beagle for the final part of his epic voyage of discovery. He still had much of Australia, New Zealand, Keeling Islands, Mauritius, Cape Town in South Africa, St. Helena, Ascension Island and Brazil (again) to visit before reaching Britain. Many of these countries, especially the islands, mark the anniversary of his famous visit with postage stamps.

By October 2nd, 1836 he would be back on land in Falmouth and heading home by mail coach

Plaque marking spot of Darwin's landfall from HMS Beagle voyage, Oct 2 1836 in Falmouth and his departure home by coach.

A plaque set up by Falmouth Town Council and Falmouth Art Gallery marks the point where he made landfall in Falmouth and waited for the mail coach home. Within a year, a new Queen would be on the throne and a new era of scientific, agricultural and technological revolution begun. Lots of developments had happened in technology and society whilst he had been away, not least the beginnings of railway mania, so that the very coach he travelled on was soon to become obsolete as public transport within his lifetime.

The penny post and Penny Black stamp were only a few years aways in 1840. By the time he died in 1882, telegraph communication was widespread and telephones in their infancy. The first petrol engine vehicles were in development. Cinema experiments were beginning. Iron and steam had replaced wood and sail in modern ships. Darwin lived through an amazing century, which set the pace for the developments since.

There’s a 2009 news story and photos about the Darwin’s landfall plaque in Falmouth  http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/news/falmouth/Plaque-marks-Darwin-landfall/article-1636415-detail/article.html

Sadly since this was put up, Brian Stewart the curator of Falmouth Art Gallery has sadly died in December 2010, much missed by  the Newquay Zoo staff with whom he worked extensively on Darwin 200 activities. Many tributes can be read to his work in the Falmouth Packet newspaper. Newquay Zoo staff were already planning a follow-up to Darwin 200 based around nonsense poet and animal painter Edward Lear’s bicentenary in May 2012.    

Darwin is not the only eminent Victorian to have his landing-place marked in Cornwall. We’ve included it as part of our Victorian Time Safari, looking at the legacy of Darwin’s Victorian times around us. What can you see in your village, town or city from Victorian times?

We spotted this unusual footprint when arriving by boat ferry at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, that magical castle in the sea that Darwin would have passed on his route into Falmouth just up the coast.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert 's royal visit marked by bronze plaque near her 'footstep' at St. Michaels' Mount, Cornwall (Photo: Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo)

Nearby, Truro station has all the ornate ironwork of a Victorian station still, including its VR Victorian post box. Nearby, Truro station has all the ornate ironwork of a Victorian station still, including its VR Victorian post box. On a recent Dublin trip, we saw a Victorian explorer commemorated not in stamps but in a lifesize bronze statue. What Victorain memorials or  inventions can you find in your area?

Ornate Victorian ironwork, Truro rail station, Cornwall, 2010Ornate decorative Victorian ironwork, Truro rail station, Cornwall, 2010Victorian statue of explorer / surgeon TH Parke from Stanley's expeditions in Africa, outside Dublin Natural History Museum

Wallace – the alternative Darwin – gets a postage stamp or two at last!!

July 25, 2010

George Beccaloni left a very excited message on the Alfred Russel Wallace website  about the 2009 issue by Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe (in Africa) of Wallace stamps – at last!

You might have read earlier Sandie’s jubilant blog entry about the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society postage stamps from the Royal Mail featuring Wallace  http://http://royalsociety.org/Royal-Society-350th-anniversary-stamps/ 

Interesting to compare the two different designs!

The centenary of Wallace’s death in 1913 is due soon in 2013 and the Wallace Fund website blog has more details about how this is being marked around the world. There is also a short biography of this amazing man and many links.

These very Darwin style portrait and dinosaur stamps compare well with some of the Darwin 200 and other anniversary issues shown in our Charles Darwin: A Life In Stamps book, published in 2009. Copies are still available to schools (free) and collectors (small charge, see earlier blog).  The stamps should,  as George notes,   appeal to dinosaur stamp collectors as much as Darwin realted stamp collectors.  

 http://wallacefund.info/first-ever-postage-stamps-featuring-alfred-russel-wallace-are-published

His book The Malay Archipeligo has never been out of print since its publication, much like Darwin’s Voyage of The Beagle, another classic of  Victorian travel writing.

Wallace’s travels took him across Indonesia including to Papua New Guinea where our Black Tree Monitors are from and Sulawesi, an Indonesian island,  home to Sulawesi Macaque monkeys that are now critically endangered – you can see our group at Newquay Zoo through our webcam http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/conservation/sulawesi-crested-black-macaques.htm, part of our support for Selamatkan Yaki (Protect The Macaque! in Bahasan Indonesian).

We’ll keep you posted on celebartions for Wallace 2013, Darwin 2011 and Edward Lear 2012 on the blog – watch this space.

New UK mammal biodiversity stamps launched!

April 15, 2010

Hopefully you have all seen the news release about Royal Mail’s new UK Biodiversity stamps (and you’ll see them on your post). Surely Charles Darwin as a backyard biologist would approve, especailly in 2010 Year of Biodiversity,  of the beautiful new photographic stamps about rare British mammals. You can see them on the Royal mail website or at the execllent zoo blog http://zoonewsdigest.blogspot.com:80/2010/04/mammal-stamps-in-uk.html 

Stephen Woollard and Sandie Robb at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo commented: “We are particularly pleased to see the Scottish wildcat as one of the featured animals and the launch of this stamp took place at our RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, as we are one of the partners of the Cairngorm Wildcat Project.”

See these links: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8617325.stm

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8616599.stm

 http://www.royalmail.com/portal/stamps/content1?catId=118600813&mediaId=119300768

If only Darwin had known about … DNA and Gregor Mendel.

February 28, 2010

Royal Mail's Millennium stamp issue featured this striking DNA stamp.

If only Darwin had known about … DNA.

A useful website for teachers is a daily email from History.com 
THIS DAY IN HISTORY http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 


February 28: General Interest
1953 : Watson and Crick discover chemical structure of DNA

On this day in 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.

Though DNA–short for deoxyribonucleic acid–was discovered in 1869, its crucial role in determining genetic inheritance wasn’t demonstrated until 1943. In the early 1950s, Watson and Crick were only two of many scientists working on figuring out the structure of DNA. California chemist Linus Pauling suggested an incorrect model at the beginning of 1953, prompting Watson and Crick to try and beat Pauling at his own game.

 On the morning of February 28, they determined that the structure of DNA was a double-helix polymer, or a spiral of two DNA strands, each containing a long chain of monomer nucleotides, wound around each other. According to their findings, DNA replicated itself by separating into individual strands, each of which became the template for a new double helix.

In his best-selling book, The Double Helix (1968), Watson later claimed that Crick announced the discovery by walking into the nearby Eagle Pub and blurting out that “we had found the secret of life.” The truth wasn’t that far off, as Watson and Crick had solved a fundamental mystery of science–how it was possible for genetic instructions to be held inside organisms and passed from generation to generation.

Watson and Crick’s solution was formally announced on April 25, 1953, following its publication in that month’s issue of Nature magazine. The article revolutionized the study of biology and medicine. Among the developments that followed directly from it were pre-natal screening for disease genes; genetically engineered foods; the ability to identify human remains; the rational design of treatments for diseases such as AIDS; and the accurate testing of physical evidence in order to convict or exonerate criminals.

Crick and Watson later had a falling-out over Watson’s book, which Crick felt misrepresented their collaboration and betrayed their friendship. A larger controversy arose over the use Watson and Crick made of research done by another DNA researcher, Rosalind Franklin, whose colleague Maurice Wilkins showed her X-ray photographic work to Watson just before he and Crick made their famous discovery.

When Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize in 1962, they shared it with Wilkins. Franklin, who died in 1958 of ovarian cancer and was thus ineligible for the award, never learned of the role her photos played in the historic scientific breakthrough.

———————————————————————————-

Gregor Mendel and his famous smooth and wrinkled pea plant experiments on inheritance are commemorated on this German stamp. If only Darwin and he had met ...

And if only Darwin had met or read properly the work of Gregor Mendel

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.

 

  

 

Christmas post and gingerbread postmen from the Darwin 200 Stamp Zoo team

December 21, 2009

Sweet talk, toy soldiers and postage stamps  

Happy Christmas and holidays from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team.   

Victorian Christmas toys (for boys?) Kipling's red coated Soldiers of The Queen and Empire, zoo keepers (original lead W. Britains and modern versions) and Victorian Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (volunteer) badges. Look carefully for khaki suited soldiers, camouflage adapted from animals. Newquay Zoo's Victorian Life collection, displayed on Darwin's Big Beard Birthday Bash weekend, February 2009Homecast 54mm traditional toy soldier 'modern' versions of these toys can be made using Prince August moulds.

Seasonal tips 

Much of our Modern Christmas dates back to Victorian times and Mr Dickens. Darwin is known to have read early Dickens books with his young wife Emma. Darwin was very much a family man, and loved playing with his children. (Read Annie’s Box by Randal Keynes and weep!) He was far from the stern, strict, distant , dictatorial Victorian dad we typecast Victorian men as being.

As well as collecting Christmas stamps and Christmas cards (invented by Henry Cole in the 1840s) you could spend your Christmas telling  or reading ghost stories, watch a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at the cinema (invented by Victorians) or  look out for Oliver! on television. There are  Cranford Christmas specials (Victorian 1840s Northern life by Mrs. Gaskell) or the wonderful BBC Victorian Farm series of Christmas specials.

As with Darwin, there are lots of stamp issues of Dickens and a bicentenary coming up in 2012. Another chance to use the Darwin stamp book resource and teaching tips – Dickens and Darwin  make a fascinating comparison timeline of rich and poor. 

To keep busy at Christmas, three ideas from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team  

adapted from the DFEE / DCSF parents as partners leaflets  

Recipe and ideas adapted  by the Darwin 200 stamp zoo team from http:// www.parents.dfee.gov.uk/discover (original weblink sadly no longer available) 

That’s entertainment 

Victorian children didn’t have radios, TVs, videos or computers – they had to make their own entertainment. Your child might be surprised how many familiar toys and games date back to Victorian times. 

Street games were popular with poorer Victorian children, including hopscotch, football and clapping and skipping games. Middle-class children played with hobby-horses, dolls, toy soldiers, and paints and wax crayons. Board games like ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snakes and Ladders’ were also well-liked.

 

Why don’t you and your child have a Victorian games day? Try managing without any modern forms of entertainment and play with more traditional toys and games.  

  • What did you both enjoy most about the day?
  • What did you find difficult?

 Victorian homes 

Many people in Victorian times lived in homes without any of the modern comforts we take for granted today. People had to manage without central heating or hot water from the tap – instead they had open fires and heated water on a big cooker called a range. Without vacuum cleaners or washing machines, looking after the home was very hard work. 

Help your child to imagine what it would have been like to live in Victorian times. 

How would they like to have a bath in a metal tub in front of the kitchen fire? 

What would it be like to have to go to the toilet outside after dark? 

How would they like playing with toy soldiers instead of computer games? Would they enjoy having to do some sewing instead of watching T V ? 

 Go around the house with your child and make a list of all the things that Victorian families wouldn’t have had. Then talk with them about what people in Victorian times might have used to do the same job.

 

Sweet Talk 

Richer Victorian housewives had plenty of different types of food to choose from and some famous recipe books to help them – one of the best known was by Mrs Beeton. 

Here is a Victorian recipe for Gingerbread Men – a treat still enjoyed by children today. Why don’t you try making this? 

Darwin Stamp Zoo’s Recipe for GINGERBREAD POST MEN or GINGERBREAD DARWINS 

You need: 

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • a knob of butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • raisins/candied peel
  • icing (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). 

2. Mix everything except the raisins/peel in a bowl. 

3. When the ingredients have come together into a solid mixture, roll it out onto a floured surface. 

4. Cut into shapes using a gingerbread cutter. How about postmen, square postage stamps, pillar boxes, letters and other Victorian shapes or images? 

5. Use the raisins and peel to make eyes and noses. 

6. Bake the biscuits on a greased tray for 10 to 15 minutes. 

7. When cool,  eat or decorate with icing (optional). A nice white beard for Mr Darwin perhaps. 

 To avoid suitably Victorian hygiene and health and safety issues and avoid  a trip to your local hospital (probably established in Victorian times), be careful when working with hot ovens and baking trays. 

Clean your hands before cooking and eating. You’re not a Victorian street urchin! 

Happy Christmas!

A Victorian time safari … stamps and the secrets of cheap time travel revealed!

December 10, 2009
the stamp that started it all - the Penny Black of 1840, Young Queen Victoria's head

the stamp that started it all - the Penny Black of 1840, Young Queen Victoria's head

1837 – the year that Charles Darwin was writing up his notes of the Beagle voyage, having arrived home from  a five-year round the world trip a few months before. 

1837 – the year that an eighteen year old Princess Alexandra Victoria became Queen. 

1837 – the year that Rowland Hill wrote a pamphlet on Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicality which was successful enough to lead to the world’s first penny postage stamp service in 1840 and the Penny Black. It shows the head of the young Queen Victoria, as did the coinage very different from the ‘Old Queen’s Head’  seen in photographs, late Victorian pennies, statues and pub signs. Sandie Robb posted some pictures of Victorian coins in a previous blog. 

You can see the same ageing gracefully with our current monarch Queen Elizabeth II if you find pre-decimal coins (from your Britain in the 1960s history project), stamps from the 1950s and 60s compared to the more mature Queen’s portrait head now shown.   

Stamps and commemoratives are very much about then and now, great for comparison, dating and timeline activities in class. 

Reproduction coins from Westair are good but not as atmospheric as  real Victorian objects such as pennies, even penny reds and penny blacks are not that expensive or difficult to track down for the classroom or school history collection. Check through E-bay, charity and junk shops or stamp   dealers;  a well spent £10 to £20 can pick up some useful originals that children can see and in the case of coins, handle. Victorian stamps are a bit more fragile and the inks less light permanent than modern ones. 

Some more teaching tips 

There is something intangible, exciting, magical even about handling old and historic objects, however ordinary. It gives the chance to let the imagination enter history lessons – who might have handled that Victorian penny? Posted that Victorian stamp? 

1. The story of a stamp or penny, Victorian style 

What letter might that Victorian stamp have come from, who wrote it and what news did it contain? 

Was it on a postcard, another Victorian invention or the Christmas card (first invented 1843)? 

 How was it delivered? By whom? 

Early Green Victorian pillar box from UK Royal Mail stamp series

Which post box or pillar box (which had to be invented, like the letter box in front doors)? Some VR postboxes still exist in older areas of town and country. 

What streets did it pass down? 

Over what surfaces underfoot? 

Past what type of transport? 

Into what type of building or shop? 

How was the building and the street lit? What kind of people’s pockets might it have passed through (or been stolen from)? Many local museums and art galleries in towns and cities like our local Darwin 200 partners http://www.falmouthartgallery.com and Penlee House http://www.penleehouse.org.uk/ have fabulously atmospheric Victorian paintings of street scenes and seaside promenades such as ‘The Rain It Raineth Everyday’. (Not much changes in Cornwall – I love the figure of the rain-caped Victorian bobby as one of my ancestors was just such a Victorian policeman in Penzance where this is painted, see  http://www.penleehouse.org.uk/collections/item/PEZPH:1989.61.html ).  

 The best paintings  by painter W.P. Frith (1819-1909) give a colourful picture of Victorian life at the races, railway stations, post offices and seaside including ‘Ramsgate Sands’  from Queen Victoria’s collection http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/maker.asp?maker=11716&object=405068&row=1 and the V&A’s Derby Day (1858) sketches http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O132987/oil-painting-sketch-for-the-derby-day/   You can more web-zoomable paintings by Frith for use in class at http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/frith_william_powell.html 

 Many photographs (Victorian invention alert!) of local areas can be found online http://www.francisfrith.com/ from the Francis Frith collection, a pioneering Victorian photographer (1822-1898 )http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Frith

Prints of these paintings and photos  are available. These would prove a good classroom focus for thinking about the different types of people, clothes, jobs, wealth, childhood shown or portrayed. In whose (picked) pockets would that Victorian coin of yours be? Who would have written the letter posted with your stamp? 

Creative writing and drama can easily come out of a display using drama techniques such as hot-seating, freeze-frame, role-play and speech bubbles. There are some good drama idaes on teaching websites such as http://www.dramateachers.co.uk/ and http://www.free-teaching-resources.co.uk/drama.shtml 

2. Victorian Time safaris 

You can become a time detective (detectives were a Victorian invention, and although not invented but popularised in the 1880s by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes)  and go on Victorian safari round your town and look at what survives, especially above shop front level; many grand Victorian buildings are under threat for development around the country. The Victorian Society fights for their protection and continued use, including the very schools that Victorians built after the Education reforms of 1870 http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/ (not to be confused with the Victorian Military Society and its re-enactors of Victorian soldiering, http://www.thediehards.co.uk that you might meet at Living History events. They might even visit schools!) 

We’ll put more ideas on going out of the classroom inspired by Darwin, your stamp or coins (many zoos are signed up to the Learning outside the Classroom manifesto and quality badging http://www.lotc.org.uk/ ) in future blogs. 

3. Then and Now 

In the case of Victorian pennies, many of these are smoothed almost to obliteration from decades of use and service. What changes they must have seen until decimal coins of today came in at the end of the 1960s? 

You could update your street or seaside scene / display / creative writing/ drama piece to the modern-day with some fast forwards, zooms and cheap imaginative time travel in the classroom. 

The Victorians would approve, being great pioneers of science fiction, ranging from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, writer of the Time Machine to Conan Doyle.

A wild (stamp) night out in Newquay … and plans for future nonsense.

December 3, 2009

Explorers, scientists and many anniversaries are commemorated on stamps from Darwin to Neil Armstrong ...

Newquay, famous or even infamous for its nightlife, was host to an unusual wild night yesterday, Wednesday 2nd December. Or rather a wild life on stamps night …

… as we launched or unveiled in Cornwall the new Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps  stamp book to Newquay Philatelic Society NPS at their annual Christmas social event.

In the New Year we will make copies available to Cornish schools free of charge. As well as launching the book and selling some signed copies, we introduced at the talk what’s been happening past, present and future at Newquay Zoo in our 40th birthday year with photographs of the zoo over the last forty years including some photos turned in by past visitors and local families. Photos, paintings, prints, Victorian objects and Darwin postage stamps form part of Newquay Zoo’s Museum and Archive collection loaned out for Darwin 200 exhibitions at  Falmouth Art Gallery. Falmouth was where Darwin made landfall on his return from the Beagle voyage.  These four Falmouth exhibitions and the Darwin’s Footsteps trail at Newquay Zoo (both supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) have now been taken down with materials mostly in store for future use such as celebrating Edward Lear’s bicentenary in 2012. More on Lear, Victorians  and stamps to follow …

Part of my talk was  about how stamps could be used to illustrate and inspire in educational ways. We also talked about how to encourage more families and children to engage with postage stamp collecting and philately, as its seen as a dying hobby by many. RZSS Edinburgh Zoo’s wildlife stamp events with the Association of Scottish Philatelic Societies headed by Darwin book co-author Sandie Robb at RZSS are a good example of doing this well. The Darwin stamp book was part funded by a bequest to support stamp work to encourage  young stamp collectors kindly left  by a Scottish stamp collector, the late Beryl Rennie

At Newquay Zoo we’ve displayed or scanned this year dinosaur stamps alongside real fossils and living dinosaur plants here (www.lostworldread.com, Conan Doyle’s Lost World the Great Reading Adventure) to highlight extinction. We’ve displayed space stamps from our 1969 Archive to celebarte International Year of Astronomy IYA 2009 www.iya2009.org and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings in the same period and year that Newquay Zoo opened.  We used stamps to illustrate some of the  animal star constellations (inspired by Jacqueline Mitton’s The Zoo in The Sky book) for Newquay Zoo animals such as Lynx that feature as endangered European carnivores as part of the EAZA Carnivore campaign  http://www.carnivorecampaign.eu/  

Next year is 2010 International Year of Biodiversity http://www.biodiversityislife.net/ and http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/biodiversity/international-year-biodiversity/index.html 

Zoos worldwide will be marking this event in many ways. RZSS Edinburgh  Zoo have many events planned. Here at Newquay Zoo we’ll be using plant stamps from our overseas partner countries as part of our Plant Hunters trail and pirate stamps to celebrate September’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day  http://www.talklikeapirate.com/.  best of all for our Philippines trail  beautiful  WWF stamp issue Philippine stamps showing the world’s rarest pig Visayan Warty Pig and worlds’ rarest deer, the Philippine Spotted Deer, here as part of an international zoo breeding programme and outreach overseas conservation to Philippines Conservation funds. Find out more about our events and activity trails on our zoo website www.newquayzoo.org.uk 

So thanks to Hazel Meredith the NPS chairperson, Peter Chantry (Cornwall Federation of Philatelic Societies) and many friendly others especially including my host Ken Attwood, zoo volunteer and Vice Chair of NPS  for their warm welcome and hospitality and donations to zoo conservation funds,  added to sales or donations for signed Darwin stamp books.

We look forward to hosting more news on wildlife  stamp events at Newquay Zoo and RZSS Edinburgh Zoo in 2010 and 2011.

Meanwhile,  keep a look out on our blog for more stamp teaching tips and inspiration.

Bookmark this site and pass it on to others, leave us comments on our posts or share good teaching tips for using stamps. Happy stamping!

Watching the extinction of the Royal Mail? Charles Darwin, postal history, Postman Pat and a speedy exit from Cornwall

October 26, 2009
The Devonport mail coach of 1837 on a postcard from the Post Office Collection  / National Postal Museum above the Bath mail coach of 1784 featured on a UK stamp in my Proof reading copy  of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps

The Devonport mail-coach of 1837 on a postcard from the Post Office Collection / National Postal Museum above the Bath mail-coach of 1784 featured on a UK stamp in my proof-reading copy of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps

 

The postal strike has featured much in the news recently with some papers predicting the extinction of the Royal Mail.

Ironically one part of our forthcoming Edinburgh Zoo  RZSS / Newquay Zoo  collaboration on a Darwin stamp book features a section (especially useful for teachers) on postal history with lots of links to different resource websites. Darwin relied on the post for a link with his family and many correspondents on the Packet ships, the early postal system before Queen Victoria, Rowland Hill and the Penny Post which saw the Penny Black invented in 1840 just after Darwin returned from his famous HMS Beagle voyage in 1836.

An old friend Jo Butts gave me this postcard of the Devonport mail-coach  1837 years ago from the Post Office Collection / National Postal Museum in London. Luckily I rediscovered it in time for Darwin’s bicentenary year this year for display at Newquay Zoo, supporting the four unusual and thought-provoking Darwin 200 art exhibitions at Falmouth Art Gallery this year.

The painting shows the Devonport mail-coach driving through snowstorms in 1837, the year after Darwin’s arrival at Falmouth, Cornwall on October 2, 1836 and swift departure on the mail-coach home to Shrewsbury over two and a half days. Despite its Christmas card appearance (another Victorian invention), this  postcard of a painting ‘after James Pollard 1837’ gives a vivid  idea what winter mail-coach travel in the West country of the 1830s might have been like around the time that Queen Victoria came to the throne!

Darwin’s comments on the long coach journey home and his coach companions are recorded in his Beagle diary,  available www.darwin-online.org.uk which, along with www.darwinproject.ac.uk , make Darwin’s writings and letters available and accessible online.

Teaching tips:

Victorians, postage and Darwin feature in primary school National Curriculum History topics, as well as Victorian discoveries and  inventions in Science, Design and Technology

Teachers might consider with pupils in what other ways people communicate today, as well as posted letters, compared to Darwin’s time. 

What evolution of everyday  technology has replaced handwritten letter post since 1837?

How might Postman Pat (or his Victorian great great great Grandfather) have delivered Darwin’s letters then? Today his vehicles now extend past Victorian steam trains to helicopters and motorbikes as seen on www.postmanpat.com!  (N.B. other children’s television characters are available). 

Some of these communication methods have now become extinct or obsolete themselves such as Morse Code and telegraphs (see the website of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/ for more about the ‘Victorian Internet’ as it was called).

Teachers might also consider how post is delivered today instead of by horse and coach, an example of evolving technology. The old out of print Ladybird book of  The Postman is a good source of colourful illustrations of postmen for use in class – easily available on E-Bay!

A postal timeline is a useful way to show this as a display, alongside Darwin’s life time line. It makes a pleasant change from studying Florence Nightingale!

Extinction, conservation, Charles Darwin, zoos and stamp collecting?

September 30, 2009
Charles Darwin dinosaur hunter (featured on a  cigraette card)

Charles Darwin dinosaur hunter (featured on a 1940s or 1950s cigarette card)

Stamp collectors sometimes collect other things, like trade cards or cigarette and tea cards. (It’s often called collecting ephemera). This card is from my collection  at Newquay Zoo, showing Charles Darwin as a geologist and fossil or dinosaur hunter. We had so many possible stamps and images to choose from our collections that we had to leave this one out of the Darwin stamp book , despite there being a fabulous area featured of Charles Darwin stamp collecting – DINOSAURS.

There are however many great designs of dinosaur stamps from a bewildering range of countries that we have scanned from the collection of Sandie Robb at RZSS and Eugene Wood to illustrate the use of stamps as educational resources and objects of great beauty, miniature and usually affordable works of art.

Using the dinosaur stamps or fossil plant stamps in the classroom or the craftroom, students could research the dinosaur pictured and named on each stamp. Mini fact files can be found on websites like www.nhm.ac.uk the Natural History Museum, BBC, National Geographic and others.

Teaching or craft idea:  Dinosaur landscapes or communities (even good old predator / prey food webs in class!) could be painted or depicted around printed out or enlarged scans of stamps.

Did all the dinosaurs featured live at the same time? What fossil plants could you show them with?

 I have seen some beautifully hand painted stamp pages in albums or designs for First Day Covers  (some Darwin ones are featured in our book). Just be careful you don’t splash paint on your favourite stamps!  

And the zoo connection? Where have all the dinosaurs gone? What does extinction mean? The extinction of dinosaurs was one thing humans can’t be blamed for, a result of a rapidly but naturally changing world. However, one animal featured in our stamp book is the Warrah, a Falklands Wolf seen by Charles Darwin on his famous Voyage of the Beagle.

Sandie Robb in her non-stampy role for RZSS Edinburgh Zoo has worked on the Falkland Islands linking Scottish and Falkland schools (see her blog at www.rzssfalklands.wordpress.com).

Sandie didn’t see a Warrah as they are now as extinct as the dinosaurs Darwin discovered, but extinct in the last 100 to 150 years, persecuted like other wolves as a threat to that famous non-native Falkland animal, the sheep!

Maybe Warrah would still exist in the wild or at least in zoos in Edinburgh or Newquay if they had survived just a little longer; instead it’s just a stamp! How very sad and frustrating for conservationists! There are many other creatures we can still save …