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Out of the Box: Sharing Strategies for Accessing Natural History Collections

Out of the Box: Sharing Strategies for Accessing Natural History Collections will be a two day symposium bringing together scientists, museum people, artists, citizen scientists and others who share an interest in promoting natural history collections to wider audiences. We want to get you thinking about the diverse values and connections that natural history collections can be part of – ways of understanding them that are not purely scientific or historical or artistic, but a blend of different ways of seeing.

Our keynote speaker will be Deirdre Coleman of the University of Melbourne who has been delving into the complexities of historical taxonomy and connections between politics, personalities and natural history collections from the past. We will also have speakers from a diverse range of disciplines speaking about how they care for and would like to use natural history specimens. This range of speakers and ideas will lead into collaborative sessions and workshops that will give you the opportunity to meet and work with people from other disciplines to generate ideas for growing the public face of these fabulous collections.

Jointly hosted by the University of Canberra and CSIRO the symposium will take place at the University’s Ann Harding Conference Centre on 1-2 June 2017. If you would like further information please contact Alison Wain at

Images by National Research Collections Australia, CSIRO

Keynote Speaker

Deirdre Coleman

Deirdre Coleman researches eighteenth-century literature and cultural history, focusing in particular on natural history, colonialism, the anti-slavery movement, and racial ideology. She has published in ELHEighteenth-Century Life and Eighteenth-Century Studies, and is the author of Romantic Colonization and British Anti-Slavery (Cambridge University Press, 2005). More recently she co-edited (with Hilary Fraser) Minds, Bodies, Machines, 1770-1930 (Palgrave, 2011). Her new book, The Flycatcher:  Natural History, Slavery, and Empire in the late 18th century, will appear in 2017 with Liverpool University Press. Also forthcoming is her article (with Robert Blackburn) ‘Eighteenth-Century West African insects in the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney’, forthcoming Archives of Natural History2017.She holds the Robert Wallace Chair of English at the University of Melbourne.


Paul Flemons

Paul joined the Museum in 1998, establishing the Museum’s spatial analysis capacity and initially managing the GIS facilities and modelling the spatial distribution of biodiversity. As part of an Australian Museum team he provided input to the Forestry assessment process that saw invertebrates being used for the first time in the designing and specification of reserve systems in the eastern forests of NSW. He has been instrumental in building the Museum’s reputation as a world leader in biodiversity informatics. Paul has a particular interest in developing innovative solutions to biodiversity informatics challenges, in particular web based applications for accessing and analysing biodiversity collection data. In recent years he has developed the DigiVol project. which is recognised globally as an innovative best practice volunteer based program for digitising natural history collections. DigiVol forms the basis of the Museums current drive to digitise its collections in an environment of scarce funding.

John La Salle

John La Salle, Director of the Atlas of Living Australia, has been involved with the Atlas since its inception and played a key role in its establishment in 2006.  John is an internationally recognised insect taxonomist, who served as Director of the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) from 2001-2012.   He is a leading figure in adopting emerging technologies to accelerate the processes of taxonomy, species discovery and description, and delivery of information from natural history collections.  As Director of the Atlas of Living Australia he is helping to unlock the information stored in a huge range of biodiversity databases, and making this information accessible and useable online.  This huge, rich data pool is generating new efficiencies and possibilities for research, collection management, natural resource management, policy development, land-use planning, education and outreach. His 30 years of research experience in the systematics and biology of parasitic Hymenoptera has mainly been focused on the systematics, biology, and evolution of parasitic Hymenoptera; their importance to biological control and sustainable agriculture; and their significance in maintaining ecological balance in both natural and agricultural ecosystems.

Bryan Lessard

Dr Bryan Lessard (a.k.a. Bry the Fly Guy) was first introduced to the curious world of flies during his undergraduate studies at the University of Wollongong, learning about the behaviour, classification and applications of the winged insects to forensic entomology. With his interest peaked, he enrolled in a PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra to continue his research on flies, this time describing over 18 species new to science and using DNA to solve the mystery behind the evolution of gondwanan horse flies. In the hopes of generating buzz in taxonomy, the science of naming and classifying organisms, he described a horse fly with a golden abdomen after the performer BeyoncĂ©, 'Plinthina beyonceae'. This “bootylicious” ambassador for biodiversity became a viral sensation and sparked a global conversation on the importance of flies. Dr Lessard now works as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National Insect Collection at CSIRO in Canberra. Here he continues to research the classification and evolution of soldier flies, most famous for the black soldier fly 'Hermetia illucens' that powers compost bins and could become the next superfood of the 21st century. Dr Lessard shares his passion for flies and biodiversity with the world through speaking events, social media and the written word. He was an invited speaker at TEDxCanberra 2016.

Erica Seccombe

Erica is a visual artist based in Canberra. She was recently awarded the prestigious 2017 Capital Arts Patrons CAPO Fellowship. Her practice spans from traditional and photographic print media to experimental digital platforms using frontier scientific visualisation software. Erica is a lecturer in Foundation at the ANU School of Art (, for the courses Figure & Life and Vision & Perception. She also lectures for The Centre for Art History and Art Theory, and has convened Australian Modernism, Cyberculture and taught into first year Art History. This year Erica will graduate with a PhD from the ANU SoA, Photography and Media Arts. Her research project GROW: experiencing Nature in the Fifth Dimension is a practice-led research project investigating time-resolved (4D) micro-X-ray Computed Tomography through immersive stereoscopic digital projection installations and 3D printing.

Sheldon Teares

Sheldon Teare (BA Hons, MA) is a specialist Natural Sciences Conservator and currently holds the position of Conservator, Natural Sciences at the Australian Museum. Sheldon trained as an Objects Conservator, gaining a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from the University of Melbourne. He has specialized in the Conservation of Natural Science collections for over seven years. Sheldon joined the Conservation department at the Australian museum in 2010. Before joining the Australian Museum team he was a projects Conservator at Museum Victoria. Sheldon studied Classics and Archaeology as an undergraduate gaining knowledge in Archaeozoology and Biological anthropology. This heightened an interest in osteology and working with biological/natural specimens. Sheldon has worked across many large scale projects on Birds of Paradise, Deep sea fluid preserved specimens and whole galleries of historical and modern taxidermy. Sheldon has extensive experience with the treatment of taxidermy specimens, and a particular interest in the Conservation of fluid preserved specimens.Sheldon’s current areas of interest lie in fluid Preservation, historical taxidermy, advocating for improved standards and records within the preparation of specimens, and is passionate in educating Conservators and Collection staff in basic Collection Care of Natural Science collections.

Elycia Wallis

Dr Elycia Wallis is the Manager of Online Collections at Museum Victoria in Melbourne. In this role, Elycia works with a team of content specialists and developers to create innovative ways to publish information about the museum’s collections to websites, apps and into exhibition interactives. Dr Wallis holds a PhD in Zoology and a Masters in Knowledge Management.  Dr Wallis is also the Project Lead for the Biodiversity Heritage Library in Australia, which is coordinated by a team at Museum Victoria and is run under the auspices of the Atlas of Living Australia.

The Art of Natural History


Historical Taxonomy

Citizen Science in Natural History

Conserving Natural History Collections

Discussion and working group outcomes

Invited and 'lightning' talks

View and download recorded presentations

Out of the Box lightning talk schedule, 1 June 2017

  • 1:40 - Stephanie von Gavel (CSIRO – indigenous perspectives)
  • 6:48 - Lynda Kelly (LyndaKellyNetworks  – Visitors and Collections)
  • 11:50 (and 23:07 for her credits slide) - Nicole Fisher (CSIRO - digitisation)
  • 16:55 - Mary Rosengren (Artist – The Real Thing)
  • 23:20 - Sara Bunn (Art Gallery of New South Wales – the role of collectors)        
  • 29:16 - Vanessa Finney (Australian Museum – Art of the Scott Sisters)
  • 36:20 - Katharina Schulte and Mark Clements (Australian Tropical Herbarium and Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research – genomic data)
  • 41:55 - Julia Landford – (Artist – art and natural history)
  • 48:40 - Christine Cargill (Australian National Botanic Gardens – Hidden in plain view)
  • 54.24 - Clare Holleley (CSIRO – egg collections)
  • 59:30 - Cathryn Franzi (Artist - Collections: inspiring ideas and studio processes)
  • 1:04:40 - Steven Petkovski (Geoscience Australia – fossils and minerals)
  • 1:10:10 - Karyne Rogers (GNS Science – natural history projects in NZ museums)
  • 1:16:34 - Tanya Hoolihan (PhD University of Newcastle – Ludwig Leichardt as botanist)
  • 1:22:20 Julie Ryder (Artist – 19th century Seaweed albums)