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Jack Ashby

Jack Ashby

Museum Manager

Museum G. 14
Office Phone: 01223 (7)61344

Biography:

As the Manager of the University Museum of Zoology, I have a strategic overview of our varied activities - developing the Museum as both a valuable academic resource and an excellent public venue, while caring for our collections responsibly. A key area of interest is to develop ways to integrate the historic natural history collection and museum space into current academic teaching, research and public engagement programmes across the sciences, arts and humanities.

Background 

My childhood enthusiasm for natural history led me to study for a Natural Sciences (Zoology) degree at the University of Cambridge, with a large amount of my teaching taking place here in the Museum. After graduating in 2003 I started my career in Science Communication at the hands-on science centre At-Bristol, running workshops in the Learning Department.

I joined the Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London in 2004 as the Learning and Access Manager, using the Museum’s specimens to establish a Learning and Access Programme. My role there began with the task of developing the museum spaces and services to be accessible to non-academic audiences for the first time, including schools, families and adults, as well as strengthening our ties with UCL Departments. I became Museum Manager there in 2011, and oversaw the development of the Museum into one of London's leading venues for engagement with the life sciences, curating several successful exhibitions at the interface of natural history, art and art history.

I am a trustee of the Natural Sciences Collections Association and a Councillor of the Society for the History of Natural History.

Research Interests

My key zoological in interest in the natural history of Australia and its mammals, where I regularly undertake ecological fieldwork with Australian wildlife NGOs and university.

Much of my writing, exhibition curation and public engagement activities focus on the role museums play in providing a window on the natural world. I see museum collections as a fantastic resource for the history of natural history, and a means to explore concepts of authenticity in museum specimens, which are both man-made and “real” at the same time.

As well as enabling us to explore the key principles of evolution and natural history, museums also depict nature in certain ways that are not entirely scientific. I am particularly interested in the (normally subconscious) biases in natural history museum displays. These two aspects of museums were the key focus of my 2017 book,  Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects.