Message from SHNH President November 2012
It is customary for any new president to introduce him/herself. First, I need to apologise that some of us, on the new SHNH Council, have had a very hard time recently (with bereavements and a very serious road traffic accident to deal with and we may not have been as responsive as people could wish. But things are slowly recovering, and we promise to do the best we can in future (like all good volunteers).
Next, I must sincerely thank my predecessor, Geoff Moore, for the sterling example he has set me. I fear he will prove a hard act to follow. But our Society itself seems in good stead, holding fascinating meetings (thanks to Gina Douglas) and providing a highly readable, as well as scholarly, journal - The Archives of Natural History - thanks to past editor Charles Nelson. We wish the new editor, Peter Davis, similar success in future. The role of the Society's Newsletter, is just as important, in informing members of what is afoot, thanks to Elaine Shaughnessy's hard work.
I am a geologist by training, and only a historian by inclination. My biggest hope is that we can extend the international reach of our Society, and, as Geoff has demanded, I too hope that we can all introduce new members to the fascinating histories we cover, right across the natural sciences. We do, however, face continual problems in a world which, despite its being so well informed, becomes instead more ignorant by the minute.
We first need to ensure that our own archives, currently stored at the Natural History Museum, are secure. We also need to keep a constant watch, as our Public and University Libraries dispose of more and more printed materials. In my own University's case, this is simply because, according to its library website, "old and superseded texts can be misleading, or worthless, and unsought material can obstruct the search for relevant items". However wrote that needs to meet a few more historians, whose task is surely to know what material to seek, and not to be misled!
I am currently trying to get to the bottom of the secret sales at Worcester Public Library, of which I first read in Private Eye, the satirical magazine which has a regular column of "Library News", but which is always depressing. These sales allowed the once wonderful library of the Worcestershire Natural History Society, founded in 1833 (and which was highly influential in encouraging other County-wide Natural History Societies to form Museums and Libraries elsewhere) to be sold at auction, among their 'old and useless stock', last year. All this raised over a quarter of a million pounds, towards funding its new Privately Financed Initiative library in Worcester. It also raised hardly an eyebrow, as no one was aware of these sales, until it was too late. Such library disasters are a cause I would like to take up, so if any members learn of similar disasters being under consideration, or having happened, please give us early warning.
Message from SHNH President April 2012
Well, thatís it! My last Council meeting is now history. I can hardly believe itís been three years since I took over the Presidency of the Society from Arthur Lucas, having served a year under him as Vice-President, but all good things come to an end. I have hugely enjoyed working on your behalf and am happy to report that the Society is in good health and bounding with energy. I feel entitled to make a few valedictory comments.
Your Council has accomplished much over that period: the entire back numbers of Archives of natural history have been digitized and are now available on the web (along with three of our Special Publications); we are attracting an ever growing number of Ďfollowersí (from a younger demographic than our traditional support base) on Facebook and Twitter; we have a healthy bank balance; and we have just re-negotiated our contract with Edinburgh University Press over the publication of Archives. So all-in-all things are looking pretty good.
I take this opportunity to thank our Patron, Sir David Attenborough, for agreeing to lend his name to our new initiative, the Patronís Review, and to thank our inaugural reviewer, Dr Sachiko Kusukawa for her splendid essay that shot to the top of our most downloaded articles. We celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Society in good style with a special edition of the Newsletter and with the publication, under Charles Nelsonís editorship, of our well-received compilation of Newsletter gems, History & Mystery. Malgosia Nowak-Kemp has now fully taken over the co-ordination of our overseas representatives and is doing a great job. We welcome our new representatives: Professor Francis Thackeray (South Africa) and Jason Easter (Gibraltar), who along with our existing stalwart overseas representatives take the message of the Society out to the wider world.
One thing that members wonít know, however, is that Charles Nelson, who has been our incomparable editor of Archives for the past 13 years, decided recently that he wished to relinquish that responsibility. So, he will be standing down at the AGM. I am sure all of you will join with me in thanking Charles profoundly for the meticulous way in which he has served the Society both on Council and as Editor and extend our best wishes to him and to his successor in that post (one that is so vital to our reputation as a learned society). In order to ease the changeover, Charles has agreed to become an Associate Editor for a transitional period and we can announce too that Dr Peter Barnard (who, before he retired, was at the Natural History Museum) will also become an Associate Editor.
I am pleased to announce Councilís nomination for incoming Editor is Peter Davis, Professor of Museology in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University, UK. Peter is a long-standing member of SHNH, has served on Council and has acted as Meetings Secretary and Book Reviews Editor.
For any society to remain vibrant, however, it relies on its membership to get involved. Can I leave post therefore with a plea ringing in all your ears to do whatever you can to support our wonderful society: recruit your friends to our ranks, provoke and contribute to debates in our newsletter and journal, come to our meetings, use all the electronic resources available to you now, and donít be bashful about volunteering to help in whatever way you can. Remember our claim to be a Ďfriendlyí learned Society is not an idle boast. Itís been great fun being your President; we have had some good laughs around the Council table; long may that continue. In order to mark my departure from Council, I presented the Society with a small earthenware bell in the form of a penguin with which to keep future meetings in order. It forms, I feel, also a nice token both of our Patronís recent Frozen Planet series in TV and a link to our forthcoming Terra Nova / AGM meeting at which I hope to see as many of you as possible at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge on 19 May, when I shall be formally bowing out.
I have greatly enjoyed my three years as your President and wish to thank the Officers, Vice-Presidents, Council members and Editorial Committee for their enthusiastic support and hard work over the three years of my presidency. The Society, hopefully, gives the impression of swan-like serenity but members can be assured that a lot of paddling goes on beneath the surface to achieve that poise. I send all concerned my best wishes for the future, knowing that the Society will be in good hands.