One of Bangor Universities own students has recently seen her own display made center stage in the entrance to Storiel Museum. The Scales and Tails exhibit is the culmination of months of hard work by the student and museum curators.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Mel Green, 34, escaped the 9-5 drudgery of an office job to study Herpetology and Zoology at Bangor in September 2015 as a mature student.
Having spent four hours a week volunteering at Brambell Natural History Museum in the university for the past two years, Mel admits that she was surprised but honored to be asked to help to curate the exhibit.
She says: “Well Helen, the curator at Brambell, had asked if I was interested in helping out in setting up a display at Storiel so of course I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.”
Sitting in Brambell Natural History Museum, surrounded by skeletons, fossilised remains and taxidermy, Mel seems happy with her role as a mature student within the University. She says: “I try to get involved with a wide range of students as you always learn from being around different groups of people.
“I think having life experience means I’m better at organising and managing time than some of my younger counterparts, and knowing myself a bit better means I know where my limits are.”
Now coming to the end of her second year at the University, it is clear that Mel has thrown herself into all aspects of academic life, despite the age gap between her and many of her fellow cohort.
Her need to get as much out of her University experience as possible led to her getting involved with the natural history museum located at in the Brambell building on a voluntary basis.
Her responsibilities are fairly simple and involve helping to maintain the collection, keeping pests to a minimum and cataloguing a lot of the specimens on view, specimens that include all manner of wildlife such as apes, giant cats and birds.
Speaking of the display in Storiel, Mel said: “In the display at the minute there’s a variety of reptiles. We’ve got some skeletons, a snake skull for example which is actually articulated to show the way the jaw can come apart and things which is unique to snakes.
“We’ve got some tortoise shells, we’ve got a lot of dead snakes, lizards and turtles all in fluid. A lot of it was chosen to represent the things you’d find in the museum. These are the ways we preserve specimens and they come in useful for further research and the history of the animals.”
Beyond her degree, Mel is hoping that her experience with the Scales and Tails exhibit can lead onto greater opportunities. She said: ‘It can lead into working in actual museums doing similar things and as Helen herself is the museum curator, it can lead into that kind of career.’
While the display was expected to draw a lot of interest, Mel is still happy with the positive feedback she has had since the display went public. She said: “I’m very pleased with the feedback I’ve gotten from the display.
“I didn’t expect it to have been as popular as it has been. It’s not likely to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it gets people talking and thinking about museum collections and reptiles, that’s all I could ask for.”
Originally known as the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Storiel opened it’s doors for the first time in January 2016 following an extensive £2.6M renovation, £1.4M of which came from the Lottery heritage fund.
At the time of the museums reopening, Prof Jerry Hunter of Bangor University, said: “The Storiel project is proof of the successful co-operation between all of the partners and offers a unique opportunity to open doors to Bangor University’s collections and provides an array of opportunities for future co-operation between Storiel and Pontio.”
Aiming to provide more opportunities for Bangor University students to help with curating displays, the museum has been a huge success story following its renovation welcoming 80,000 visitors through its doors in its first year alone. This is compared to just 12,000 when it was in its previous state.