If you are from Lincoln, or are a student at the university like myself, you may have noticed the appearance of ‘Joseph Banks Laboratories’ on the signs around campus as well as the renovation of an old red brick building behind Pavilions. As a science student I have known about the existence of this building for a while, as in the next few months (Hopefully!) pretty much all research scientists who currently work in the science building will be moving to a new home – The Joseph Banks laboratories. The name Joseph Banks has therefore been in the back of my mind for a long time without me ever really questioning why it was chosen to be the name of this long awaited science research building. So imagine my excitement when on a visit to Lincoln’s collection museum last weekend I saw a new exhibit entitled – Joseph Banks: A Great Endeavor. Finally I would get to find out who this man was and what achievements he made in order for him to be the namesake of the University of Lincoln’s new science research building!
The Collection Museum, Lincoln
In a previous blog post I talked about my last visit to the collection, exploring the art gallery section of the collection – The Usher Gallery. I have visited the museum section of the collection before, however it was during my first year at university and unsurprisingly a lot has changed! Both the gallery and museum are really easy to find, either by walking part way up Steep Hill then turning right onto Danes Terrace or by car to the postcode LN2 1LP. If you choose to come by car there is parking next to the gallery and museum, but it is pay and display. However, both the gallery and museum are free to visit and are open daily from 10am-4pm.
Once you enter the museum, follow the central walkway past a glass paneled entrance hallway and head down the stairs into a large high ceilinged room. From here you can explore several rooms leading off through different doorways. On the right you will find archaeological exhibits which display artifacts and information regarding Lincolnshire throughout history, which mostly remained unchanged. While if you head left you will find two rooms which display the current changing exhibit, in this case – Joseph Banks: A Great Endeavor.
I began my visit by exploring the main exhibit room which contains a good sized collection of artifacts centered around Benjamin West’s portrait of Joseph Banks. As you enter the room you are greeted by a large introduction display which guides you to the left, then leads off to the right and into the main body of the exhibition.
Joseph Banks was born in Lincolnshire in 1743 and it is here, while exploring the local countryside, he developed an interest and passion for nature, history and botany. He pursued these interests at Oxford University focusing specifically on natural history. In 1761, when his father passed away he inherited the estate of Revesby Abbey in Lincolnshire becoming local squire and magistrate. Through his continued work in botany he became well known among the other scientists of the day including: Daniel Solander and Carl Linnaeus. As his influence grew in society he became an adviser to King George III and urged him to support voyages to new lands in hopes of further pursuing his passion for botany.
In 1766 Banks was elected to the Royal Society and proceeded to accompany Constantine Phipps on board the HMS Niger on an exploration to both Newfoundland and Labrador. Finally getting the opportunity to study and explore new world natural history! On his return he published work on the many plants and animals he discovered on his travels, which included 34 species of bird.
A Great Endeavor
This exhibition of work focuses on the next voyage Joesph Banks joined which took him aboard the HMS Endeavor with Captain James Cook, Daniel Solander and Dr Herman Sporing Jr (From 1768 to 1771). This expedition took him around the South Pacific Ocean to Brazil, other areas of South America, Tahiti, New Zealand and finally Australia. On returning Joseph Banks become immediately famous, and in 1778 he was elected President of the Royal Society – a position he held for 42 years! From 1773 he also began to act as unofficial director of the Royal Gardens of Kew.
Opened on 14th February 2014 by Sir David Attenborough, the exhibition and artifacts on display are from this specific voyage. Tracking the journey of the HMS Endeavor through original drawings, engravings documents and natural history specimens – most of which haven’t been together seen they were first collected! The collection is displayed in a way which naturally guides you around the room and contains a good mixture of written documents, pencil specimen drawings and artifacts. A few pieces that I particularly enjoyed seeing were an original headdress from Tahiti which when worn extended over a metre into the air, and several beautifully detailed pencil drawings of sea creatures.
Once you have finished in this part of the exhibition make sure to cross the hallway and enter a smaller room which offers an interactive experience of what it might have been like to be aboard the HMS Endeavor. Displays include: practising writing with a quill and ink, examples of food that the explorers might have eaten and a large floor map which plots out the Endeavor’s journey around the globe.
I really enjoyed learning more about Joseph Banks, his life and what at the time was a fundamental voyage for him and his career as a botanist. It is good to know that his achievements and discoveries are being recognised by the University of Lincoln and have lead to him becoming the namesake of the new university scientific research building. As many of these artifacts are on loan from other museums, including: The British Library, British Museum and Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, this exhibition will only be in Lincoln until 11th May 2014. So make sure you get a chance to explore and enjoy it before it closes!
A Day in the Life…