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Thematic Collecting

@ Manchester Museum

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March 2017

A decade of invasion – a story of Harlequin Ladybird in the UK

Entomology Manchester

Harelquin_Ladybird_Collection The Manchester Museum’s collection of Harlequin Ladybirds recently acquired under the ongoing museum project ‘Thematic collecting’.

Recently, the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department acquired some specimens of the Harlequin Ladybird, an invasive beetle species that appeared in Britain (Essex) in 2004 only, but is now a widespread and even dominant species of ladybirds in the UK.

Harlequin Ladybird – Harmonia axyridis (Pallas, 1773) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) – is a beetle species in the same family with the Seven-spot and Two-spot Ladybirds, both being considered gardener’s best friends as natural enemies of aphids and other garden pests. Harlequin Ladybird was deliberately introduced from east parts of Eurasia, where it is a native species, to many places of continental Europe as a biological agent to control aphids (=greenflies) and scale insects. As Harlequin Ladybird has excellent dispersal abilities (by means of flight), it was just the matter of time until it…

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Interview with Martina about a Refugee’s Life Jacket

Bags made from recycled life jackets at Mosaik

Interview with Martina who works at the Mosaik Workshop in Mytilene on the island of Lesvos in early December 2016 as part of Manchester Museum’s Collecting Life project. You can also see bags made out of recycled materials from abandoned life jackets on display in the Museum entrance.

Refugee’s Life Jacket on Display at Manchester Museum

Life jacket from Lesvos on display at Manchester Museum
Life jacket from Lesvos on display at Manchester Museum

Three months to the day that I visited the Greek island of Lesvos, the refugee’s life jacket that I collected there has gone on display in the entrance to Manchester Museum. The life jacket is just one of hundreds of thousands of life jackets abandoned on the island  by refugees, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria. Some 500,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict and eleven million people have been forced to leave their homes. Some refugees enter the European Union by crossing the narrow but dangerous straits between Turkey and Lesvos, and tragically some have lost their lives. Nearly 100 people drowned off the coast of Lesvos in just one week in 2016.

Abandoned life jackets on the beach on Lesvos. Photo: Giannis Iliadis
Abandoned life jackets on the beach on Lesvos. Photo: Giannis Iliadis

As part of the ‘Collecting Life’ project at Manchester Museum I interviewed a Syrian man now living in Manchester, the municipal authorities in Mytilene on Lesvos, two aid workers from the camp for vulnerable refugees at Kara Tepe, the manager of a workshop where life jackets are recycled to make bags and a lecturer at the University of the Aegean. Short films of the interviews can be seen on an AV screen next to the life jacket. The interpretation includes photographs taken by photographers who kindly allowed us to use their work for free or at a discounted rate: Nikolas Giorgiou, Giannis Iliadis and Rasmus Degnbol.

Recycling life jackets to make bags in the Mosaik workshop in Mytilene
Recycling life jackets to make bags in the Mosaik workshop in Mytilene

We are displaying this life jacket as an example of our new approach to collecting, to address current issues. It is particularly important that Manchester Museum collect objects and interviews about current issues such as migration because our mission is to promote understanding between different cultures and to work towards a more sustainable world. Migration, we know, was an important factor affecting the outcome of the Referendum about Britain’s membership of the European Union and in the election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S.A. We hope that this work will help us to reach out to Syrian members of the community as well as other diaspora communities.

Visitor photographing the life jacket display at Manchester Museum
The life jacket display at Manchester Museum. The screen on the right shows short filmed interviews with people on Lesvos and a Syrian man now living in Manchester

This socially-engaged work is all the more important in the aftermath of the Referendum. By doing this work of this kind the Museum aligns itself with values of compassion, tolerance and mutual respect. The Common Cause Foundation is currently working with the Museum to develop this aspect of what we do. When I attended the ‘Working Internationally in a Post Brexit World’ conference held at the Natural History Museum on 2nd March 2017 there was tremendous interest in the Museum’s life jacket project. We’d like to see how the display can showcase the compassionate values we advocate and represent.

We’d welcome any comments or thoughts you may have on the project. You can comment using social media. Share your thoughts with us using #MMLifeJacket

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