About

My name is Paolo Viscardi. I’m a natural history curator at the Horniman Museum in London, responsible for the fossil and bone collections. What a curator actually does is hard to define - the role has changed a lot over the years as museum jobs have become more specialised. Curators (particularly in natural history) were once responsible for collecting, identifying, documenting and maintaining specimens, as well as putting them on display and carrying out research.

Although curators are still involved in many of these roles, much of the work involved has been taken on by conservation, documentation, collections management and exhibitions staff. Now curators are mainly involved in enabling intellectual access to collections - we research specimens and communicate the information they contain through publications, exhibitions and online resources. We also foster partnerships to further wider goals and we are keen to encourage others to use the collections. Part of what we do is also to focus on developing the collections by collecting new material and identifying which of the older material may be suitable for disposal.

As far as I am concerned this is the greatest job in the world. I enjoy the excitement of working with diverse collections from all over the world and spanning hundreds of millions of years. There is some amazing stuff in our world and I’m lucky enough to see quite a lot of it on a day to day basis – some of which I enjoy sharing with you here on this blog.

It must be said that this is my personal blog and the views expressed here are not those of the Horniman Museum, they are mine and solely mine.

I frequently write posts touching on alternative therapies and fundamentalist beliefs, since these are without exception founded on flawed premises and misinterpretation of observations. While I disagree with such belief based cultural anachronisms and fads, it should be noted that I fully respect every individual’s right to their beliefs, although I do not necessarily respect the beliefs that are held by every individual. After all, some beliefs are downright unpleasant, uninformed or just plain stupid.

Thanks for taking an interest.

22 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello

    I would like to use your picture of the small headed worm lizard in a world studies book for primary schools. Would that be possible? Could you send me an e-mail?
    Thanks!

    Iris

  2. Hello my names bryan, and i came across an ammonite fossil I put away, found it in Italy as a child. when i looked closer it seemed to have eye holes in what looked like a skull, after i did research, i believe it might be soft parts intact on the shell, broken neck?

    i need aperson who might know soft body parts may look like… i cant find any pics on the net. so i really dont know what im looking for/at.

    HQ pics i took. https://picasaweb.google.com/GeoffEwry/20110227#

    20 post on the net, no relpys…..

    Is this real or possable? i would like any kind of perspective.
    Thanks again Bryan

    • Sorry, I missed this (don’t look on my ‘About’ page very often. Ammonites don’t have skulls and the soft parts were very soft indeed – rather like a squid. What you may have here is an encrusting calcifying organism (like a sponge or serpulid worm).

      It is possible that the decomposing remains of the ammonite’s soft-parts led to preferential consolidation of sediment around the open chamber, given the changes in mineralisation caused by bacterial action (particularly in anaerobic conditions). However, this is unlikely to give you any resolution of features within the softparts in the kind of preservation your specimen has.

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  4. Hi–couldn’t find a direct e-mail on your site–so I thought I’d try this. I recently left a comment about the Catholic Priest post, which generated an auto e-mail asking if I wanted to confirm following the blog. But I’ve been registered and receiving the weekly blog for a very long time. I hesitated to click on confirm, worrying I’ll end up with a doubled email. Should I just go ahead and click on it and register a second time? Ty Nolan

    • I wouldn’t bother clicking it – I’m not sure what it would do, and double mailing seems likely! Thanks for the comment by the way, it’s a depressing representation of the problems that have been encountered and the unwillingness for those problems to be addressed by the Catholic community. I do intend to respond! Many thanks!

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  7. I have a small (partial) skull of an aquatic animal that was discovered on a beach in Southern California. It doesn’t seem to have a mandible or any teeth and no visible eye socket. Would love to get some help figuring out what this piece belongs to.

  8. Found next to Loch Turret in Perthshire – I had thought it was a mole mandible as lots of mole hills there even though the loch is in the middle of nowhere. May have been dropped by a predator I guess.

  9. Hi, Paolo.

    My name is Aram. From Seoul, South Korea.

    I came across your website while searching for pictures of zygomas online. I really want to encourage you by saying that this is wonderful work.

    I’ve considering a project, possibly a clinically oriented publication, regarding the relationship between the zygoma and soft tissues of the cheek. Then I realized that… thru medical school, I never questioned what purpose the zygoma serves. For some reason, I believed that its sole purpose was to be a crumple zone in the face. Then I remembered looking at the zygoma of a horse some time ago and thinking it was a useless shape because it would not help absorbing any impact. Obviously, I was thinking at the whole thing from the wrong perspective.

    So I began thinking that I need to delve a little into comparative anatomy of the zygoma in order to understand the zygoma a little better. Now I am thinking that the function of the zygoma is mastication first and orbital wall second.

    Anyways, I thought I’d write you and see if you could point me in the right direction (journal articles/comp anat textbooks).

    Thanks!

    Best,
    Aram

    • Hi Aram,
      to my mind the zygomatic arch is very much about providing an area for attachment of the masseter. It also acts as a separator for the temporalis to attach to the coronoid process without conflicting with the function of the masseter, allowing the mandible to function with optimal efficiency.

      I’d suggest finding a medical museum collection to take a good look at some specimens. You could even get hold of a sheep head (or something similar) from the butchers and have a go at dissecting it – there’s nothing like seeing anatomy for yourself to get an understanding of how it works.

      Cheers!

      Paolo

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