My week at the Linnean Society

Published on 6th July 2018

Helios statue
© Tony Hisgett CC BY 4.0

This week it has been my delight to have had the opportunity to complete my work experience at the Linnean Society. Travelling to Burlington House takes me about an hour, as I take the train and then a short walk from Charing Cross. On my walk, I am lucky enough to see some interesting statues, including the dynamic Horses of Helios sculpture at Piccadilly Circus.


On the morning of my first day the Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Rollinson, kindly gave me an introduction to the Society. Through a tour around the building, I learned all about the Society's history. The meeting room was particularly intriguing to me, as it contained the famous Collier painting of Charles Darwin. The following day I was lucky enough to arrange a display that included a letter from Darwin that refers to that same painting. It was also very exciting for me to visit the Cloudsley-Thompson room, as Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson has greatly inspired my interest in zoology.

Being present at the weekly staff meeting on my first day, known as “scrummage”, gave me an idea of what life is like in an office, which was especially useful to me as I have not had previous exposure to working in an office environment beforehand.

The highlight of my first day was when I had the opportunity to join Isabelle, Deputy Collections Manager, in the Collections vault. I was lucky enough to see some beautiful collections, including fish specimens and even some type specimens of butterflies. These are currently being displayed in the Discovery room. The visit to the Collections vault made me aware of the great importance of keeping fragile collections under specific conditions to help preserve them for future generations.

Butterfly Specimen (Papillo achilles) from the Linnaean collections

Towards the end of the day I had the opportunity to observe discussions regarding budget reconciliation for the Discovery Room Project, as well as discussions about adding book cases in the basement. This has helped me to learn about the issues that have to be tackled, and the variety of tasks involved, as a part of being an Executive Secretary.

I started off my second day at the Linnean Society by thinking of and noting down questions and ideas related to the topic areas of the A-level biology course that I am studying at school. I had to think about why I find these questions interesting as these ideas or ones similar may be incorporated into future podcasts aimed at listeners who are of a similar age to me. This was an enjoyable activity as it allowed me to express my creativity through asking myself a range of questions, developing new ideas about what I am learning at school, and forcing me to think beyond what I am simply taught in my day-to-day school lessons.

Emilia Noel
Image taken from one of Emilia Noel's sketchbooks

I spent the rest of the day, as well as the majority of the following day, helping with collections in the library, which was definitely one of my favourite parts of my work experience. This involved choosing pages of books to be used as displays in the Discovery room. I chose a vibrant illustration by botanical artist Emelia Noel. Helping to set up the displays in the discovery room helped me to learn about the challenges involved in making a visually pleasing display that is well- structured and informative, yet clear and easy to read.

During my work experience I also got involved in various activities, such as using excel to create tables that contain financial information. This was extremely useful in developing my skills and confidence in general office tasks that I will need in my future career.

Throughout my week of work experience I have also been lucky enough to talk to different members of staff, who informed me about their jobs at the Linnean Society, which range from conservation to digitalisation. This has given me a great insight into the way the Linnean Society operates, and the different day-to-day tasks and duties involved at the society.

It’s been a truly great experience.

Alicia Green, Work experience student

Alicia in the Discovery Room