Falconer museum offers £1500 grant for research in 150th anniversary year

A research grant of up to £1500 is being offered by the Friends of the Falconer Museum to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the visitor attraction in Forres, despite it being closed.

The ‘Falconer 150 Research Grant’ will be awarded in 2022 to an academic researcher working in one of the many fields related to Hugh Falconer and his far-reaching scientific achievements.

The grant is being made available in the 150th anniversary and curators say research like this plays an increasingly important role as interest in town centres and heritage increases.

The museum closed at the end of the summer season in 2019 due to funding cuts by Moray Council, but the Friends of the Falconer Museum are campaigning to re-open the facility, and the grant award is unaffected by the closure.

Town centre revival

Dr. John Barrett, Chair of the Friends of the Falconer Museum, said: “The museum doesn’t cease to exist. On the contrary, it might gain even more importance given the new efforts that councils make to revive town centres and historic heritage. Hugh Falconer’s role and importance in the scientific world equally doesn’t get any smaller.

“We suspect that there are quite a few treasures to dig out for scientists focussing on his correspondence with Darwin, for example, or on his role in developing tea trade from India.

“The Friends will celebrate the 150th anniversary throughout the year with several activities, the research grant being the first to be announced.”

Hugh Falconer (1808-1865) was one of the leading geologists, palaeontologists, and botanists of his day, contributing literally tons of fossils, geological and botanical finds, now in national collections in the British Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and also in the museum in Forres bearing his name.

The father of palaeontology

Dr Barrett added: “In India where Falconer worked for decades, he is revered to this day as ‘Father of Palaeontology’. His extensive studies of fossils led to a long correspondence with Charles Darwin, just as Darwin was working on the at that time still disturbing idea of evolution..

“When in 1972 renowned scientists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge published their evolutionary theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’, refining global understanding of the process of evolution, Gould pointed out that Hugh Falconer had anticipated the theory, more than a hundred years earlier.

“Most vitally, Falconer was instrumental in introducing tea plants for commercial cultivation in India, thus making tea more widely available in the global west. Thanks to Falconer there are the bones, the stones and the theories – and there is always a good cup of tea.”

Amongst other treasures, the Falconer Museum hosts an impressive social history collection, much loved by local schools, as well as natural history and archaeological collections, attracting tourists and researchers from all over Britain and abroad.

The Friends of the Falconer Museum welcome applications from a wide range of scientific areas. Further information and application form at falconermuseum.co.uk/falconer-150-research-grant/

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