Moving Animals

Moving Animals held a successful event on February 2nd at Naturalis in Leiden. For one evening, historians took over the national museum of natural history and research center on biodiversity with lectures, workshops and demonstrations, and an interview with Tijs Goldschmidt. Jumping crickets, live music, and a pub quiz helped create a festive atmosphere as well!

Starting the festival off, Raf De Bont gave the lecture “dieren hebben geschiedenis” [Animals Have History] introducing attendees to unruly storks, flying rhinos, creative magpies, cocaine hippos, and the Moving Animals project. This was followed by an interactive workshop he gave on the history of the European hamster, and how it transformed from a widely hated pest animal to a cherished icon of conservation in the Limburg area.

Together with Bart Braun [of Naturalis], Monica Vasile gave the interactive workshop “Bringing Back the Beasts.” From a historical perspective, Monica shared her research on reintroductions that saved animals from the brink of extinction and brought them to the wild, while Bart addressed the question of “how would we bring back extinct species?” Together, they discussed such animals as the takahe, European bison, Przewalski’s horse, and woolly mammoth.

Vanessa Bateman gave a short lecture “Screening Animals: Myths in Early Wildlife Films” on the emergence of wildlife documentaries and their power to shape our understanding of animals, deconstructing the myth about lemmings that were perpetuated by the Disney film White Wilderness from 1958.

Vincent Bijman and Manon de Visser [of Naturalis and Leiden University] co-organized an interactive workshop “Exotic Animals: from Welcome to Invasive,” with multiple specimens of invasive species from the Naturalis collection on display. Vincent, a historian of non-native animals, and Manon, a biologist and expert in invasive species, demonstrated what historians and scientists can learn from each other.

To end the evening, Vincent interviewed Tijs Goldschmidt, who is known for effortlessly bridging biological themes to cultural ones. Together, they discussed the span of Goldschmidt’s career–from scientist to writer, and winning the 2023 PC Hooft Prize–as well as animals who cross borders–from the Nile Perch in Lake Victoria to the return of wolves in the Netherlands.

Throughout the event there were also live demonstrations: on the preparation of animal specimen for storage by Becky Desjardins [of Naturalis], and the preparation of dinosaur bones for scientific research by DinoLab.

Thank you to everyone at Naturalis who helped organize the event, especially Debby Korte, Bart Braun, Talitha Tijsterman, as well as Tom Quick at Maastricht University!