About the workshop

This workshop was held at King's College London on Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 September 2016, and involved contributions from historians, palaeontologists, science communicators and museum professionals to discuss the popularization of palaeontological ideas both today and in the past. 

From the beginnings of research into the earth’s deep history, palaeontology has been closely linked with public appeal. Reconstructions of extinct animals, narratives of life’s history and accounts of palaeontological discovery have been depicted across a variety of media and in a wide range of tones.  Ideas and images from palaeontological research have been an important means of debating and understanding science, nature, environmental change and evolutionary development. On a more institutional level, appealing to public audiences has often been crucial for highlighting the importance of the discipline, and gaining funds through advertising and public sponsorship.  In the course of this, palaeontology has consistently interacted with broader public ideas and understandings, sometimes collaboratively and sometimes tensely.

Over the two days, we discussed questions like:                                              

  • How have issues of media profile and celebrity affected palaeontological research and its public presentation?
  • How have scientific debates, theories and controversies interacted with popularization efforts and public understandings?
  • Why have dinosaurs become so iconic in popular images of palaeontology, when did this happen, and what role have they played in public imaginations?
  • How and why have palaeontologists presented new or unfamiliar organisms to the public, and what factors have affected the level of engagement with them?
  • Which audiences have engaged with palaeontological research, and what techniques have been used to communicate with them?

About the Site

This site contains the talks from the workshop as uploaded videos and downloadable audio. 

It also features biographies of the speakers and will feature regularly uploaded blogposts written by the attendees, reflecting on the workshop and on the issues we discussed.

Click "Learn More" for more info and larger format videos.

We are very interested in hearing thoughts from people who could not attend, so please get in touch here! 


Chris ManiaS


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Mark Carnall

The Other 97%: Making the Most of the Underwhelming Fossils in Museums

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Elizabeth Jones

A History of Ancient DNA Research: A History of Celebrity Science.  

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Debates & Theories

Darren Naish

Palaeoart Memes and the Unspoken Status Quo

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Ilja Nieuwland

Otto Jaekel, Gustav Tornier and the use popular science as a means of leverage for the reform of paleontology in early-20th century Germany.

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Thinking with dinosaurs

Mareike Vennen

'Making Dry Bones Live:' Entanglements between Science and Popular Culture in early Twentieth Century Natural History Museums

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Will Tattersdill

Different Things which Work the Same: Analogies of Prehistoric Life in Pixar's The Good Dinosaur (2015)

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Presenting Other Organisms

Joe Cain

Betting on Horses: George Gaylord Simpson’s Strategy for Defending Quantum Evolution

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Elsa Panciroli

No Small Problem: the challenges of popularising Mesozoic ratty things

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Mark Witton

Importance and Impact of Palaeoart in Palaeontological Outreach

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Historical Examples of Palaeontological Outreach

Richard Fallon

‘A Good Plan to Build after a Good Model:’ H. N. Hutchinson (1856-1927) and the Crafting of Palaeontology Popularisation at the Natural History Museum

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Marco Tamborini

‘Like anything that does not bring in any money, there seems not to be the slightest interest in natural history in Prussia:’ Fundraising for Tendaguru

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Current Examples of Palaeontological Outreach

Shaena Montanari

Dinosaur Doctors: Science Outreach In A Hospital Setting

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Dave Marshall

The Virtual Natural History Museum

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