Previous: Ask Emily #4
Next: Welcome to The Field Museum



View count:130,122
Last sync:2024-06-05 04:30


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "Farewell, Montana." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 14 August 2013,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2013)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2013, August 14). Farewell, Montana [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2013)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "Farewell, Montana.", August 14, 2013, YouTube, 14:25,
My sincerest thanks to Dave Dyer for giving me the opportunity to volunteer in the UMZM: without your initial support and encouragement, none of this would have been possible.

My deepest gratitude goes to Hank Green for seeing the potential and making The Brain Scoop a reality.

Thank you, Heather Hsu; without you the next chapter in my adventure would forever remain unwritten.

I thank The Field Museum for their continued support in the production of The Brain Scoop, and am so looking forward to becoming a part of their team!

And - from the bottom of my heart - thank you to everyone who has watched, liked, shared and commented: this would not have happened without you.

Thank you to Martina Šafusová, Deanna Mavis, Gerda van Mierlo, Ada Häggkvist Aarvåg, Filipe Valcovo, Katerina Idrik, Catherine Côté, Tony Chu, Mariano Cepeda, Stella von Randow, Nur Iskandar Bin Nuruddin, and Seth Bergenholtz for providing transcriptions for this video!
Emily: I'm taking a full-time job at the Chicago Field Museum. When we visited back in April, they brought me into this conference room, and they sat down, and they asked me if I would like to come work for them at the Field Museum. And not only that, they want to continue to help us produce The Brain Scoop. So, they wanted to take us out of this collection and let us film out of theirs. We have 24,000 specimens here and they have 25 MILLION in their museum. So it's kind of a dream come true. And, so, I'm... I'm gonna do it, and we're gonna move to Chicago.

The day before we flew to Chicago, I knew our curator was leaving. He had told me that he was taking a job across the country, and he had asked if I would take over here as curator. And, so that's what I thought I had in store for me. I ended up having a conversation with the Dean of our school here, the day before I left, and... he wasn't sure that he could pay me. He wasn't sure that they were going to keep this position open, and they weren't sure that they were going to fill it at all. So, I was really disheartened, because I've put a lot of work into this place, and I really want to see it do well. 

I do love this place, but I just feel like I've fought... so hard, and it hasn't, hasn't gotten me me anywhere with expanding our space or getting more funding. We've gotten a lot of publicity! But... it's going to be hard to leave... 

This poor shark shouldn't probably be sitting over here. The bottom of this box is ruined. It's just about to fall out.

Well, I just came down here and there's a bunch of fluid all over the ground, and luckily, a lot of these boxes have been put on pallets from the last time there was a leak in this collection. And this entire stack of boxes collapsed and a bunch of things broke. So we learned, and we put them on pallets but some of-- not all of them are on pallets, and there's fluid running underneath all of 'em. So some of these boxes are... soaked. I mean, what do you expect is gonna happen if you put things down here? It's pretty sad.

I think it's coming out from the wall. The wall is all wet. There's moisture leaking out from here, you can see it coming out...

Michael: What you you think is going to happen to the collection after you leave?

Emily: The new mammalogy professor is being tasked with checking in on the collection, at least. So, I guess that's better than nothing. But, what, who's-- I don't know what's going to happen with this stuff.

Michael: If all this stuff gets lost, what are we losing?

Emily: Well, we're losing thirty-four hundred natural history specimens, twenty-five hundred fish, five hundred reptiles, five hundred birds and mammals, a hundred years of natural history. We're losing data, we're losing records-- so much information! It's all information and data and things that you can't replace, that you can't get back. You can't go back to Flathead Lake in 1900 and collect another sturgeon... this is it. It's all here, in this room, the entire natural history of fish in Montana. It's the history of the university, it's a lot of hard work that a lot of people have put so much passion and time and energy into a place like this. And that's what you're losing. 

People just don't see the value in it. They would rather spend their money in the sports team or in the business school... or... I don't-- I don't really know. 

It's j-- It's no one person's fault. It's not like you can go back in the history of the University Montana and find one person to point the finger at. It's just years and years of neglect and oversight.

I really hope they get moved. I don't really think that this is the place for a natural history collection. Our grandchildren are going to be pretty upset with us that we didn't put a little more effort in taking care of what is going to be their collective past.

I kinda wish I could take it all with me!

Michael: Do you think the university would notice it was missing?

Emily: No... no.

The bugs aren't doing too hot right now. They haven't had anything fresh put in there since we did the wolf. They're kind of in a lull right now. There's still a few, a few hungry ones left but... they need maintenance. Then need someone to take care of 'em.

This is like where everything fun happened! I mean, from like skinning my first mouse, when I was, I was super terrified of it. And it was like my friend, my coworker, Emily, brought me in here and she's like, "We're going to stuff a mouse today." I was not prepared at all, so I just had to go and do it. I just had to like go through it. I was really nervous but I didn't tell her that. And then I did it and I was kinda... I felt really strange about myself for a couple of weeks afterwards because I enjoyed it a lot, and I thought there was something wrong with me. And I thought that I was kind of sick or perverted or, like maybe I wasn't alright in the head or something, um, but that's not the case. I mean, I'm pretty normal. But... (laughs).

I've made a lot of friends in here, a lot of really great friends. Um, had a lot of really awesome conversations, talking about life, talking about what it means, talking about how the fact that we're all these weird biological machines; we're just a bunch of, um, squishy cogs and pulleys and levers...

There've been some not-so-great moments in here too, for sure. Like, a couple months ago, somebody spilled a container of gear lubricant in the utility room upstairs that leaked into my dermestid colony and uh, left a big greasy spot. A couple, I mean, this time last year our fish collection collapsed, and I had to come in at eleven at night when the fire department was there, and the police department. And Dave, our curator, and I and his, uh, thirteen-year-old son were the only people to clean up this biohazard mess. We were being exposed to all these horrible chemicals and fumes and a hundred and ten degrees conditions down there. That wasn't fun.

Michael: Do you have any idea how many things you have dissected in here?

Emily: Wow. Um... I mean, full dissections, like full skinning and stuffing... probably a dozen. Not that many, but skinning alone, I don't know, probably another fifteen. If we're talking about skeletal preparation, that's what I've done the most of, and I've probably run, I mean sometimes I'll run, you know, fifteen or twenty birds through the box at a time. Probably done a hundred or more.

Oh, these are my favorite tweezers. They have this little grippy thing on the end, so they have two things, and then another prong that come together. They're the best for pulling off tissue.

This is, uh, the first publicity I ever did for the museum. This was before I had a tumblr, this was two years before Hank ever approached me about making a show. Um, it's an article in the student newspaper, "Campus  Museum Fights for Space and Funding. Emily Graslie, a senior studying art, who volunteers in the museum says she considers it an underutilized resource for students of all majors... (nodding) Yup.

I cleaned off my bookshelves... I took all my artwork... and... there's a little more space now.

Michael: Is this the last time you're going to be in here?

Emily: That's a really hard question... I think probably so. Unless I can't help myself and I come back in the middle of the night-- which, sometimes, I do-- but, um, yeah, this might be the last time I'm in here. 

The first time I came in here I was a semester away from graduating with my studio art degree. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know wh-- if I was going to have a job after I graduated. I really didn't think that science was for me, you know. And I walked in here and all of a sudden it all seemed to make sense. Everything I used to not really understand about science or biology in a broader context, seemed to all be a lot more clear once I actually came into a place where you could see it physically. You could touch these things and you could interact with them and you could get up close; it wasn't just looking at them as pictures in textbooks, it wasn't just looking at them as slides underneath the microscope, it was actually being really close with these objects. And it was this epiphany, like "I can do science. I can do science! Yeah, science is a thing that I like!" I mean, I couldn't change my major so, I got my art degree and I didn't have a job for a long time so I just would volunteer here. 

I got a job as a baker and I would bake during the morning and then come here during the day and do specimen preparation. And then have to go to my night shift of baking. So I'd make a bunch of food, and then I'd come here and like clean bones, and then have to to go work, and you know, be making sandwiches, realize that like twenty minutes before I had just been pulling tissue off of a squirrel or whatever. And eventually I just stopped going to my baking job and got into grad school instead... so I could stay here. 

The whole reason I applied for graduate school in museum studies is because I saw it as a way to continue my volunteer work here. It was like I had to justify wanting to be in here because I didn't have a major, it didn't make sense for any kind of research purpose that I was here. And I didn't have a job here, no one was going to pay me to do all the work that I was doing, I just did it for myself. So I was like, "Well, I'll go to graduate school and I'll get my masters in museum studies, and then all the volunteer work will have made sense."

Michael: Will you miss it?

Emily: Yeah... I'll miss it a lot. This is like MY museum. It's not mine, I don't feel like an ownership of the objects, I feel kind of an ownership of the idea of this place. I've put so much time and energy and love into this collection, and I feel like I've been helping to look after all of these animals, all of these specimens, and all of the data associated with them for two and a half years, non-stop. I've been here all the time. Until The Brain Scoop started, I was in here forty to fifty hours a week regardless of whatever else I had to do in my life.

I don't think there are a lot of museums in the world where people get the kind of opportunity that I've had, where, um, someone trusts me so much to just let me do so many projects on my own, and let me lear on my own. And, um, you-you just don't get that kind of opportunity. 

Michael: What is it that you're doing now?

Emily: Well I asked our curator, Dave, before he left, if it would be okay to fill out a, um, specimen invoice for loan, to take the raccoon with me to the Field Museum. And I called the Field Museum to make sure that they could make appropriate accommodations to house him, temporarily, as a, um, loan from the University of Montana. And he's been approved. 

Michael: How do you think Soon Raccoon feels about it?

Emily: You know, he's been pretty quiet about the whole deal. They have a lot of really nice raccoons at the field museum-- I'm sure he'll make a lot of friends.

(Lights clicking off. Door closes.)

(Piano rendition of The Brain Scoop main theme.) 

-- It still has brains on it.