Rat with diatoms


This year, 2020, the Chinese New Year is on Saturday, January 25. The date shifts each year because it depends on the lunar calendar. 2020 is the year of the rat. The rat is the first animal in the cycle of twelve. Next year, 2021, will be the year of the ox.

Kung hei fat choi to all those celebrating the New Year this weekend.

We don’t have many rat related objects in the museum collection but you may have seen the Museum’s Facebook post before Christmas showing one of the stranger things we are getting ready to exhibit in our new displays- a taxidermy rat. So why have we got this rat?

The Oamaru Museum’s first curator back in the 1880s was local architect Thomas Forrester. Thomas was interested in geology and took up studying diatoms as a hobby. Diatoms are small algae that look really cool under the microscope. The Oamaru area has some amazing fossil diatoms and each different species has a different shaped cell. To study the different diatoms it helps to be able to arrange them on a microscope slide. But how do you move something so small?

The answer is whiskers. Thomas collected whiskers from rats as well as cats to use when studying diatoms. Some people use pig bristles instead. The museum still has a container with whiskers inside that Thomas collected. We will be exhibiting this container but rats whiskers aren’t exactly show stoppers so we thought we would add some more interest to the display with the addition of a real rat!

Chloe Searle