Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to see Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop speak at KU. I’ve been following The Brain Scoop for a long time, actually, since before it was The Brain Scoop. When Emily was working at (and almost single-handedly running, as a volunteer) the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum at the University of Montana, she started a Tumblr blog in order to create awareness and publicity for the specimen collection on the campus of the college where she had been a student. In early 2013, Emily debuted her first episode of The Brain Scoop, an educational YouTube channel that explores the behind-the-scenes work of natural history museums. It wasn’t long before Emily’s endeavor gained attention; six months later, she was hired as the Chief Curiosity Correspondent by the Field Museum in Chicago and continues to host The Brain Scoop from there.
In late 2012, I was drawn to Emily’s Tumblr as a person who studied photography and was trying to find a way to tie image-making and an interest in animals together in a career, struggling with whether or not to pursue graduate school for museum studies, library science, or something else. Emily had recently finished her BFA in painting at the University of Montana and was then working on a masters in museum studies (she’s put this degree on hold since beginning work at the Field Museum). Emily has been an inspiration to me and many others–a question I always hear asked of her is how she was able to enter the field of science with an art background.
Over the past two years, I’ve started this post again and again, waiting for a break in achievements for The Brain Scoop to make a post detailing them all. Well, that break hasn’t come yet, but attending Emily’s talk at KU gives me a good point to jump in. Both in her talk and in her videos, Emily speaks with authenticity, enthusiasm, and humor. I don’t spend much time elsewhere on YouTube and I can’t weigh in on the genre of educational videos overall, but The Brain Scoop’s definitely stand out. And it’s not just for the videos’ subject matter, which can include material that does indeed call for a “grossometer,” but for the heart and creativity that goes into them. There are currently 100 videos uploaded, the most popular being Where My Ladies At?, about women in science and sexism in the field and in which Emily reads actual comments left on The Brain Scoop’s videos. Yikes.
Some other posts/videos that have caught my attention:
An assessment of the state of the museum where Emily worked prior to the Field Museum
When Emily was written about early on by Robert Krulwich
When Emily was featured recently by Cosmopolitan (seriously!)
The morality of preserving found animals versus giving them a burial instead
Emily’s response (and video response) to the NPR article, “Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat?”
If you’re at all interested in animals, natural history museums, specimen preparation, or entertaining and educational YouTube videos, I guarantee you’ll enjoy The Brain Scoop. Find it on YouTube and Tumblr.