This is the last newsletter for 2021 and it’s an opportunity to wish the whole NSCF community well for the holidays. It’s also a time to thank everyone for all their efforts through what has been a very difficult year and to celebrate our collective achievements despite the challenges we have faced. Sadly, we say good-bye to two of the leaders who have played a massive role since we first started discussing the development of the NSCF almost seven years ago and who have contributed to our natural science collections for decades.

The NSCF is a network; it’s a community of people who work in and with natural science collections and who want to ensure that these irreplaceable national and global assets survive for future generations of researchers and ordinary citizens and that they are used in many ways to solve societal problems. So many of you have stepped up to what is being asked of you by the network – whether it was attending or contributing to the NSCF Forum in March, contributing to webinars and discussion forums, participating in meetings or doing your best to implement the daunting Collections Management & Curation Manual. Or caring for the collections as best you could through lockdowns and illness and loss. We thank and acknowledge each one of you!

Through your efforts, we have managed to achieve a massive amount in 2021. The virtual Forum, the finalisation and distribution of the Manual, efforts to start standardising databases and workflows, thousands of records captured and quality controlled, backlogs of herpetology specimens dealt with, imaging of type specimens of fossils and mammals, the value of collections showcases and webinars, engagements at international and national conferences and platforms, and of course continuing with publishing research findings, sending out loans and even hosting visitors. And there was a lot of procurement done – all the paperwork for purchasing equipment and consumables that will help to secure the collections. We know how much time this takes and the frustrations that have to be dealt with. What all of this has meant is that we are in the process of finalising a new agreement with the Department of Science & Innovation to continue receiving funding for the NSCF for the next three years. We can celebrate this as a community – it’s not just me or the Hub – its all our efforts that have counted.

Covid-19 has brought change to just about every aspect of our life and it has made many people rethink their careers, their health and their families. This has affected the NSCF community as well. Helen James, who has worked at Albany Museum for over 30 years and who has helped shape the NSCF through her dedicated attendance at meetings for years, is emigrating to take up a position in Ulster, Ireland. Helen is a recognised leader in freshwater insect taxonomy and has always been willing to get involved in national initiatives and projects. We wish Helen all the best in her new post and country and thank her for her long commitment to the NSCF and the Albany Museum.

Allison Ruiters started her collections career at the Natal Museum almost 30 years ago and has been the Director of the Durban Natural Science Museum for the last decade. She was also one of the original team members who helped develop the proposal for the NSCF and has been on the Co-ordinating and Advisory Committees. Allison has always been courageous – challenging us to think differently, and always thinking of her staff, institution and country rather than herself. She will be leaving the world of collections to join her husband in running their own Spar in the community where she grew up. I know that she will bring tons of energy, wisdom and generosity to that store in Wentworth.

We will miss both these courageous leaders, and others who have retired during the year or who moved away from the collections.

Finally, I hope that everyone finds time over the next month to take a break and to spend time with friends and family, relaxing and doing things that you enjoy. Take care and stay well.