150 years ago today John Murray published Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. This is the last of three Darwin anniversaries spanning 18 months, a period of celebration we've been calling Darwin200 here in the UK.
For me, as both director of science for this here Beagle Project and also the science coordinator for the Natural History Museum's Darwin200 campaign, it's been pretty much all Darwin all the time for the entire time. I confess to having succumbed a little to Darwin fatigue – I don't get quite as excited as I used to at the sight of a First Edition of On the Origin of Species for example, and I worry that any Darwin-related projects or stories proposed for the next few years will suffer from unfair backlash ('Oh this is a Darwin project? Wasn't the anniversary in 2009?').
And this has got me thinking: what will be the legacy of these celebrations? What, if anything, have we done that will have a lasting effect on the academic and/or public consciousness? Some of the Darwin200 projects have involved permanent installations – Andrew Smith's young Darwin statue at Christ's College in Cambridge is a literally gleaming example – but many more have been of a more ephemeral sort: conferences, plays, musical performances, special exhibitions, etc. As good as these have been, they're over now.
One solution is to immediately embark on yet another commemoration, another 'Year of [insert scientist's name or scientific discipline here]'. Directly on the heels of Darwin200, many of that group's partners will be smoothly transitioning to the International Year of Biodiversity. But if I've learned one thing from Darwin200 it's that it will be over before we know it. It's time for some legacy-thinking. By that I mean creative thinking – and action to go with it – about how to capture and extend the momentum of these commemorations beyond their sell-by dates.
We believe that The Beagle Project, though indeed initiated during the build-up to 2009, will bear Darwin's legacy well into the future, without hinging on any special day, month, year or even decade. Our vision is a project that will generate and maintain enthusiasm for science and the natural world not only by commemorating the achievements of the past but by creating the opportunity for new adventures and the discoveries that will change our future.