It has been an year since the beginning of the National Museum of Natural History training programme and it is the time to look back at what we have learned, what we have achieved and what is still in front of us. But let us start with a fairytale.
Once upon a time there was a boy who passionately loved nature. Following his dream to become a scientist, he eagerly devoured every single book, that fell into his hands, and spent his day collecting precious stones and butterflies. There were neither cars, nor lifts back then, but the boy was not afraid of walking on foot. One day he decided to climb peak Moussala and on the way up he came across a noble rider and his cavalry. Impress by the young traveller's strong will and courage, the rider took off his cloak and gave it to the boy as a gift to keep him warm during the cold mountain nights.
This is how Tsar Ferdinand and Ivan Buresch, future director of the Royal Museum of Natural History, first met and this is how we chose to start our 'Tale of a museum' - something between a lecture for tourists and a personal view of biology's contribution to people. Writing the text was one of our main tasks as museum trainees and it was a sort of a gift for Alexi Popov's retirement. The work provided a perfect opportunity to knock on the cabinets' doors and ask all our questions related to the life of animals or naturalists. Little by little, we won the museum workers' trust and today we really feel that we are a part of the team.
How the training programme was born and how we were attracted to it, is a long story which begins with our enchanted by unexplored underground kingdoms and flying night creatures imagination. We got in touch with Boyan Petrov, leader of the Bat Research and Conservation Centre, where we are still working now. Most of our activities are in the field and they gave us the chance to visit some of Bulgaria's wildest and most beautiful places as well as to learn about lots of animals that are not studied at the University. Along with our friends, Vladimir Karadakov, Iliana Alexandrova and Teodora Georgieva, we also learned to relay on each other and not be afraid of extra work.
As we were often seen in the museum, carrying greasy test tubes or boxes with injured bats inside them, one day Sylvia Tosheva, museum's public relations expert, decided to make presence there official. Benefit was mutual - on the one hand we add a plus to our still short CV's and on the other hand, the museum showed itself to be a modern institution, providing different kinds of opportunities for young people. Started as just an experiment, today the training programme continues to gain popularity and attracts more and more participants. One can chose between the fields of invertebrates, herpetology, ornithology, bats and palaeontology and has the chance to work on big projects such as Natura 2000. Those who study tourism, museology or art can gain experience as tourists guides or children animators as well as realise their own creative ideas.