A new medal

Ahead of awarding the last of the original Union Medals (to former President Prof Jenny Gill in 2017), BOU Council took the decision to produce a new medal to replace the now 105 year old Sacred Ibis design.

BOU Council asked for a fresh and contemporary design for our new Union Medal and tasked Phil Atkinson (Chair of BOU Grants Committee) and myself with researching this and bringing a recommendation back to them.

During my own research I came across the stunning WWF 50p piece (2011, Celebrating 50 years of the work of WWF) designed by Matthew Dent of Bison Bison. I emailed Phil, and amazingly, he had just received one with some change! We both loved the design so an idea was hatched.

I went away and worked on a design concept to use icons representing birds and different aspects of ornithology. The concept was unanimously approved by BOU Council at their March 2018 meeting.

During my research I came across reference to the origins of the Union Medal in Guy Montfort’s ‘History of the Union’ published as part of the BOU’s centenary.

“The Union Medal was created in 1912 “to give special recognition for eminent services to ornithology in the field” *. Under the present Rule 21 it is limited to Union members. Four of these medals were received by members who took part in the Jubilee Expedition to New Guinea. One, in gold, was awarded to the leader W. Goodfellow and three, in silver, to Dr. A. F. R. Wollaston, G. E. Shortridge and Captain C. H. B. Grant.”

With the early medals (other than the very first one) being cast in silver, this was incorporated in to the new design to further distinguish the new medal from the old bronze medal, and the Godman-Salvin Prize which is also cast in bronze, as well as bringing us closer to the original idea sparked off by the silver WWF 50p piece.

I then worked with master medal producers, Thomas Fattorini, to turn the concept in to reality. We went through many different icons before settling on the final group (of 42) that worked at the small scale of our medal, and after looking at many different medal styles and finishes, we arrived at our design for the icons to be cast in relief, with a high polish, sat against a stippled, matt background, and cast in sterling silver.

We’ve produced a new medal which we hope will last the next 100 years.

The Janet Kear Union Medal is to be awarded BY BOU Council to BOU members in recognition of distinguished service to the Union and ornithology.

Janet Kear OBE

With this being a medal for our members, a new medal provided an opportunity to recognise an outstanding member and their contribution the the Union. BOU Council unanimously accepted the Engagement Committee’s proposal to rename the Union Medal, the Janet Kear Union Medal in memory of Janet, who was President of the Union between 1991 and 1995.

Janet Kear (1933–2004) was a tour de force within the BOU during her lifetime, spending decades on committees and Council. As well as being President, she was Editor of IBIS (1980–88), served as the BOU Checklist Editor for over 10 years and delivered the Alfred Newton Lecture in 1995. She was awarded the Union Medal in 1998 and received an OBE in 1993 for her services to wildfowl conservation. Few people have worked harder for the BOU and Council are delighted to recognise Janet’s exceptional contribution to the Union through the annual award of the Janet Kear Union Medal.

More about Janet

About the medal icons

Below I’ve summarised the key components of the new icon-based medal concept using images of recognisable bird families, their habitats and environs, people, ornithological activities and technology. Click here for larger version.

* In recent times, since our Godman-Salvin Prize (medal) is awarded as “a signal honour for distinguished ornithological work”, the Union Medal is used to recognise those who have given distinguished service to the Union itself.