Meet Fred, who sits on my desk next to my mouse. Fred is a trilobite. He lived a while back; sometime about 400 million years ago he was living in what would now be Morocco, with volcanoes above him and a warm coral sea below. At this time life had exploded in the seas: arthropods ruled the oceans, fish and sharks were becoming prolific and plants and trees were taking hold on land.
Trilobites are first seen in the fossil record about 521 million years ago, and were the most successful of all early creatures, living for over 270 million years, during the Cambrian, Devonian, Ordovician periods before dying out in the mass extinctions of the Permian period about 250 million years ago.
I like to have Fred on my desk, next to my computer mouse, to remind me of several things.
- However successful a species is, however long that species lives or rules for, it can all end suddenly in circumstances beyond that species’ control. We will all go the way of the trilobite one day. This is humbling.
- Humans did not exist when Fred did, yet we know so much about him thanks to constantly changing theories, emerging science ideas, our need for knowledge and understanding and the fossil record which provides this. By having a piece of the past to hand, we can seek to be reminded of and to understand our history, the history of the world and our place in it.
- What was once a tangible, fleshy, living part of a wider ecosystem is now a tangible item of art, geology and history. It can be seen as a geological specimen of rocks and minerals; as an artistic item and a representation of the fossil-finder’s skill; and also as a historical specimen and representation of the Linnaean system (Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda, Class: Trilobita, Order: Phacopidae, Suborder: Phacopina, Superfamily: Acastoidea, Family: Acastidae, Subfamily: Asteropyginae, Genus: Greenops, Species: Widderensis)
- To compare old and new and to see how they mix together (I do occasionally reach for my mouse and find a trilobite in my hand) and inform each other. Together they can create new stories.
- That history is emotive. This is where companies can benefit from showing off their histories. People are interested in history because it’s about other people; other lives; other times. Just as I like to see Fred, and feel humbled at the passage of time even as it is kaleidoscoped down and the past and the present sit together on my desk, so customers and clients like to feel this when they see the history of their companies.
Ultimately, companies can be inspired by their histories in the way I’m inspired by Fred – to tell a story, to learn more, to be reminded of the past and therefore of our futures, to mix old and new and to create emotions.