A selection of the animal specimens kept in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History archives
A selection of the animal specimens kept in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History archives and on display at the Horniman Museum.
The archives are a compilation of many notable Victorian collectors such as Thomas Bell, William Burchell and Charles Darwin. Throughout the records, other names are scattered - the Christchurch collection, the Turner collection, the Ashmolean Museum collection. Many of the 5,000 mammal specimens, 17,000 bird skins and 5 million arthropods do not even have the collector recorded, though they contributed to some of the finest research archives in the world.
As in any broad collection, many objects may feel too trivial to store. Sometimes it is a puzzle why the samples were collected at all - one earthenware jar is simply labelled "36 sheeps brains". These samples often show a new way of looking at something commonplace - the rat dissections from both OUMNH and the Horniman reveal the hidden world inside. However, amongst the everyday and exotic of yesteryear are 2,000 specimens from animals that became endangered and extinct and now represent a treasure trove of information for current and future scientists.
The archives are not open to the public and so images have been taken with special access and permission, courtesy of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.