Stories from the Archives: Rememberance of Zoologists Past

Part of my research has been preparing and writing updates for Wikipedia based on the collections and curators from the history of the Museum. This has led me into the archives of the Zoology Museum, and it has been a fascinating journey into the worlds of the gentleman-naturalist, the colonial administrator-cum-ornithologist and the activities of the Victorian collector and enthusiast. The myriad strange, wonderful, and often heartrendingly poignant, routes through which this incredible collection of birds, animals and fossils arrived at Cambridge University are fascinating. Anyone with a penchant to write a social history of zoology, or social network analysis of 19th century museum collections would have research material galore in these archives. A little taster of some of the stories contained in the archives comes from the historical correspondence, collated by Dr L.C Rookmaaker in 2004….

Museum of Zoology specimen: Skeleton of the Giant Ground Sloth, Megatherium americanum

Museum of Zoology specimen: Skeleton of the Giant Ground Sloth, Megatherium americanum

Tigers from Malaysia 1898
“The skeletons belong to a mother and cub Tiger. The tigress was notorious for killing cattle and goats. It was difficult to keep her skeleton intact because people use the bones for medicine and magic. The missing leg must have been stolen.”

Fish and Goat from America 1894
“A fish sent yesterday came from a bay south of New York. Bought a wild goat in British Columbia and if the skeleton turns up, it will be sent to Cambridge. The goats can jump onto rocks without problem.”

Fossils from Argentina 1900
“The collection includes carapace and bones of Glyptodont, tusks, bones and teeth of Mastodont and the Megatherium. They were found near the Que Quen Chico and Que Quen Grande.”


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University of Cambridge Museums

Archive of projects, events and news from 2012 to May 2017

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