Natural History Museum at Tring unlocks the secret world of science

Press release - 13 May 2011

The Natural History Museum at Tring is this week launching its summer exhibition. At The Secret World of Museum Science visitors will have the chance to delve into the fascinating behind-the-scenes work carried out by curators and researchers every day. The free exhibition runs from 16 May until 6 November 2011 and showcases historically and scientifically significant specimens.

The new exhibition showcases some rarely seen specimens from the world-class collection cared for at Tring and explains their importance to the scientific community. Specimens include:

  • blue lorikeet collected on one of Captain Cook’s voyages between 1768–1779
  • rare composite skeleton of a dodo
  • large-billed reed warbler whose DNA was used in 2002 to confirm a new species had been discovered

Dr Robert Prys-Jones, head bird curator at Natural History Museum at Tring, explains, ‘Specimens that were collected more than 100 years ago are still being used by international researchers for conservation, forensic and academic research. The Secret World of Museum Science explores the relevance of what has been collected and identified at Tring, home to the largest collection of bird specimens in the world, and demonstrates how the collection is being used for current scientific purposes.’

Alice Dowswell, Learning and Interpretation Manager adds, ‘This is an exciting exhibition open to all. We really want to bring alive the work Museum scientists, as well as researchers who travel to see us from around the world, carry out.  Visitors will leave with a flavour of the intriguing work we do, and aspire to be the scientists of the future.’

One of the highlights on display is a peregrine falcon egg similar to the ones used to explain the dramatic decline of the species back in the 1960s. By measuring eggshell thickness over time, scientists were able to link the thinning of eggshells and the demise of the peregrine falcon with a pesticide used in farming, which was later banned.

Douglas Russell, egg curator at Tring, concludes, ‘The peregrine falcon eggs, along with the other Museum specimens on show, reveal the important link between natural history and modern scientific breakthroughs. Visitors coming to The Secret World of Museum Science will leave with a real understanding and sense of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on here at the Museum that isn’t obvious at first glance.’

Through displays, games, video footage and rare specimens, visitors will find out how the collections are stored, who comes to use them and how new science and technology is helping researchers unearth more and more enthralling secrets.

The Secret World of Museum Science is a free exhibition and opens on Monday 16 May at Natural History Museum Tring.

Visitor information

Address: The Natural History Museum at Tring, the Walter Rothschild building, Akeman Street, Tring, Herts HP23 6AP
Admission: free
Dates: Monday 16 May to Sunday 6 November 2011
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 10.00–17.00, Sunday 14.00–17.00
Access: there is lift access to the ground floor and upper galleries of the Museum and to the Zebra Café and car park
Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 6171


Notes for editors

  • The Natural History Museum at Tring, in Hertfordshire, opened in the late 1800s to house the collections of Lionel Walter, second Baron Rothschild, and offers outstanding examples of nineteenth-century taxidermy at its very best. The Museum was bequeathed to the nation and became part of the Natural History Museum in 1938. The public galleries were modernised, but the fascinating character of the Museum has been retained.
  • More than 120,000 visitors a year enjoy a glimpse into the fascinating world of a Victorian collector, where they can see a huge variety of wild, weird and wonderful specimens from across the animal kingdom – from armadillos to zebras.
  • Winner of Visit London’s 2010 Evening Standard’s Peoples Choice Best London for Free Experience Award and Best Family Fun Award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in more than 68 countries.

To arrange an interview or images, please contact:
Jessica Hope
Tel: 020 7942 5106 Email:
(not for publication)