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January 9, 2013

Life Sciences Seminar



The Soul of the Collection: Key Developments in the Documentation of the British Museum’s Bird Collection, 1753 to 1909



Robert Prys-Jones

Vertebrates, Dept. of Life Sciences, NHM


Wednesday 16 of January 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)



In response to years of perceived mismanagement, in 1835 a Parliamentary Select Committee was set up to investigate “the condition, management and affairs of the British Museum”. A central concern of the inquiry was the question of documentation of specimens in the museum’s possession and the communication of information concerning them to both the general public and interested specialists. Evidence presented suggested this had been flawed since the BM’s inception, and the committee recommended that design and implementation of an improved system be treated as a matter of urgency. This presentation will analyse the nature of the problems that had arisen and the steps that were subsequently taken to address them, which culminated in the production of the extraordinary 27-volume Catalogue of Birds in the British Museum, 1874-1898, applauded at the time as a production of exceptional importance and still a key resource in museum ornithology.


For additional details on attending this or other seminars see