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The latest edition of Evolve is out (Issue 22) and the Library and Archive collections (and staff) feature in many of the articles:


Dorothea Bate rediscovered map


Interview with our Special Collections Librarian, Paul Cooper

A first for the Library and Archives team!


Magnificent Monsters: The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs by Karolyn Shindler


Snapshot of war: the 100th anniversary of World War One by Karolyn Shindler


Cousins across the centuries: the pigeon and the dodo, a strange family tale


Evolve is available from the Museum shop or free when you become a member.






The latest edition of the Museum glossy magazine Evolve (issue 21 Autumn 2014) is now out!


The Library and Archives collections features in a number of articles:


Tring: The Walter Rothschild legacy by Graham Smith


Get stuffed: Taxidermy through the ages by Amy Freeborn


Snap of war by Karolyn Shindler


A key to understanding human evolution: the beautiful collections of Dorothy Garrod by Karolyn Shindler



Evolve is available from the Museum shop or free when you become a member.


Guest post by Karolyn Shindler


On the eve of the declaration of war on 3 August 1914, The Times wrote: 'The great catastrophe has come upon Europe.' Over the course of the next few months my posts to the Behind the scenes blog will include excerpts from the upcoming October and January issues of evolve magazine. These will show how, 100 years ago to the day, the Museum contributed to the war effort in those first uncertain months:

Thursday 20 August 1914: The Museum's Trustees hold a meeting, 'to consider circumstances arising out of the war'. They are told that six assistants, seven attendants, one boy attendant, a taxidermist and a labourer have enlisted in the military. Two government departments, the War Office and the Admiralty, have requested clerical help.


The Museum agrees to loan the government between six and 10 attendants, and also certain assistants with 'special qualifications', who may be required. Some of the Museum's galleries may be needed to accommodate extra clerks, although not immediately. The Trustees are informed that the previous day, 19 August, army officers inspected the Museum with a view to its possible use as military barracks.

September–October 1914: Dr Francis Bather of the Geology Department reflects the anxieties of many when he writes in the Museum's journal: 'War is a great adjuster of values. Already its distant blaze throws into relief the vanities of life.' The flames, he wrote, shrivel up 'mere fripperies, till only that which is truly necessary has the strength to stand firm. And now even we museum curators may experience searchings of heart as we continue to enter our quiet halls to settle down to our accustomed routine'.


Bather's 'searchings' of his heart result in immediate action: he organises first aid training under the auspices of the Red Cross. Seventeen Museum officials attend and pass the training. There are two women among them, the palaeontologist Dorothea Bate, and Marjorie Bostock of the administrative staff.

12 October 1914: A lieutenant colonel of the Territorial Force applies for some of his men to visit the Natural History Museum for instruction, by their own Officers, on ‘the points of the horse’ and the ‘anatomy of the horse’, from specimens in the North Hall. Permission is granted and the North Hall is temporarily closed to the public.

17 October 1914: The Office of Works writes to the Museum suggesting that in view of the possibility of an attack on London by hostile aircraft, the Trustees might consider taking precautions to protect the most precious specimens, if they have not already done so.

22 October 1914: The Office of Works writes again, suggesting that the Spirit Building should be protected by a nine-inch (22.5cm) layer of sand spread over its roof.

29 October 1914: The Office of Works writes again, having worked out that the amount of sand they had suggested was more likely to lead to the collapse of the roof than protect it. ‘The only thing to be done, therefore, is to let the building take its chance’.

19 November 1914: Dr Francis Bather reports to the Trustees that the 17 members of staff who qualified as first aiders ‘are anxious to turn the knowledge acquired to some account’. He proposes they form a unit of the Voluntary Aid Detachment under the British Red Cross Society. To make sure work in the Museum is disrupted as little as possible, he suggests that no more than six personnel on any one day are on standby for emergency duty between 10.00 and 17.00.


Bather also suggests that perhaps two members of staff should give ‘not less than two hours' continuous service at a hospital daily… each taking duty once a week’. This means no one will be away from the Museum for more than two hours every 10 days. His proposals are accepted and the volunteers become the Natural History Museum Division of the 31st London Voluntary Aid Detachment.

28 November 1914: The Royal Naval Airship Station, Farnborough, sends the Museum (an air) balloon that has been damaged by some form of growth, asking what the cause is likely to be. The growth is examined by Charles Joseph Gahan, Keeper of Entomology. He reports: ‘Moths in rubbish left inside folds of the balloon when stored away appear to have caused the damage’.

December 1914–January 1915: At the request of the Admiralty, London University forms a Volunteer Anti-Aircraft Observation Corps, stationed at the top of the Imperial Institute Tower (now the Queen’s Tower at Imperial College) a few hundred yards behind the Museum.


The Museum is asked for volunteers from the ‘higher staff’. Sir Henry Miers, Principal of London University, requests that this is not included in the Museum’s minutes, as it is ‘inadvisable that any publicity should be given to the matter’. Five members of staff volunteer, including the Keeper of Zoology and future Museum Director, Dr Sidney Frederic Harmer.


A further seven members of staff enlist, bringing the total so far to 23.

23 January 1915: The Trustees instruct the Director, Dr Lazarus Fletcher, to prepare lists of members of the Museum staff absent on naval or military service, for exhibition in the entrance hall (now known as Hintze Hall) of the Museum. The Director informs the Trustees that the Volunteer Corps for Home Defence, Museum Section, has been formed – between 70 and 80 members of staff have indicated their wish to join. Recruits from neighbouring scientific institutions are also expected, to bring the corps to its full complement of 120 men. The troops are to drill in the Museum grounds during the remainder of the winter months, three evenings a week, from 4.45pm to 5.45pm. A pencilled amendment to this adds, ‘Provided that the grass on the Cromwell Road front be not used for drilling’.

25 February 1915: A letter is sent to the Museum from the Office of Works, marked Confidential. It states that attention has been directed to the danger, during the present crisis, ‘of bombs being conveyed into Public Offices, Museums etc, for the purpose of destroying property of national value or interest’. It suggests that all visitors who seek admission to the Museum and who carry bags or parcels should leave them with the doorkeepers or reveal the contents if they have to be taken into the building for business purposes.

27 February 1915: The Director reports to the Trustees that instructions have been given to the police ‘accordingly’. The Keepers report that objects of value have been removed from exhibition galleries ‘to places of greater safety, in view of the possible risk from bombs of hostile aircraft’. Zoological specimens of special rarity, including the great auk, the extinct starling of Mauritius and the dodo, have been placed in a steel case in the basement. The two most important geological department fossils, are, the Keeper Dr Arthur Smith Woodard reports, Archaeopteryx and the Piltdown skull.


The first is ‘already beneath four floors in the South East Pavilion’, and the second is ‘in a fire-proof safe in the Keeper’s room’. The Keeper of Mineralogy, George Thurland Prior, so far refuses to move anything, as he ‘has not considered the danger as sufficiently imminent to justify him in running the risk of damage to delicate specimens by removing them to other parts of the building not under his control’. However, ‘if considered desirable’, he would place a selection of the rarest and most valuable specimens in a safe in a suitable part of the basement. The vast insect collection is already in the basement, while the Keeper of Botany considers that his most valuable collection, the Sloane Herbarium, is ‘protected above by two floors’.


Happily for these irreplaceable specimens, the Keepers’ faith in the strength of the building is never put to the test.

11 March 1915: 2nd Lieutenant Duncan Hepburn Gotch of the 1st Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, who was an assistant in the Imperial Bureau of Entomology based at the Museum, is killed at Neuve Chapelle. Twelve thousand allied troops are killed in this three-day battle, won by the British. German losses are 10,000 dead and nearly 2,000 taken prisoner. Gotch, who was 23 years old and had been at the front for just two months, is killed by machine-gun fire while leading the last remnants of his company. He was, says a fellow officer, ‘a brave, cheery, kindly, popular officer and we can ill afford his loss’. For the Principal of the Imperial Bureau, he was ‘one of the keenest and most willing assistants I have ever had, and showed every promise of making a name for himself as a scientific worker… his place will be hard indeed to fill’.

27 March 1915: The Director informs the Trustees at their monthly meeting of Lt Gotch’s death.

30 March 1915: A letter is sent by the Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty stating that the anti-aircraft defence of London has now reached the stage where it is no longer considered necessary for the volunteer look-out station on the top of the Imperial Institute Tower – now the Queen’s Tower at Imperial College – to be continued. The volunteers include five members of the Museum’s senior staff, whom the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty thank ‘for their arduous services during the winter months’.

23 April 1915: The War Office sends a circular letter suggesting that an appeal should be made by heads of departments to civil servants of recruitable age ‘to join the colours’, and suggests that their places could be taken by ‘suitable substitutes’. The letter draws attention to a statement from the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, ‘for the necessary permission to be given freely to their subordinates who are prepared to enlist. This is the form of military service of which the nation has the most pressing need’.


Until this point, just one further member of staff has enlisted in the military in 1915, bringing the total so far to 24.


Issue 22 of evolve is on sale now and the quarterly magazine is free to Members. Non-Members can copies in the Museum's shops.


Further WWI posts:



Greetings from a garden full of Spring promise! After an absence of several weeks, I recently left winter dormancy behind and have been welcomed by the optimism of spring from the Garden.


The productive work carried out by Larissa, Naomi and our wonderful volunteers these past few weeks is evident from the signs of coppicing, pollarding, pruning and propagating, as well as thinning out some of our most determined umbellifers - cow parsley, hogweed and ground elder.


New Image coppiced alder (Custom).JPG

Coppiced alder (Alnus glutinosa)

© Derek Adams


1 DSC_0825  sue jjfoxglove (Custom).JPG

Seed propagation in preparation for our Spring Wildlife Event on Saturday 5 April

© Sue Snell

And the garden itself has a surprise around every corner. On the ground in the coppiced woodland habitat and beneath the mature lime, the daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) are in bloom.


2. .WLG_06032014-108 daffodils (Custom).JPGThe first of our native daffodils was recorded on 25 February nine days earlier than last year

© Jonathan Jackson


There's a fair sprinkling of primroses (Primula vulgaris) in flower, with many more buds yet to open.


3. WLG_06032014-058  primroses 6_3_14 (Custom).JPGPrimroses at the edge of woodland - first flower recorded on 18 February; just a couple of days earlier than last year

© Jonathan Jackson


A deeper shade of yellow is offered by the fluffy heads of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) which brighten up the hedge banks.


New Image better coltsfoot (Custom).JPG

Coltsfoot, a plant typical of waste areas but welcome in our garden

© Derek Adams


Red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) along the path provides nectar for early flying insects, and other shades of pink include the occasional red campion (Silene dioica) and herb robert (Geranium robertianum).


New Image red campion (Custom).JPG

Red campion thrives in our Wildlife garden -  at least one plant can be seen in flower throughout the year

© Derek Adams


Sweet violet (Viola odorata) is in flower between hedge and pond and dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis) is increasing its territory beneath silver birch and ash. We'll be contributing our first flower and animal sightings to the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar.


WLG_06032014-036 dog's mercury (Custom).JPG

Dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis) - first flower this year was recorded on 13th January

© Jonathan Jackson


But what is most striking is the volume of bird song this week! After crossing the threshold of the Garden the traffic noise of Cromwell Road melts away and a symphony takes over inlcuding the medodic song of blackbirds and robins, rich trills and 'Tshews' from a flock of greenfinches, a medley of calls from blue, great and long-tailed tits, the occasional sound from our moorhen couple, and more.


There are flashes of red and yellow from goldfinches, and blue and yellow as blue tits whirr across our pathways. Territories are being established, courtship is in progress - and in some cases nesting material is already being transported to niches within ivy-clad trees:


WLG_06032014-073 blackbird _ ivy berries (Custom).JPG

A female blackbird was observed building a nest in ivy this week but here the male is feeding up on ivy berries

The supply of rowan berries referred to in recent blogs is finally exhausted!

© Jonathan Jackson

And to nest boxes, and the eaves of our garden shed:


DSC_0674 (Custom).JPGA wren started building here this week, the site was then taken over by a robin and now is currently vacant...

© Larissa Cooper



But not to hedges where there is too little camouflage just yet:


DSC_0399 catkins (Custom).JPGCatkins amongst the bare branches of one of our laid hedges

© Jonathan Jackson


Hazel catkins broke hedge dormancy in early January and now white flowers appear on the bare branches of blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).


WLG_06032014-103 Prunus spinosa (Custom).JPG

Our first blackthorn flowers opened on 18 February

© Jonathan Jackson


This is our earliest flowering native shrub in the Wildlife Garden (and elsewhere). Clouds of white blossom are already visible in hedges in the countryside. One of the many country sayings relating to Blackthorn is that its flowering is said to coincide with a cold spell - but not this week. More blackthorn country sayings and uses can be found on Roy Vickery's website of Plantlore.


Blackthorn is a spikier relative of hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) - and an excellent hedge companion, quick growing and providing good nest sites amongst a network of spiny branches and thorns. And, in autumn, sloes are food for berry-eating birds.


But this shrub and hedgerow plant is beneficial to many other species: providing nectar for early flying insects such as the tree bumble bee (Bombus hypnorum), first sighted in the garden this year on 15 February; and buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) observed on 6 March.


It's one of the larval food plants for many beautiful moth species including sloe midget (Phyllonorycter spinicolella), tufted button (Acleris cristana), clouded silver (Lomographa temerata) and the brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata), all of which have been recorded here. You can read more about moth recording in the Wildlife Garden, by Lepidopterist Martin Honey in the Spring issue of evolve - the Museum's quarterly magazine.


Wildlife Garden 2013-08-07 IMG_6972 (Custom).JPG

Brimstone Moth - this particular specimen was caught in our light trap on 6 August and released the following morning

© Florin Feneru


This week also we were shown the concept plans for the redesign of the Museum grounds, some of which included some surprising suggestions for the Wildlife Garden - you can read about this competition at Malcolm Reading Consultants.


Its been a fine Spring week but March is a capricious month and country sayings about the blackthorn weather may yet ring true.


New Image coltsfoot flower (Custom).JPG

Coltsfoot (again)

© Derek Adams


In the meantime we intend to hold on to our Spring optimism in the Museum's Wildlife Garden and continue to promote and conserve biodiversity here in the heart of London.





Another bumper EVOLVE edition (Issue 18 Winter 2014) for the Library & Archives collections and staff!


Women Artists

Andrea Hart (Special Collections Librarian) gives us a prelude to the forthcoming exhibition in the Images of Nature Gallery which begins in March. Over the following 16 months the work of numerous female artists will be featured, in display cases whose contents will change every 4 months. This exhibition is FREE. A book to accompany the exhibition will be published in February.


The Importance of Trifles: Sir William Flinders Petrie

Karolyn Shindler (L&A Associate) explores the fascinating life of this Egyptologist and archaeologist.


The Museum's War effort

Daisy Cunynghame (Archivist) discovers the impact that World War One had on the Museum's life and how the staff contributed to the national war effort. 


Hereward Chune Dollman

Hellen Pethers (Reader Services Librarian) looks at the life and work of this British Entomologist, and his collections housed in the Library & Archives and Science Departments.


Evolve is available to purchase via the Museum website, in the shop or members


The latest edition of the NHM Magazine EVOLVE! is out now.



The Summer 2013 edition is a bumper edition for fans of the NHM Library & Archives:


Letters of a naturalist

During this 'Wallace 100' anniversary year, Caroline Catchpole (Archivist, Wallace Correspondence Project), talks about the project, the life and work of this very important man and the collections held here at the NHM L&A.


Famous faces: Letters from poets, playwrights and pioneers

Daisy Cunynghame (Museum Archivist) highlights some of the more unexpected individuals who appear in the Archives.


Martin Hinton: The innate habits of a squirrel

Karolyn Shindler (L&A Associate) explores both the professional and personal life of former Keeper of Zoology, and his connections to the Piltdown fraud.


Museum Lives project

A project undertaken by the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR), which has created a digital archive of interviews with 50 of the Museum's curators, conservators and researchers, past & present.


Evolve is available to purchase via the Museum website, in the shop or members receive it free.





Out now is the Spring edition of EVOLVE, the Natural History Museum's glossy inhouse magazine.



News and articles included, which may be of particular interest for Library & Archive lovers are:


Martin Hinton 'My mysterious career' - by Karolyn Shindler


Wallace's letters online


Wallace species seeker extraordinaire - by Richard Conniff


Remarkable collections: What's new at the Museum - by Gemma Simmons


John Gould- by Gemma Simmons


Evolve is available to purchase via the Museum website, in the shop or members receive it free.






Out now is the Summer edition of EVOLVE, the Natural History Museum's glossy inhouse magazine.


Once again the Library & Archives staff and collections feature numerous times:


Through the window of printed ephemera: the weird and wonderful world of menageries - by Hellen Sharman (Reader Services Librarian)


Accessing science in the twent-first century - by Natalie Beven (Electronic Resources Librarian)


The great Piltdown fraud - by Karolyn Shindler (Scientific Associate)


Elizabeth Twining - by Gemma Simmons (Publishing Assistant Editor)


Evolve is available to purchase via the Museum website, in the shop or members receive it free.




The brand new glossy Winter 2012 edition of the Museum's magazine Evolve is now available to buy.


The Library & Archives collections and staff feature in at least three articles!



The Birds of America - In October 2011 the NHM published a reproduction of John James Audubon's huge work The Birds of America. Learn more about this record breaking book and its author.



Hoping great things.... the search for early humans - With the 100th anniversary approaching, Karolyn Shindler has been researching the collections relating to the Piltdown Man and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. This is the first of four forthcoming articles.







Images of Nature: The First Fleet collection - To coincide with the February 2012 change of theme for the Images of Nature art gallery, 18th century Australian artwork, this article is all about the theme, the artists and the artwork.


Our Special Collections Librarian, Lisa Di Tommaso has written a publication The Art of the First Fleet all about the unqiue First Fleet artwork collections held in the NHM Library & Archives. Available now from the NHM bookshop.


The Winter edition of Evolve is out now and is full of interesting articles.


In this edition there are two articles that involve the Library collections. Elin Simonsson talks about Edward Adrian Wilson and the travelling South Pole exhibition that arrives at the NHM in 2012. A number of items from the Library collections feature in this.


Karolyn Shindler continues her series of articles looking at the life of Richard Owen, this time his marriage to Caroline Clift.


Members of the Museum recieve Evolve as part of their membership. Non-members can buy copies in the NHM shop or subscribe online.




The latest edition of Evolve, the Museum's quarterly magazine, is now on sale!


Once again we have another great show of articles relating to the Library's collections. A piece by Judith Magee, our Library Special Collections Curator, relating to the new Images of Nature Gallery opening in the New Year. (See our previous blog Images of Nature Gallery.) Alison Harding, Assistant Librarian, tells us about Frederick Du Cane Godman and his legacy to the NHM collections, whilst Karolyn Shindler, NHM Scientific Associate, continues her fasinating series on Richard Owen.


Members of the Museum receive Evolve as part of their Membership. But non-members can buy the magazine in our Museum shops (£3.50) or subscribe online.



Evolve magazine's latest issue features Douglas Palmer's new illustrated guide to evolution. © Peter Barrett

This month the second issue of Evolve, the Museum’s new full-colour magazine, hits the shelves. It’s now on sale (£3.50) in the Museum shop and online, where you can also subscribe to it annually.


old-lady-moth_400.jpgThe first issue of Evolve came out in October 2009 when it evolved from Nature First, the Museum’s Members-only magazine, and doubled its size to 72 pages. The extended format allows scope for bigger, more wide-ranging features, and more regulars updates about Museum events and our Wildlife Garden, science in the field, and the Forgotten Naturalists series. It's also packed with colour photos (like the one opposite of an old lady moth from our gardens outside).


Museum Members still receive Evolve free as part of their benefits package.


So how’s the new magazine doing?


I spoke to Helen Sturge, Evolve’s senior editor, to find out what feedback she’s had. The response has been amazingly enthusiastic, says Helen:


'It’s fast becoming a hit. I received a really positive welcome for Evolve’s first issue, with sales well above our projected figures. Letters and comments flooded in.


evolve2-cover-400.jpg‘Readers said they really enjoyed the amazing photography and variety of content. In particular, Philip Hoare’s feature on the whales of London received much praise, as did the article we ran on how research into the brain size of dwarfed mammals is helping us to understand more about a recent species of human discovered in 2003.


‘We also had letters from editors of other magazines congratulating us on our "wonderfully strong design" and "first-rate quality".'


Each issue takes around 4 months from commissioning articles to final design. Evolve is actually designed in-house by Steve Long in the Museum’s Design Studio (who many Museum staff will know).


Issue 2 (right) highlights include a kick-off to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity with a feature about the rich tapestry of life around us, why it is so important and ways to join in. And an exclusive piece from the science writer and author of Evolution, Douglas Palmer, about how illustrating the fossil past helps us picture the history of life. It features wonderful images from the book's artist, Peter Barrett.


‘I would also recommend author Karolyn Shindler’s article as she follows in the footsteps of pioneering fossil-hunter Dorothea Bate, journeying to Majorca and the final resting place of a mouse-like goat, Myotragus; and don’t miss naturalist and presenter Nick Baker telling us why he is inspired by

the Natural History Museum,’ says Helen.


weevil-ring-400.jpgOne of my favourite pieces in the new issue is the article about 'Birds and people' by natural history writer and ornithologist, Jonathan Elphick. It’s a fascinating cultural look at the many ways birds affect and enrich our lives and art, with some extraordinary photos. For bird lovers, there’s a Birds and people project you can get involved in. In another excellent piece, I discovered how wonderful weevils could be (200 years ago someone even set one in a gold ring) and how to spot these beaky beetles.


Get hold of a copy of the new Evolve if you haven’t yet.


Helen and her team also put together our quarterly children’s magazine, Second Nature for Members.