|AdminHistory||The Museum at Tring was built in 1889 for Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild (1868-1937) by his father Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild, Baron de Rothschild (1840-1915) on his Tring Park estate to house Walter's collection of natural history specimens. The museum opened its doors to the public from 1892, and Walter Rothschild employed two curators, ornithologist Ernst Hartert (1859-1933) and entomologist Karl Jordan (1875-1972). Both Jordan and Hartert assisted Walter with studying and maintaining his collection for almost 40 years. They described over 5,000 new species and published the periodical Novitates Zoologicae from 1894 to 1939. Walter's museum became one of the largest single collections of zoological specimens accumulated by one man. It housed 200,000 birds' eggs, 300,000 bird skins, thousands of mammals, hundreds of reptiles and over 2 million butterflies and moths. The bird skins were sold to the American Museum of Natural History in 1931, but the rest of the specimens, papers and photographs were bequeathed to the British Museum (Natural History) on Walter's death.|
Tring Museum originated as the private museum of the wealthy aristocrat and banker, Lionel Walter Rothschild (1868-1937), 2nd Baron Rothschild of Tring, in Hertfordshire. Walter began collecting natural history specimens at the age of seven, and converted a garden shed into his first museum a few years later. He visited the natural history galleries at the British Museum as a boy, and started a thirty-year correspondence with Albert Gunther, the Keeper of Zoology. Rothschild studied at Bonn University and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he came under the influence of the Professor of Zoology, Alfred Newton.
As a 21st 'coming of age' birthday present his father built him a splendid museum on the edge of Tring Park for Walter's ever-growing zoological collections and library. Alfred Minall acted as caretaker and taxidermist, and the museum was opened to the public for the first time in 1892.
Rothschild made use of a great number of professional collectors to build up his museum, including A F R Wollaston in North Africa, William Doherty in what is now Malaysia and Indonesia, and A S Meek in New Guinea. He also undertook one major expedition himself, spending nearly six months collecting in Algeria in 1908. He kept live animals in Tring Park, including emus, kangaroos, zebra and giant tortoises. Rothschild appointed two German curators in 1892 and 1893: Ernst Hartert (1859-1933) as ornithologist and Karl Jordan (1861-1959) as entomologist. Hartert retired as Director of the Museum in 1930, and was succeeded by Jordan until his own retirement in 1938. By 1908, when Rothschild retired from banking, the museum had an establishment of eight, including Arthur Goodson who assisted Hartert, and Fred Young who had succeeded Minall as taxidermist. The museum also published its own journal, Novitates Zoologicae, which eventually ran to 42 quarto volumes rich in hand-coloured lithographs. Rothschild added two wings to the museum to house the collections of birds and insects in 1910 and 1912.
For forty years Rothschild, Hartert and Jordan collected, classified and published their research, resulting in possibly the largest collection of zoological specimens ever collected by one man (and his team). The collection at various points in time included 200,00 birds' eggs, 300,000 bird skins and 2.25 million butterflies and moths. Between them they published over 1,200 books and papers and described approximately 5,000 new species.
In spite of his family's great wealth, Rothschild was often short of money. He sold most of his beetles to raise funds for the Museum, and in 1931 a crisis forced him to sell his collection of birds to the American Museum of Natural History. The remainder of his museum remained intact until his death in 1937, when it was bequeathed in its entirety to the Trustees of the British Museum on the condition it should remain a place of study for systematic zoology. This, the largest bequest ever received by The Natural History Museum, consisted of 3,000 mounted mammals, reptiles and amphibians, 2,000 mounted birds and about 4,000 skins, a vast collection of butterflies and other insects, a library of 30,000 volumes, the buildings and the land on which they stood. As it was the largest single gift ever offered to the Museum its acceptance required specific legislation in the form of the British Museum Act 1938, which allowed the Trustees to accept the bequest.
A succession of Natural History Museum staff acted as Officer-in-charge of Tring including T C S Morrison-Scott (1938-1939), J R Norman (1939-1944), J E Dandy and Dorothea Bate (1948-1950). Collections were evacuated to Tring from South Kensington during the war, but it wasn't until the end of the 1960s that major changes took place. The display galleries were modernised in 1969-1971, though they still retain a Victorian flavour, and the Bird Section moved into a new building on the site in 1971, providing space in South Kensington for Rothschild's insects to join the other entomological collections there. The Zoological Museum, Tring, now comprises a public display of stuffed animals with associated educational programmes, the Rothschild Library, and the staff and collections of the Bird Section.
Further material, dating from when the Natural History Museum took over the administration of the Museum, can be found within DF TRI/3000-
Rothschild, M, 1983. Dear Lord Rothschild. Birds, butterflies and history. Pp 398. Balaban, Philadelphia.