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Library & Archives

316 Posts

John Benjamin Stone, known as Benjamin, was born in Birmingham on 9 February 1838. He was the son of a local glass manufacturer and took over the business after his father's death. He was a staunch conservative and soon entered local politics, eventually serving as MP for Birmingham East from 1895 to 1909. He was knighted in 1892.


Stone was also keenly interested in anthropology and science. He was a member of many learned societies. He wanted to make a record of his life and times and so collected photographs and postcards. Then he decided to learn to take photographs for himself, employing two men full-time to develop and print his plates. Stone was one of the first photographers to switch from wet to dry plates.


This meant the plates no longer needed to be developed on the spot, as soon as they had been exposed. It made photography much easier, and the equipment lighter to carry around. Stone went on to make 26,000 photographs documenting daily life, local customs and his travels throughout the British Isles, Spain, Norway, Japan and Brazil.


Stone's interest in science means it's no surprise that he visited the Natural History Museum and photographed both the galleries and the staff.


The museum wardens - all men - are pictured outside the museum wearing smart military-style uniforms complete with peaked caps. In the nineteenth century similar uniforms were common in many large museums. Nowadays visitors to the NHM recognise the front of house staff by their purple shirts emblazoned with the museum's logo. messenger.jpg


Stone's photos show the curators and scientists dressed in frock coats and top hats as if for a smart dinner party. Today these staff are indistinguishable from the visitors except for the all-important security pass, and perhaps a white coat for laboratory work.

Meanwhile, some of the galleries are completely different, but some have hardly changed.

This is the Hintze Hall in 1907 - the statue of Darwin is in the same place now, but the elephant display has been replaced by Dippy the Diplodocus.


Here's Dippy as he appeared in the reptile gallery in 1907.


Stone reached the peak of his photographic career when he acted as official photographer for the coronation of King George V in 1911. Stone died a few years later, on 2 July 1914.


The majority of Stone's photographs are housed at the Library of Birmingham, and you can browse many of them online. His photographs are also in the collections of the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, and the British Library.







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.


We are pleased to announce that the Library and Archives team recently installed the 3rd rotation of natural history artworks into the Images of Nature Gallery. This new rotation features the wonderful artworks of a further eighteen women artists whose artworks are represented in the Musuem's collections.


The featured artists in this penultimate rotation are :


Norma Gregory (b.1942) - Bergenia cordifolia, elephant-eared saxifrage

Elizabeth Cameron (1915-2008) - Rhododendron eclecteum, Rhododendron

Jean Webb (b.1943) - Piseum sativum, pea 'Commander'

Angela Gladwell (b.1945) - Strigops habroptilus, kakapo or owl parrot

Claire Dalby (b.1944) - Caloplaca verruculifera and Lecanora poliophaea, lichen

Barbara Nicholson (1906-1978) - Meadow flowers

Beatrice Corfe (1866-1947) - Juniperus communis, Juniper ; Quercus robur, English oak ; Sorbus torminalis, Wild service orange tree ; Castenea sativa, sweet chestnut

Augusta Withers (c.1791/2-1876) - Cone of Encephalartos longifolius

Mary Grierson (1912-2012) - Orobanche crenata Forsk.

Guilelma Lister (1860-1949) - Trichia affinis, slime mould

Mary Eaton (1873-1961) - Phallus impudicus, veiled stickhorn

Sarah Stone (c.1760-1844) - Goura cristata, western crowned-pigeon ; Rupicola rupicola, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock

Harriet Moseley (fl.1836-1867) - Rubus macrophyllus, large leaved bramble ; Iris foetidissima, stinking iris

Janet Dwek (b.1944) - Bellis perennis L., common daisy ; Rosa canina L., dog rose

Lilian Medland (1880-1955) - Parotia lawessi, Bird of paradise

E. Getrude Norrie (fl.1900s) - Parribacus antarcticus, slipper lobster ; Anampses cuvier, pearl wrasse

Joan Procter (d.1953) - watercolour drawings of frogs and toads

Olive Tassart (d.1953) - Spodoptera litura



Lilian Medland
Mary Grierson
E. Gertrude Norrie
Guilelma Lister
Medlandsmall.jpgGriesensmall.jpgnorrie 1small.jpgLister 1.jpg



For more highlights of the gallery please see here.


The artworks will remain on display in the Images of Nature Gallery until the end of February 2015.     


Entry to the Gallery is free.    


For more information on the Women Artists in our collections, the book Women Artists features examples of the artworks of over 100 women artists held by the Library and explores their various influences and motivations in the creation of some of the most visually stunning natural history illustrations of the past four centuries.






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.


The Library and Archives team (20+ of us!) will be keeping busy at this year’s Science Uncovered event. You can come and find us at various spots around the Museum on the evening of the 26th September.


Why not let us know if you have seen us via twitter @NHM_Library using the tag for the evening #SU2014




Origins and evolution with unique special collections


We’ll be offering behind the scenes tours and showcasing some of our most beautiful and important library collections in the Earth Sciences Library  - come and spend half an hour with us as library staff talk about books, manuscripts and amazing artwork all relating to the theme of Origins and Evolution and take the very rare opportunity for a close up look . Tours are on the half hour and run from 6.00pm till 9.30pm. You can sign up on the evening outside the Library.


Women Artists and our art on paper collections


Staff will also be in the Images of Nature Gallery between 6.00pm and 10.00pm, allowing you the opportunity to stop in for a chat and find out more about the very special artwork we have on display, and  chance to learn more about the Library’s art collections. Explore the latest display of watercolours from the 18th to the 21st centuries, all completed by women artists, and discover how we look after the collections and preserve them for future generations. You can also have a go at drawing something from the collections yourself!




Behind the scenes with our Paper Conservator


At 5.00pm, join us in the Attenborough Studio for a very special Nature Live talk, where you can enjoy a rare behind the scenes glimpse into the Library’s Conservation Studio and see our Paper Conservator talking about and working on our collections via a live link.


Piltdown forgery


The Archives team will be out in the thick of things, sharing a table in the Origins and Evolution section with NHM scientists, showcasing some of the Museum’s amazing specimens relating to the great Piltdown forgery, and the letters, papers and images associated with it. Get a valuable insight into the  work of the Archives in collecting some of our most important treasures and documenting events in the world of natural history.






Library staff will also be on their Soapboxes!  Join them and other researchers as they stand on their soapboxes to discuss issues that relate to their work and have your say in a dynamic exchange of opinions. You’ll have the chance to debate a variety of topics, in a style similar to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon. Keep an eye out for the Soapboxes throughout the Museum and join the event at any time. Library staff will also be in the Science Bar, where you stop by for a drink and discuss some of the burning scientific issues of the day.


Tring (Hertfordshire)


As part of a wider array of talks and tours on the night, the Walter Rothschild Museum, our sister Museum in Tring, will feature a talk at 8.45pm by our librarian Alison Harding entitled The Rothschild Library: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Discover the treasures of our library collections housed here and find out how this internationally important library is used by curators, scientists, and researchers from all over the world.


So keep an eye out for us at Science uncovered and come and say hello and find out more about our work…


CARE AND DISPLAY OF BOOKS WORKSHOP – Tuesday 4 November 2014, The Natural History Museum, London.

This workshop introduces the key elements of good practice for the care and display of books through a series of presentations, videos and practical sessions.  This introductory workshop is suitable for Library staff and Archivists and all those with responsibility for book collections.

Topics covered include:

• threats to library collections
• the structure of books
• curation
• preservation
• display of books

The workshop is led by Museum Library Staff and will be held in the Boardroom at the Natural History Museum. It starts at 10.00am and will finish at 5.00pm.  The course fee of £175 includes morning and afternoon tea and lunch, and a tour of the Library’s Rare Books Room.


For more information and to book please see the attached document.


While searching through correspondence sent from Tring Museum, I came across this sales catalogue, bound into a volume. It offers a wonderful glimpse into a lost world.


Blog_auction catalogue_Aug 2014.jpg


The Natural History Museum acquired some of its collections at auction houses in the nineteenth century. Many private collectors and museums bought and sold in this way.


The sale took place at Steven’s auction house, which operated from 38 King Street, Covent Garden. The house was well-known for selling items of ethnographic, scientific and zoological interest. Orchid sales were regularly held there during the 19th century, as well as sales of other exotic plants. Stevens also sold Egyptian mummies, taxidermy, ‘mermaids’, and oddities from all over the British Empire. These good were very fashionable. They were a way for collectors to show off their education, taste and connoisseurship. 


Amongst the good on offer at this sale was a Great Auk Egg. Steven’s sold so many stuffed auks and auk eggs that at one point their telegram address was actually changed to ‘Auk’. The desire to possess these rare artefacts helped to make the Great Auk extinct.


Also on offer were some items from South Africa, previously exhibited at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. This exhibition was held in South Kensington and was intended "to stimulate commerce and strengthen the bonds of union now existing in every portion of her Majesty's Empire". The exhibition received 5.5 million visitors, which shows the Victorians’ fascination with global cultures.


The company closed following the Second World War.  Economic circumstances had changed and the British Empire was drawing to an end. International ‘curiosities’ were no longer fashionable or relevant in a globalised world. But judging from the numbers of visitors to the Natural History Museum, people are still just as interested in the curiosities of the natural world!


The World Cup has triggered an outbreak of football fever amongst some of the staff at the Museum. With perfect timing, the Museum Archives have just catalogued a treasure trove of sporting memorabilia relating to the Museum’s very own sports clubs.

There are some wonderful images of Museum footballers through the ages.


Here’s team NHM in 1921/22 (you may have already seen this if you follow us on Twitter @nhm_library !)


NHM Football club 1921-22_edited.jpg



And here we are at a very elegant kick-off in 1925.


NHM Football club 1925_edited.jpg



During the 1970s the team struggled to find enough players, and didn’t seem to do that well…


NHM Football club report 1 1978_edited.jpg



NHM Football club report 2 c1978_edited.jpg




These reports of NHM disasters triggered nostalgia in some of our staff. They felt the match report painted an unfair picture of the team’s prowess, and commented:


“We weren’t the worst team ever - sometimes we even won! I seem to remember our biggest win was against the Museum of London. The score was something like 24-3 to us! The match was played in the pouring rain on a pool of mud. Our captain at the time wanted us to get out early, get warmed up and not hold proceedings up, so we went out and promptly got wetter than wet! Except for Mick Webb, who organised the match and stayed in the dry until the last minute, as did the opposition. At that time we had cotton shirts which simply soaked up the rain, so it was difficult to run when carrying the extra weight of the shirt. The sleeves expanded downwards so that we probably had something of a Neanderthal appearance. Nonetheless we racked up goals. We even gave them some of our players to make a bit of a game of it. In the end our players scored all ‘their’ goals.”



On the other hand, they both agreed that back in the 70s and 80s:


“We played seriously but only occasionally, and it didn’t matter whether we won or not. We always avoided playing in leagues, as that allowed an element of rivalry and win at all costs to creep in; we preferred friendlies against similar organisations. “


So it’s not the winning that really matters – it’s the taking part that counts. England fans take note!







by Geoff Belknap


I have just joined the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) at the NHM, in collaboration with the University of Leicester, as a postdoctoral fellow on the AHRC project Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries.


The project as a whole is looking at how non-professionals – whether termed lay, amateur or citizen – participated in the production and communication of science through historical and modern media platforms.





The project works in collaboration with scientists at the University of Oxford who are putting our historical analysis into action. Through the Zooniverse project scholars in the physics department are creating digital platforms which harness the power of the ‘citizen scientist’ to create data for a range of scientific disciplines.


The historical strand of this project, which is the side I work on, is investigating this question – how an amateur participated in science - through the lens of the Victorian periodical. My work, aims to understand how illustrations reproduced in natural history periodicals over the period of 1840-1890 allowed a range of audiences to participate in the production and communication of knowledge about the natural world. The excellent collections of periodicals at the NHM form the base of this research – in particular the unparalleled range of English local natural history society journals. I come to both the NHM and this project as a historian of Victorian science, visual culture and periodical history. My PhD, which was completed at the University of Cambridge in 2011, focused on the reproduction of photographic images within late Victorian periodicals. I have also worked as a researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University on both the Charles Darwin and John Tyndall Correspondence Projects.


This week we have 32 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460


The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website



Following hot on the heels of the first rotation of some of the most striking natural history artworks by women artists that we hold in the Library and Archives collections, we have just installed a fresh rotation of artworks in the Images of Nature Gallery, including the wonderfully vibrant mango illustration by Malcy C. Moon (1803-1880).


Other artists featured in this new rotation include some of the best contemporary natural history illustrators including Elizabeth Butterworth, Jenny Brasier, Jessica Tcherepnine and Olga Makrushenko. Their individual use of colour, technique and artistic skill in acheiving both scientific accuracy and extraordinary beauty in their subjects is inspirational, and we are delighted to hold examples of their work in our collections.


The rotation also features the skilled graphite illlustrations of Sarah Ormerod (1784-1860) that sit alongside her daugher Georgiana Ormerod's (1823-1896) bold illustrations of the Rocky Mountain Locust and Southern hawker dragonfly. From the eighteenth century is Gertrude Metz's (1746-1793) watercolour of an Orange sherbet and we once again feature two birds from our Sarah Stone (c.1760-1844) collection - a tawny owl with young, and a Northern cardinal.


From the nineteenth century we have two watercolours by the relatively unknown Ellen Hawkins (fl.1821-1868). Her delicate but scientifically accurate and informative illustrations of a musk thistle and an aspen are accompanied by her manuscript notes and observations of these plants, written in iron gall ink. The equally wonderful botanical watercolours of Elizabeth Twining (1805-1889) and Laura Burrard (d.1880), the comprehensive and beautifully composed study of Barbara Nicholson's (1906-1978) Heathland plants and Margaret Cockburn's (1829-1928) intricately detailed birds eggs complete the diverse selection in this rotation.




The artworks will remain on display in the Images of Nature Gallery until the end of October 2014.


Entry to the Gallery is free.


For more information on the Women Artists in our collections, the book Women Artists features examples of the artworks of over 100 women artists held by the Library and explores their various influences and motivations in the creation of some of the most visually stunning natural history illustrations of the past four centuries.


by Kate Tyte, Assistant ArchivistO'Shaughnessy's-gecko-2.jpg



The Natural History Museum’s nineteenth century staff included some real characters.

Take Arthur O'Shaughnessy. He was born in London to an Irish family in 1844, and at the age of 17, became a transcriber in the British Museum Library. Supposedly he got this job through the influence of a family friend, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. Lytton was a popular novelist, now best known for his infamous opening line ‘it was a dark and stormy night’.

After two years in the Library Arthur was promoted to be a herpetologist (an amphibian expert) in the Zoological Department. He complained that he spent monotonous days classifying fish and reptiles ‘in a queer little subterranean cell, strongly scented with spirits of wine, and with grim creatures pickled round him in rows and rows of gallipots.’ He complained of low pay, and struggling to make ends meet by churning out scientific papers and reviews for extra cash.

Despite his criticism of his job, he was good at it, and became well-respected. He even gave his name to one animal - O'Shaughnessy’s gecko. But Arthur was far more interested in poetry. In 1870, aged 26 and having worked at the museum for 9 years, he published his first volume of poetry, Epic of Women.  Two other volumes: Lays of France and Music and Moonlight followed, in 1872 and 1874. He was part of London’s literary and artistic scene, mingling with the Rossettis, Ford Maddox Browne and William Morris at fabulous parties.





Arthur was fairly well known during his lifetime, though even his kinder critics noted that his poems could be rather hit and miss. Today, the only one of his works that is known at all is Ode from Music and Moonlight. The initial lines have often been quoted in popular culture, and it was set to music by Elgar in 1912 and Zoltán Kodály in 1964:








We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
















In 1874 Arthur married Eleanor Marston, herself from a literary family. The couple had two children and wrote a book of children’s stories together in 1875, called Toy-land. Tragically both children died in infancy, after which Eleanor lapsed into ill-health and died in 1879. Arthur struggled to c


ope with these losses, and to manage the conflicting demands of his life. He died in 1881, and his final book of poems, Songs of a Worker, was published posthumously the same year; full of poems about death and grieving.


Ironically, O'Shaughnessy’s gecko may be better known today than O’Shaughnessy’s poetry.



The two images depict the Gecko type specimen held in the Life Science collections, Natural History Museum, London.


This week we have 25 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460


The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website


This week we have 8 new book additions, covering Zoology, General Natural History, Earth Sciences, Ornithology, Entomology and Botany. Download the PDF attached to the bottom of this blog to view this week's list.

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460


The Library catalogue is available online and more information about the Library & Archives collections can be found via our website


In the run-up to the launch of the new Library & Archives search system on 14 July, the Library team will be operating a reduced online service from 27 June - 14 July.

1. Searching the Library catalogue
The current Library catalogue (due to be replaced by the new system) will stay available for you to search the collections as normal. However, please bear in mind that the catalogue will be read-only during this time: any items borrowed after 5pm on 26 June will continue to show as available on the catalogue and items returned after this point will continue to show as being on loan.

2. Borrowing barcoded items
The self-issue machines located in the Earth Sciences Library and Main Library Reading room will not be operational between 27 June – 14 July. You will still be able to borrow items from these collections, but please record your pass barcode number and book details on the sheets provided next to the self-issue machines. When the new system is launched, the Library staff will manually update your account with books borrowed during the period of downtime.

3. Renewing loans
You will not be able to renew items between 27 June – 14 July. However, all current loans have been automatically renewed until the end of 2014, so your items will not become overdue nor will you receive renewal reminder emails.

4. Reserving items
You will not be able to reserve/request items through the Library Catalogue between 27 June – 14 July. If you want to borrow a book that is out on loan to another member of staff, please email with the details and we’ll try to get it for you.


Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 14.31.16.jpg





A sneak preview of the new Library & Archives search system







5. New book/serial displays (Main, Botany and Tring Reading Rooms)
New displays will go up on Monday 30 June and will remain in place until 21 July. During this time, if you wish to reserve any items please use the paper reservation slips.

6. Requesting items for purchase
If you request an item to be purchased by the Library during this time, please bear in mind that we will not be able to place any orders until 14 July. We will work through any back orders as a matter of priority, but there will be a slight delay until your item is added to the collection.

7. The eJournal A-Z List and Article Search
The eJournal A-Z list and Article Search will both be available and operating as normal until 14th July, at which point they will be replaced by the new system.


8. Borrowing bookboard items

This will continue as normal.

9. Requesting off-site items and inter-library loans
These services will continue as normal until 14th July, when they will take place on the new system. Until then, please continue to fill out remote and inter-library loan request forms and email them to

10. Visiting the Reading Rooms
The South Kensington and Tring Reading Rooms will be open as normal. If you would like to view Library special collections or material from the Museum Archives, please contact or

11. Contacting the Library
Our staff will be available as usual to answer your queries. We’ll be busy getting the new system up and running though, so we may be slightly slower to respond than usual – please bear with us and we’ll respond as soon as possible.

Thank you for your patience while we work to develop and further improve the Library & Archives service; information about the new system will be posted in the run up to 14 July, so keep your eyes peeled!

If you have any questions, please email or ring the Library enquiry desk on x 5460.

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