Skip navigation

The NaturePlus Forums will be offline from mid August 2018. The content has been saved and it will always be possible to see and refer to archived posts, but not to post new items. This decision has been made in light of technical problems with the forum, which cannot be fixed or upgraded.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the very great success of the forums and to the community spirit there. We plan to create new community features and services in the future so please watch this space for developments in this area. In the meantime if you have any questions then please email:

Fossil enquiries:
Life Sciences & Mineralogy enquiries:
Commercial enquiries:


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.


1/ Why did you want to work behind the scenes in the NHM Archives?


For the last 14 months I have volunteered at several archives to gain the work experience required to apply for a post graduate qualification in the subject.  I wanted to work ‘behind the scenes’ to develop my knowledge of how a museum and business archive operates. The role offered the opportunity to learn and develop skills essential to becoming an Archives and Records Manager. This includes cataloguing historical material, dealing with user enquiries and using the CALM database. I felt compelled to apply for the position as it would give me the opportunity to improve accessibility and contribute to the preservation of a unique collection within a museum I am familiar with.


2/How long have you been working with us and what have you been involved in so far?


I have been volunteering since September 2013 and hope to continue until September 2014. I have been responsible for cataloguing a wide range of historical material into CALM. This includes correspondence relating to the Piltdown Hoax and photographs relating to the opening of the Human Biology exhibition, as well as the staff magazine Chrysalis. I have also taken responsibility for rearranging the Tring Museum correspondence into a new series, with each new reference number correlating to a specific year (1914-1920). Zoe-Fullard.jpg




As the museum is still a 'live' institution, it deals with active records on a daily basis. I have been given an insight in to how an archives and records manager deals with this area of business; the importance of retention schedules, confidential shredding, and the processes involved when a record has reached its retention period; it is either destroyed, or if it holds historical value, it will be appraised and held in the archive. As a volunteer I have not had any direct experience with the live records, but it has been useful to be exposed to these factors and learn about the life span and purposes of records.





3/ Have you come across anything interesting so far?


When cataloguing papers belonging to Dr Kenneth Oakley (Anthropologist and museum employee), I am required to construct a brief description relating to the content of each item of correspondence. Oakley discovered that the Piltdown Man fragments (founded in 1912 by amateur palaeontologist Charles Dawson) were in fact an elaborate hoax. Dawson claimed the fragments were the missing link between ape and man; subsequently Oakley's discovery caused uproar in the scientific community. It has been interesting to read the reaction's of Oakley's cotemporaries, the press, and the general public, as they write to him from all over the globe with their reaction to the news. Many speculate who was responsible and how the hoax was implemented; a true 'whodunit' of modern times. In his letters Oakley claims to have his thoughts of who the perpetrator(s) are, but never puts it in writing. To this day the culprit of the biggest hoax in history has never been revealed.


When organising the Tring Museum correspondence, I have come across numerous letters to and from Lord Rothschild, his director Ernest Hartert and curator Karl Jordan, written during the First World War. It is interesting to read records created during this time; letters from removal companies stating they cannot assist with the transportation of museum specimens as their automobiles are being used as part of the war effort; letters from employees sent away to war seeking job security on their return, as well as men enquiring about possible vacancy openings at the museum once released from the army. One gentleman lists his entire employment history prior conscription; he is striving to get back to the normality of civilian life, highlighting the disruption the war had on many people's lives. The series also includes a letter to Dr Hartert from Captain Robert Davis, an enthusiastic zoologist who was drafted into the RAF. After writing about his experiences at war, he ends the letter expressing his condolences to Hartert, who has just lost his only son fighting in battle. Hartnet later writes that he is taking a week off work to visit the grave of his son in France. The First World War had a huge impact on the museum's business, but foremost it had a huge impact on the personal lives of millions of people across the globe.



4/ What would you like to be doing in the future professionally?


When qualified I would like to work as an Archive Assistant and eventually as an Archives and Records Manager. I aim to bring passion and experience to an inspiring environment where I contribute to preserving the past for future generations to learn from and enjoy. I have been accepted onto the diploma in Archives and Records Management at UCL starting in September 2014. I am looking forward to undertaking the course to as it is essential to my professional development.




To learn more about being a volunteer at the Natural History Museum, please visit our volunteering web page.


Rod has been volunteering with us as part of the Wallace Correspondence Project since August 2012. But it isn't until you take the time to sit down and have a chat with him, that you realise we are one of four places he gives his time to.


The National Army Museum was the first experience of volunteering that Rod encountered. There is currently a huge behind-the-scenes effort by their staff and volunteers to prepare the Museum for a significant closure for building works. Rod has been working in the Department of Printed of Books, assisting to catalogue, scan, barcode and package a whole variety of material, ready to be moved off site. This has been a fascinating experience and has enabled him to see some very interesting material. A particular highlight has been MOD Army training manuals from the early 20th century, which included procedures for trench design.



The second place that Rod gives his time to is The Children's Society. His first project with them was to clean and flatten files dating from the 1880s to early 1900s. These related to successful applications made to the Society for individual children to be rehomed, the large majority having had some level of disability. This work was part of a project called 'Including the excluded', which Rod described as very interesting but emotionally charged, because you are learning about the circumstances these children found themselves in.


His current project involves going through the Society's quarterly journal and annual reports for the period covering the mid 1960s to the late 1990s, looking for references to specific CS homes and projects. The idea behind this is to build up a timeline of how the Society changed and developed during this time.


Rod's third volunteering position is as a reading helper at a primary school in Westminster. Here he supports children on a one to one basis, reading together for 30 minutes, with 3 children twice a week. He recalls on the first day being slightly apprehensive not knowing what to expect and whether the children would like him.  However, once his first day was completed, he couldn't wait to go back!



His work with us is one day a week for the Wallace Correspondence Project. It involves transcribing letters written by Alfred Russel Wallace to people all around the world, covering a myriad of subjects. He is given a batch at a time to go through, and has strict procedures to follow  in regard to how he types up each transcription. Since starting he estimates he has dealt with approximately 100 letters. Originally Rod completed a Geography degree which included a Geology module which he thoroughly enjoyed. It has been fascinating for Rod to be able to read letters between Wallace and the great names in geology such as Charles Lyell. Rod is well read up in regard to Darwin and evolution, and therefore had a general awareness of who Wallace was, but it wasn’t until he volunteered with us, that he was able to really gain a true understanding of the man himself. One particular set of letters were written to a young entomologist called Frederick Birch, fl.1905, who was working in Trinidad at the time of the correspondence. Rod found it interesting because Wallace is giving his younger counterpart practical tips and advice regarding areas such as getting the right price from dealers and sourcing supplies. Currently we know little about Birch, which is a little frustrating because it would be nice to find out how he got on in his profession. Another interesting example were letters from Wallace as he tried to secure work for his son, having returned from his travels.


Whilst working with us, Rod has made sure to take advantage of our temporary exhibitions: in particular he thoroughly enjoyed the Salgado Photography display in 2013, taking his daughter on the Darwin Centre Spirit Tour, and the current Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story Exhibition.


This week we have 27 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