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Library & Archives

2 Posts authored by: Angela Thresher

Cherry Kearton (1871-1940) and his brother Richard (1862-1928), pioneered the use of wildlife photography. The brother’s grew-up in the Yorkshire Dales, and developed a great interest in the wildlife that surrounded them. They experimented with photography and devised many ingenious ways to camouflage themselves to get very close to animals in their natural habitat. Despite the need to use explosive magnesium flash powder and unwieldy equipment, their shots were amazingly natural and they went on to produce a large number of wildlife books together, illustrated by Cherry’s photographs.

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Glass plate negative from the collection


At a time when hunting was fashionable and nature conservation was in its infancy, the brothers recognised the need to respect wildlife and to capture it through photography rather than by hunting down trophies. In ‘Wild Nature’s Ways’ (1904) the brother’s make a plea that collectors take no more than one bird egg of any species; “remember that to help in the least degree to accomplish the extinction of anything beautiful and interesting is a crime against future generations…”(p.210).


Cherry was responsible for some of the first motion pictures of animals in the wild.  He travelled extensively in Africa, North America, India and Australia, becoming a prolific film maker. This resulted in a large collection of photographs, negatives and film, some of which were presented to the NHM Library by the Kearton family in 1990.


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                           Examples of some of the material from the collection, including a metal travelling box.


As illustrated here, the collection is in a very fragile state and not suitable to handle, but the library hopes one day to gain funding for its preservation and full curation. Until then, it is not available to the public, but the BBC reproduced some of the original cine film (c.1915-1920) for ‘Nation on Film’ in 2006, and this is available to view on DVD in the Library. The NHM Library also holds many of Richard and Cherry's books, which may be viewed by appointment. These include;


• With Nature and a Camera : Being the adventures and observations of a field naturalist and an animal photographer, illustrated from photographs by C. Kearton. (1897).


• Our rarer British breeding birds : Their nests, eggs, and summer haunts. (1900).


• Wild Nature's Ways : With 200 illustrations from photographs taken direct from nature. (1904).


• Wild life at home : how to study and photograph it (1907).


• Wild life across the world (1913)


• A naturalist's pilgrimage, by Richard Kearton (an autobiography) (1926)

• Cherry Kearton's travels, by Cherry Kearton ; illustrated from photographs taken by the author (1942)


Please see our catalogue for more details;


If you wish to visit the Library, please contact us to make an appointment 020 7942 5460 or


Climate Week runs from 21st to 27th March this year.

The event is designed to highlight the practical steps being taken in workplaces and communities across the UK, to improve sustainability.

So what better opportunity to tell you how we work with sustainability in mind!


The library uses a lot of paper resources and electrical equipment, but there are a number of simple things we do to reduce waste;
• We print double sided when ever possible.
• We turn off electrical equipment and lights overnight.
• We use recycled materials were possible.
• We recycle as much of our waste as we can, including printer cartridges, plastic packaging and computer equipment. In fact the rubbish bins for non-recyclables are hard to spot!


Very occasionally we withdraw duplicate items and outdated stock, but rather than sending these books and journals straight for recycling, we try to find them a new home by donating to charity, offering material to other institutions and by having staff sales.


We also like to encourage sustainability among our suppliers. We buy many of our books through NHBS, who are a British company with a very strong environmental policy. Our book orders require packing and shipping, but NHBS use recycled cardboard boxes and reused packaging whenever possible. They too donate unwanted stock to charity.


The things we do, and the decisions we make, have a cumulative effect and we will continue to work with the rest of the museum and our suppliers to reduce waste, recycle and reuse materials.


Angela Thresher

NHM Library