Electronic inventory of European bird collections

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The Manchester Museum (MANCH)

What is in the bird collection?

Skins 14637
Egg sets 11527
Skeletons 0
Mounts 3000
Spirits 120
Nests 271
Other Items n/a


Current staff
Full name Job title eBEAC member
Henry McGhie Head of Collections Yes
Kate Sherburn Curatorial Assistant No
Important past bird staff
Full name Job title eBEAC member
Henry McGhie Head of Collections Yes


Important collections from
  • R A H Coombes
  • H. E. Dresser

The Manchester Museum

University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom

0161 275 2676



Manchester Museum is home to one of the largest and most important collections of natural history specimens in the UK

Brief history

The museum's first collections were assembled by the Manchester Society of Natural History formed in 1821 with the purchase of the collection of John Leigh Philips. In 1850 the collections of the Manchester Geological Society were added. By the 1860s both societies encountered financial difficulties and, on the advice of the evolutionary biologist Thomas Huxley, Owens College (now the University of Manchester) accepted responsibility for the collections in 1867. The museum in Peter Street was sold in 1875 after Owens College moved to new buildings in Oxford Street. The college commissioned Alfred Waterhouse, architect of London's Natural History Museum, to design a museum to house the collections for the benefit of students and the public on a site in Oxford Road (then Oxford Street). The Manchester Museum was opened to the public in 1888. At the time, the scientific departments of the college were immediately adjacent, and students entered the galleries from their teaching rooms in the Beyer Building. Two subsequent extensions mirror the development of its collections. The 1912 pavilion was largely funded by Jesse Haworth, a textile merchant, to house the archaeological and Egyptological collections acquired through excavations he had supported. The 1927 extension was built to house the ethnographic collections. The Gothic Revival street frontage which continues to the Whitworth Hall has been ingeniously integrated by three generations of the Waterhouse family. When the adjacent University Dental Hospital of Manchester moved to a new site, its old building was used for teaching and subsequently occupied by the museum. The bird collection is dominated by a small number of major acquisitions. The BM(NH) transferred c.1,500 skins to the Museum in 1895, including a syntype of a Warbler Finch from Charles Darwin, as well as specimens from many famous collectors. Henry Dresser’s collection of bird skins was offered to the Museum for a peppercorn sum in 1899 and duly purchased; this includes birds that were the subject of the History of the Birds of Europe, and monographs on Rollers and Bee-eaters, as well as many birds from Asia that were collected as materials for Dresser’s Manual of Palaearctic Birds. Dresser’s egg collection was also offered to the Museum, again for a peppercorn sum, once Dresser had completed the Eggs of the Birds of Europe. Dresser’s collections are typified by well-identified and authenticated specimens, mostly from famous collectors. The skin collection includes a number of types, including those of Babax waddelli, Sitta tephronota, Somateria dresseri, as well as specimens relating to names produced by Dresser.


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