NORFOLK Museums Service
Object Handling

Natural History Collections

Natural history collections formed the bulk of the original material acquired by Norwich Museum when it was formed in 1825. Most of the early exhibits were private collections donated to the Museum by its founders, and this tradition of local naturalists donating collections continues today. Strong links between Museum curators and local naturalists have ensured that important regional collections have remained in the region. Many of the early specimens were collected abroad, but current policy places greater emphasis on local material. In the past, when particularly important specimens were put up for auction, the Museum usually raised the money to buy them, but purchases are seldom made these days, with most material coming from donation and staff fieldwork.

Disposals during this century have included foreign material given to Liverpool and Coventry Museums after the war, and part collections bought by the British Museum (Natural History) when they were actively seeking to acquire type material. Notable transfers of the latter sort include the Gurney birds of prey and Edwards' type series of homopteran bugs.

At present the collections number about one and a half million specimens, covering all aspects of natural history and geology. Although mainly of East Anglian origin, the collections incorporate material from elsewhere in Britain, Europe and the rest of the world, and are regarded as nationally and internationally important.

Bateman, J., McKenna, G. & Timberlake, S. (Eds.) 1993 Register of Natural Science Collections in South East Britain. Cambridge: Museums Documentation Association