Wednesday 20 June 2012

Morning at the Museum

Today I had a fantastic day, I was truly honoured to have been invited along to Bangor University’s Brambell building to look around the University’s natural history museum!
I have always been interested in natural history and always thought it was a great shame that apart from Stone Science in Anglesey there are no natural history museums in North Wales to help nurture any interest children might have in natural science. This little-known collection is occasionally open to the public and school groups so as you can imagine I was in my element browsing through this collection of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and fish. The collection started out in the 19th century and continued to grow over the years with donations from zoos, circuses and stately homes. What makes this collection doubly exciting is the way in which the exhibits are displayed. The staff have worked hard to make it both informative and accessible to visitors. It retains the air of a bygone era when conservation was unheard of but the specimens are presented in such away that allows the viewer to get up close, a sure way to maintain interest in the natural world in both children and adults.

As I walked in through the main door I was greeted by a collection of eggs and a long line of skeletons, several species made up the line including a gorilla, a tiger, hippopotamus and the skeleton of a baby elephant. Legend has it that this baby elephant belonged to a circus but it died during a visit to Bangor.  Above the skeletons was a vast array of mounted animal heads, staring down from the walls that ranged from the now extinct Irish Elk to a Cape Buffalo. Many of them have their stories included on the mounting base, clearly trophies that have been donated by guilty ancestors, not wanting to be reminded of their family’s sporting past. It is sad to think that these animals died for someone’s leisurely pursuits but personally I find comfort in knowing that these animals will now live on in the museum as a means to educate future generations that will both appreciate, study and conserve these animals.

The collection is divided into several categories with no corner spared, each one highlighting a creature of some shape or form, marvellous representatives of the wonders of nature. All I could do was say ‘fascinating’ and “oh, wow!” as I wondered around the displays. The second floor (with a view overlooking the first floor) of the museum was equally fascinating as this section was devoted to the specimen jars. Rows of jars and tins each one in no apparent order but each one seemed to belong, and each seemed to have a story to tell. Some items may prove a little too much for some visitors such as the rabbit, hedgehog and cat that had been partially dissected with the organs labelled but I thought it was incredibly interesting! As I write this I really can’t focus on one particular element because selecting my favourite from the collection is quite a challenge! The anteater skeleton perhaps? Or maybe the cabinet containing several species of New Zealand birds (Included a Kakapo, which is now under threat of extinction). I was suitably impressed by the narwhal’s tusk, The Elephant trunk preserved in formaldehyde?  I shall cheat and say I liked the whole museum! Before I left I took a moment to examine the various mineral cabinets scattered throughout the museum, which until recently had been in storage I find this interesting as I found the museum itself to be a real hidden gem! My sincere thanks to the University for allowing me this opportunity.

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


  1. For "fairly nearby" zoological kicks, I can't recommend enough a trip to World Museum Liverpool (formerly known as Liverpool Museum). Not only does it have a proper aquarium and tons of live insects (including a cross-section of an actual working ant's nest and beehive), there's HUNDREDS of taxidermy displays (4000 according to the website), and the Derby Collection... Oh the Derby Collection!

    Hundreds of drawers and cabinets stuffed full of every kind of animal you can think of, including several dozen extinct species (dodo, thylacine etc). There's also a hippo's skull that you can poke and prod to your heart's content.

    Definitely worth a day trip. There's also a planetarium, dinosaur floor, mummies, totem poles etc.

  2. Went there about two years back, had a great time! Thanks for the 'heads up' though! ;)



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