I’m working on a new gallery, ‘Nature’s Library’, which will open next year. This gallery will show specimens from all of our natural history collections (there are about 3 million specimens in total in these collections), so that visitors can explore the amazing breadth of the natural world. One of the display cases will explore how the collection is arranged and how we continue to add to it. We’ve been looking for the first specimens to be accessioned- when they legally became the property of the Museum. The accession registers are like an A-Z of nature: A= mammals, B= birds, C= reptiles and amphibians, D= fish, E= molluscs, F= insects, G= spiders and crustaceans, H= other invertebrates, I= corals and sponges, and so on.
I made a discovery last week- the ‘first’ bird to be accessioned in the Museum, a South American Hummingbird bought from a Mr. Harrison in 1889. This is a study skin, kept in a drawer in a locked cabinet, to keep dust and insect pests out. The specimen has lasted very well considering how old it is. The specimen had been listed on a database in the past, but its accession number, B.1, hadn’t been added. We have lots of birds, about 16,000 or so, so it is difficult to keep track of every detail.