Scientists are Enthusiasts Too


Something I’ve been particularly interested in is the importance of the packaging, labels and other miscellaneous accompaniments we find with objects. In the post Serendipity in collections research David’s already mentioned how finding pages from a periodical pasted to the backs of the taxidermy cases at Blackburn has proved vital for identifying the date of these artefacts. Alongside this Patricia Francis from Bolton gave us a wonderful account of how the packaging associated with botanical specimens can provide often quite intimate insights into the lives of collectors. I found this particularly true for this small collection of birds eggs held at Rossendale.

The collection of birds eggs, safely housed in their sock box

The enthusiast origins of this collection seem perfectly framed in the sock box used to house the collection and is made ever more fitting by the fact the collection consists of eggs from common species, mainly garden birds. Examples like this modest collection says a great deal about the popularity of ornithology, which alongside other such examples throws light on the penetration of a scientific culture into the worldview of everyday people at the end of the nineteenth and the start of the twentieth century. And perhaps in turn this speaks of the origins of the larger systematic scientific collections because as someone astutely pointed out to me at the recent NLOB workshop “scientists are enthusiasts too.”

Mark Steadman

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