Worcester Museum was founded in 1833 by the members of the Worcestershire Natural History Society and claims to be one of the oldest regional museums in the Country. In 1835 a new building was built to house the collections in Foregate Street. The City Museum contains a fantastic collection that includes Natural History, Geology, Ethnology, Archaeology and Social History, Art, and items from the Worcestershire Regiment and the Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry.
The museum has been the premier establishment for the collecting and collections of natural science specimens for the county of Worcestershire for almost 180 years. It remains the only museum in the area where additions to the natural sciences falls within its collecting policy and over the years this has led to quite a large and diverse collection.
The natural history collection comprises of both British and foreign specimens (mainly collected in the 19th Century) along with many collected locally.
- Herbarium This forms the largest part of the collection and has recently been used by the Worcestershire Flora Project to extract data for their atlas and resulted in many new records and dates being found. The bulk of the herbaria is made from three large collections of William Mathews, North Worcestershire Rev. J.H. Thompson of Cradley Heath and the Malvern man, Richard Towndrow.
- Entomology Mostly stored in wooden cabinets and consist mainly of British Lepidoptera. These include the collection from Malvern Museum which was transferred here in the 1970s. The British Coleoptera collection is now being worked on by David Green and he is currently going through the Fletcher collection finding mainly local records. These will go on the database of the Worcestershire Biological Recorders and then onto the national Coleoptera site.
- Mollusca An excellent collection of shells, including local ones collected by George Reece. Experts looked at these in the late 19th Century and commented on its wealth and it was recognised at the time as being as good as anything outside of a national museum. The foreign specimens are also well represented, mainly from the large collection of Sir George Whitmore.
- Spirit Collection Includes jars labelled “Challenger Collection” from the famous voyage of 1872/1873.
- Birds Since the museum began, along with geology, the bird collection was the most focused on. With the advent of travel and exploration, our records show that a lot of Aves were brought from the distant lands with Australia and New Zealand being well represented. It was said that c.1845 Worcester had one of the best bird collections outside of London with some species “new to science”. The collection was enhanced in 1907 when the collection of the late Robert F. Tomes was donated by his brother. Many of the colourful skins remain us today.
A typical Victorian collection of around 12,000 specimens of geological material (about 72% fossils, 16% minerals and 12% rocks). Most specimens are from British sites and its major strength lies in the comprehensive range of local fossils and rocks. The collection was mainly assembled in the 19th century and many specimens were collected during the construction of railways, including the 1860 Malvern (Colwall) Railway Tunnel. Many specimens are from sites that no longer exist today or are protected by law.
The collection dates back to the founding of the Museum in 1833 by the Worcestershire Natural History Society. One of its most significant features is its interesting historical background due to the association with some of the early pioneers of geology including Sir Roderick Murchison, Sir Richard Owen, John Phillips, Professor Buckland, Sir Charles Lyell and Sir H.E. Strickland. The collection holds a number of specimens of national importance.
The collection today has been organised into 4 sections:
- Stratagraphical Collection Contains British fossils and rocks (Precambrian – Pleistocene) with around 80% from Worcestershire and the bordering counties. The Malvern material has an interesting range of Precambrian rock types, rare Cambrian fossils and a good selection of Silurian fossils. Other local Palaeozoic material includes Silurian and Old Red Sandstone fossils and Coal Measure plants. The Jurassic system is well represented, particularly by local Lower and Middle Jurassic fossils. Besides a wide variety of good quality brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods and ammonites, there are also fossil insects.
- Vertebrate Collection Around 1,000 specimens. Contains good quality material as well as some of the collection’s most spectacular specimens. Early jawless fish and two large and almost perfectly preserved Lias specimens of Dapedium politum. Reptiles are well represented, including Liassic ichthyosaur skeletons. There are a number of excellent reptile footprints: Triassic Chirotherium tracks and dinosaur footprints. The section has many local Pleistocene mammal remains, including mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, hippopotamus, reindeer, fallow deer and horse. Some specimens were described and figured by Richard Owen in 1859.
- Rock Collection About 1,000 specimens. Assembled as an educational reference and contains a reasonable range of different igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.
- Mineral Collection Contains about 2,000 world-wide minerals. Mostly collected in the 19th century. There is a good range of mineral species and some of fine quality and beautiful specimens. The main individual collections are the Strutt and Tennant collections. The Museum also has a small number of meteorites.
- A large sturgeon caught in the river Severn.
- An interesting and important collection of plants called “Flora Bellus Locus” from the Wyre Forest, collected by George Jorden of Bewdley.
- Four folders of beautifully painted watercolours of local fungi by the local naturalist, Edwin Lees.
- “Albert”, a magnificent specimen of a wandering albatross mounted in flight. He is our official mascot.
Some of our exhibits are currently on display in a new museum gallery but the bulk is in storage at the City Museum & Art Gallery. Collections can be viewed and consulted by the public. It is a very small area and space for users is very tight. We are currently developing a research area in the store to encourage better access to the collections.
In 2012 the museum gallery was redisplayed and includes cases highlighting key objects from the natural history collections.
Garston D. Phillips, Collections Officer (Natural Science)
t: 01905 25371 e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Philippa Tinsley, Senior Curator (all collections)
t: 01905 25371 e: email@example.com