Sunday, 9 December 2012

Behind the scenes …

Oxford University Museum - Part 1

I have visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) on numerous occasions and, in particular, have a long-term association with the Department of Entomology, as my good friend Darren Mann holds the position of Assistant Curator, and my friend and work colleague Dr John Ismay, Honorary Associate Curator. I have also donated a number of specimens to the collection, including the social wasp Dolichovespula saxonica following my discovery of it breeding at two locations in Britain in 1991.

The Hope Entomological Collections are located within the OUMNH and house over 25,000 types and comprises in excess of 5 million specimens of insects, arachnids and myriapods. This, along with its extensive library and historic archives, form one of the most comprehensive and important entomological resources within the United Kingdom. The collections are second only in size and importance to the national insect collection housed at the Natural History Museum, London.

The collection began life with the bequest by the Reverend Frederick William Hope (1797-1862) of his entire collection in 1849. The Hope Professors, John Westwood (1805-1893), Edward Poulton (1856-1943), Geoffrey Hale Carpenter (1882-1953) and George Varley (1910-1983) also amassed large amounts of material through both their own research and from donations by some of the most prominent entomologists of the day including, Charles Swinhoe (1838-1923), James John Walker (1851-1939), Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge (1873-1952), Albert Harry Hamm (1861-1951), Edward Saunders (1848-1910), Bertram Maurice Hobby (1905-1983), Karl Richard Hanitsch (1860-1940), James Charles Dale (1792-1872) and his son Charles William Dale, John Curtis (1791-1862), John Francillon (1744-1816), Pierre André Latreille (1762-1833), Christian Gottfried Nees von Esenbeck (1776-1858), Henri de Saussure (1829-1905), Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) and Thomas Vernon Wollaston (1822-1878).

Of particular significance are:

Hope-Westwood collections
Extensive historic collections
The Verrall-Collin collection of Diptera
Comprehensive British collections
The Wytham Woods collections
The Pickard-Cambridge and Blackwall arachnid collections

The C. W. and J. C. Dale collection is probably one of the most impressive single collections of British insects, with over 50,000 specimens. This collection includes specimens used by Curtis, Haliday and Stephens in their published works. The Dale collection also contains the famous Bath White (Pontia daplidice), reputedly collected in Cambridge in May 1702, which is believed to be the oldest known pinned entomological specimen in the world.

The Hope Department of Entomology is an energetic and vibrant department of dedicated staff and associates, promoting entomology and the collections under their care to the highest level. The collections, Library and associated archives are a significant world resource that is accessible for research by appointment. Housed in a Grade 1 listed building, which is renowned for its spectacular neo-Gothic architecture, I highly recommend a visit to this wonderful museum ...

Don't miss it ...

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