Records of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society (IOMNHAS)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The contents consist of printed rules of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society (IOMNHAS), minute books of annual, ordinary, excursion meetings (1879-1980), committee minute books (1888-1971) and field section minute book (1948-1963). Other material includes typescript loose agendas and committee minutes (1974-1979, 2000-2001), attendance books of members and visitors (1911-1930), register of members (1886-1951), an index of members (1950s-1970s), a ledger and books of subscription accounts (1892-1954), general accounts, receipt payments, annual statement of accounts and treasurer’s reports.

Society correspondence, reports, field section papers and material relating to visits and excursion are also present within the deposit. Visiting groups to the Island included the North Staffordshire Naturalist’s Field Club and Archaeological Society (1884), the British Association (1887), Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society (1889), the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1896), the Yorkshire Geological Society (1907) and the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club (1949-1950). Various excursions conducted by the IOMNHAS include a visit to Cumberland (1948) and photographic and newspaper cutting albums of an excursion to Northern Ireland (1950).

Inventory of exchange of books held by IOMNHAS, a borrowers’ register for IOMNHAS members (1953-1969) and a Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society register (1961-1969) are present. Printed material includes pamphlets, circulars, programme cards for society events, newspaper cuttings of press reports (1879-1885) and ephemera connected to centenary year celebrations.

Administrative / Biographical History

A society called the Isle of Man History and Antiquarian Society (also known as the Isle of Man Field Naturalists’ and Antiquarian Society) was established in 1868. The group’s objectives included the discussion of natural history matters, excursions to important archaeological sites and presentation of various academic papers. Another significant objective of the society was to form an ‘Insular National Museum in Douglas’ (the Manx Sun, 13 November 1869). The society was managed by a council which consisted of a president, vice president(s), treasurer, secretary and six ‘ordinary’ members. The first president was English geologist Edward William Binney (1812-1881). Further information on this society is limited (it disbanded for reasons unknown), thus additional research is required.

The current Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society (IOMNHAS) was founded in 1879 by a group of like-minded academics on 23 December at 64 Derby Square, Douglas. The group was headed by Philp Moore Callow Kermode (1855-1932), self-taught naturalist and archaeologist. The society’s objective was the advancement of knowledge of natural history and cultural development in the Isle of Man. Members were also encouraged to participate in active field and research work. Officers of the society consisted of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, librarian and editor. Its first president was naturalist Edwin Birchall (c.1819-1884) and Philip Moore Callow Kermode (PMCK) was the first secretary. IOMNHAS’s activities consisted of summer excursions and winter meetings where papers relating to the field of study were discussed.

IOMNHAS published various papers on Manx related topics in its own journal, the Transactions of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society 1879 to 1882, Yn Lioor Manninagh (the Manx Book) 1880 to 1906 and the Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society 1906 - ongoing. As membership and antiquarian interests increased, pressure was put upon the Isle of Man Government to legally preserve the Island’s antiquities such as crosses, prehistoric monuments, cairns, ruins, tumuli and small movable objects of antiquarian interest. A committee was established, including various IOMNHAS members (such as PMCK); resulting in the Manx Museum and Ancient Monuments Act, 1886. In 1885 PMCK and fellow IOMNHAS member, Revd Ernest Bickersteth Savage (1850-1915) presented Spencer Walpole (1839-1907), Governor of the Island (1882-1893) with a draft act for the preservation of wild birds. By 1887 the Isle of Man Wild Birds Protection Act was established. Good working relations between PMCK and marine biologist Professor William Abbott Herdman (1858-1924), University College, Liverpool helped establish the Port Erin Marine Biological Station in 1892 which went on to become an important centre of marine studies in the British Isles.

A further objective of the society was to witness the establishment of a National Museum, which became a reality in 1922. PMCK was appointed the museum’s first director and over the ensuing century many society members provided the institution with valuable library, antiquity and natural history resources. Presently the IOMNAS remains a popular group with over 500 members. The society continues to expand the Isle of Man’s natural history and antiquarian knowledge.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Other Finding Aids

Printed box list available for consultation.

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Manx newspapers, the Isle of Man Times (22 February 1868 & 11 April 1868), Mona's Herald (11 March 1868, 1 April 1868, 20 May 1868 & 3 March 1880), the minute book starting December 1879 (reference number: MS 10247) and the website http://www.manxantiquarians.com/page_72621.html (accessed 26 May 2016).

Isle of Man newspapers available online at http://www.newspapers.gov.im/Default/Skins/IOMDemo/Client.asp?skin=IOMDemo&enter=true&AppName=2.

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), May 2016.