Histories of the Museum of Zoology

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The documents known as the 'Histories' of the Museum of Zoology were brought together by J.W. Clark, Superintendent 1865-1890, and later by his successor, S.F. Harmer until 1908. The documents in the 'Histories' consist of letters and catalogues written to the superintendents of the museum relating to the specimens in the collection. There are also copies of the early annual reports and few other printed matters. Short catalogues of parts of the collection, often related to one collector or one expedition, are kept in these volumes. In total there are 2929 documents. Of these, 162 date from before 1860, 768 from the period 1860-1889, and 1961 from the period 1890-1909. The documents were written by a wide variety of authors, mainly people who collected for the museum, or who enquired about specimens in the collection. They were sent from all corners of the globe. The collection is very varied and encompasses all existing manuscript documents relating to the history of the collections in the Museum of Zoology. In total there are 2929 documents. Of these, 162 date from before 1860, 768 from the period 1860-1889, and 1961 from the period 1890-1909. The documents were written by a wide variety of authors, mainly people who collected for the museum, or who enquired about specimens in the collection. They were sent from all corners of the globe. The collection is very varied and encompasses all existing manuscript documents relating to the history of the collections in the Museum of Zoology.The following topics or collections (among many other individual accessions) are documented in a group of letters:

  • Sale of Museum of Joshua Brookes in 1830
  • Purchase of collection of James MacArtney in 1836
  • Purchase of birds and manuscripts of William Swainson in 1840
  • Purchase of Finwhale stranded in Pevensey in 1865
  • Donation of birds collected by Hugh Strickland
  • Deposit of collection of Prideaux John Selby
  • Bequest of birds and mammals collected by James Edward Hepburn in 1869
  • Purchase of animals mounted by Edward Gerrard and Rowland Ward
  • Offer of Malaysian mammals by Robert Taylor in 1870
  • Bequest of shells collected by Robert MacAndrew in 1871
  • Receipt of insects collected by George Robert Crotch in 1871
  • Donation of African mammals by Thomas Edward Buckley in 1870s
  • Animals received from the Zoological Society of London
  • Purchase of tusks of Ceylonese elephant shot by LeMesurier
  • Arrival of Foraminifera prepared by Henry Bowman Brady in 1885
  • Purchase of Tasmanian mammals from Alexander Morton
  • Purchase of a white rhinoceros shot on behalf of Lord Rothchild in Rhodesia in 1893
  • Animals from Borneo collected by Charles Hose in the 1890s
  • Arrival of a skeleton of a Chillingham bull donated by Lord Tankerville in 1894
  • Bequest of the collection of shells of Jane Saul in 1895
  • Donation of horns of African animals by Hugh Fraser Stewart
  • Collection of Bryozoa identified by Eliza Catherine Jelly
  • Cast of Iguanodon from Belgium in 1896
  • Animals collected by John Stanley Gardiner in Funafuti, Rotuma and Fiji 1897
  • Fossils found in Argentina sent by Arthur Currie, 1901
  • Animals collected by the expedition of Walther William Skeat to the Malay Peninsula in 1900
  • Animals collected by the expedition of John Stanley Gardiner to the Maldives and Ceylon in 1900
  • Information on Scottish whales by Robert Camperdown Haldane
  • Animals collected by Cyril Crossland in Cape Verde, 1905
  • Collection of African animals sent by W.H. Lindsay in 1908

Administrative / Biographical History

The University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge was formed in 1865 by amalgamating earlier collections of natural history in different departments and in the Cambridge Philosophical Society. The early collections of the University were assembled by William Clark, Professor of Anatomy from 1817 to 1865. The Superintendents of the Museum of Zoology in the 19th century were J.W. Clark from 1865 to 1890, and S.F. Harmer from 1890 to 1908.

Conditions Governing Access

Manuscripts can be consulted on appointment only. The Museum of Zoology is open Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 17:00 pm. Access and reproduction is at the discretion of the Archivist.

Note

Description compiled by Kees Rookmaaker, Archives Hub project archivist

Other Finding Aids

The contents of the 'Histories' are catalogued, with summaries of every documents and biographical and zoological indices, in a publication of the Museum of Zoology: L.C. Rookmaaker, Calendar of the Historical Correspondence of the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, 1819-1911 (Cambridge, 2004), 287 pp. All entries can be searched on the website of the Museum of Zoology.

Custodial History

The documents were originally bound in 7 large volumes, each with an index and separate numbers. In 2003-2004 the documents were remounted in fascicles for improved access and preservation. All documents were scanned and digitally stored for easy future reference.