Natural History Collections

Natural history displays have been an important part of Towneley's museum since the first opening in 1903 but the natural history collections have never been adequately catalogued.

Among the earliest gifts to the museum were birds from Ceylon in 1902. Other than oil paintings, the first objects to be purchased for the museum were five cases of bird eggs in 1906. Early gifts included both British and foreign birds and butterflies. By 1910, further mounted further mounted birds could not be accepted as there was not enough space to display those already accepted.

The purchase of the Booth Collection in 1924 required the opening of more rooms on the ground floor of the North wing. For the next 30 years there were six rooms on the ground floor and first floor of the North wing dedicated to natural history.

The development of the museum in the 1950s with changes to the Servants' Hall and the introduction of the Towneley Room reduced the number of natural history displays, which were by then starting to decay. After work began on the Accession Registers in 1956, the natural history collections were among the last collections to be reviewed. Only natural history specimens received after 1931 were listed in the accession register md16 with no details of cabinet or case contents. In the 1970s index cards were created for the geology collections - fossils, minerals and rocks and full details with object numbers added to the accession registers. Index cards were created for taxidermy and bird eggs but not for shells or taxidermy. Rather than adding to the accession registers, object numbers were added to the 1938 "index to exhibits" inventory ( md7a ). No new additions were added to the accession registers after 1978.

In 1971, a site hut was created in Towneley Park as a base for the Towneley Park Nature Trail. This eventually developed into the Natural History Centre, officially opened in May 1983, to house natural history displays. After it closed in 2006, a small natural history display was re-established in part of the Stocks Massey Gallery before the creation of the Wild About Burnley Room in 2014.

Author: tk - August 2016