Dry Storeroom No. 1 – Richard Fortey

Posted by admin on December 14th, 2008 filed in What we're reading

On the advice of Olivia Judson of the NY Times I ventured forth to read this book, imagining a series of exciting tales about the people and the specimens in the Natural History Museum – London.  This museum has been a favorite of mine, ever since a visit at age 11 in 1972, followed by many more as an adult.  Of course, the museum has evolved, and this book is more about that evolution than stories of the curators.  The book is at turns charming and cranky – the author seems to believe that the museum was in a better place when it was just a collection of drawers of type specimens with bon vivant collectors ranging the world.

Having spent my undergraduate years measuring the size of coral heads on paleontological specimens and visiting numerous natural history museums – I can sympathize with Fortey on the basic points, but admit that museums must continue to innovate.  Scientific ignorance is a disease and museums are on the forefront.  It’s not how many species we can idenifty this week, but how many we will save by treating the environment properly.

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