Daryl Tappin, MA (Museum Studies) placement student, Natural History.
I volunteered at the museum whilst on an 8 week work placement for the last part of my MA Museum Studies degree, University of Leicester. Below are just some of the projects in which I was involved.
Bird egg project
I was interested in the proposal of reviewing a large collection of bird’s eggs, in line with a paper written by Douglas Russell. This paper categorises egg collections in to Class 1 (eggs with identified species, dates and locality) Class 2 (eggs that only have identification data) and Class 3 (eggs with no attached data).
The collection will be documented and re-packed to a high standard, making room for other specimens and ensuring that the egg collections are more accessible for future researchers.
Daniell Collection (aka the black box)
As I have been sorting through the collections, I have been discarding the old existing boxes (usually old shoe boxes) and repacking the eggs into conservation grade boxes to help preserve them for future generations.
However, when we encountered a large wooden chest of eggs we decided to take a different approach. The chest appears to be hand-made and contained three shelves of eggs and the glass tube used by the collector to blow the eggs.
While the eggs of this collection are only a Class 2, its importance as a social history object is clear. The care and attention shown by the collector in making a box to house their collection illustrates the former popularity of egg collecting as a past time.This popular hobby was made illegal in 1954 with the Wild Birds Protection Act.
The collection is also interesting as the bird names have changed since the eggs were originally collected. The eggs labelled ‘Butcher Birds’ were baffling until research informed us that this was the former name for the Red-backed Shrike, which brutally impales its prey on thorns, barb wire, or other sharp objects.
Unfortunately the collector remains unknown. The donation includes a letter providing a rough date for the collection (approximately around 100 years old) and speculation on whom the collector may have been out of a pair of brothers.
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