From cocoon to beautiful butterfly: Zoology Museum plans Wonders of Animal Kingdom

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 February 2014

The Museum of Zoology at Cambridge will devote itself to the animal kingdom under £5 million plans for its reopening in 2016

A photo of two orange shells against a dark blue background
Increasingly scarce partula land snails from the Pacific Ocean will be heading to a new home at Cambridge in 2016© UCMZ
The flightless, long-extinct Giant Auk, beetles made by Charles Darwin as a Cambridge undergraduate nearly 200 years ago, a turban-shaped sea snail shell pinched by Captain Cook in New Zealand and a rare example of the Tasmanian Tiger. These specimens could all be part of a new home devoted to the animal kingdom if the Museum of Zoology – which has just packed up some of its four million artefacts for a two-and-a-half year refurbishment – can raise development funding of £3 million.

Launching a fundraising appeal on Darwin’s 205th birthday, curators showed off a first edition of On the Origin of Species and a dolphin skull decorated with scrimshaw. Their aim is to create an international centre for understanding biodiversity when the museum reopens in June 2016.

“We need to update ourselves and step into the 21st century,” says Kay Smith, the Project Manager for the museum, which has been at its Downing Street home since the late 1960s.

“The University has given us the ideal opportunity to do this. An ambitious project, initiated in 2012, plans to refurbish the entire Arup building including the Museum.

“The University’s plans can only extend to doing a minimum of work on the Museum – providing new storage areas for the extensive collections, upgrading the showcase and lighting.

“Our aspirations go much further than this and we are making a significant bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable us to develop the Museum in new and innovative ways, explaining the wonders of the animal kingdom and the importance of zoological collections.”

The Fund has contributed £181,000 so far, with £1.4 million potentially being provided for a scheme Smith says will turn the “cocoon” of the collection into a “beautiful butterfly”.

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A photo of various birds layed out on a table
The museum's bird collection includes 30,000 study skins and mounted birds, 15,000 clutches of eggs and 2,000 skeletal specimens© UCMZ
A photo of two ancient books with their pages open
The diary of Leonard Jenyns (1800-1893), founder of the the Societies Museum which became the current museum at Cambridge© UCMZ
A black and white photo of giant fossils in a museum during the 19th century
The museum began in 1814, but moved to a purpose-built building at Cambridge's botanic garden in 1865© UCMZ
A photo of various bottles filled with zoology specimens
Having set sail aboard HMS Beagle as a 22-year-old in 1831, Darwin sent his fishes to Jenwyn to describe upon his return© UCMZ
A photo of three taxidermied tigers
The Tasmanian tiger became extinct in 1936. It was more closely related to a kangaroo than a traditional tiger© UCMZ
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