Home > Natural History
The Museum houses several biological collections of considerable scientific interest. The Ogilvie Store is equipped with a roller racking system that holds in excess of 150,000 specimens, in a dehumidified environment. This is by far the largest collection in the Museum, and includes, insects, plants, shells, birds, reptiles and mammals, with approximately 6,000 geological samples. Many important local collections are housed here such as the Griffiths collection of seaweeds and algae, and the Ashe collection of British beetles, but the store also holds many thousands of exotic and tropical species especially insects and shells.
The largest collection housed in the Museum is the entomological collection, consisting of over 100,000 specimens from all over the world. The collections, gathered over the past 150 years, include the Ashe Collection of British beetles, the Gough collection from Europe and Trinidad, and the Hebbert Collection of tropical butterflies. Housed in 64 collectors’ cabinets, this is a treasure trove of insect life. It includes collections of British flies, moths and butterflies, tropical beetles, and some spectacular Baltic amber with inclusions of ants, wasps and bugs. In 1999, 2000 and 2002, the Museum staged its summer exhibition on the theme of insects with the ‘Bugs Files,’ an exploration of the mysteries of insect life. The exhibition showed over 10,000 specimens from the collections and included exhibits from Exeter Museum and Plymouth Museum. Highlights included living exhibits of stick insects, cockroaches and crickets, and demonstrations on bee keeping.
The Museum holds an important and well-documented collection of Devon plants and seaweeds. Over 16,000 specimens are recorded on our data base the most important being the Griffiths collection of marine plants. Amelia Griffiths was a dedicated beachcomber, and during her life as a collector she found and preserved nearly 250 different species from local beaches. She was also a pioneer, being one of the first women to be recognised for her contribution to science and in 1845 she was made a full member of the Torquay Natural History Society. Her beautiful bound albums of seaweeds and algae are held in the stores.
The stores hold in the region of 20,000 shells, which are in the process of being catalogued, and include many tropical as well as local specimens. The largest collection of tropical shells and corals was left to the Museum by A.H. Ogilvie a previous curator and benefactor of the Museum who is remembered through the naming of the Ogilvie store.
Most species of British birds are represented in the ornithological collections preserved here, in the shape of 500 mounted specimens and hundreds of birds’ eggs. Gulls and local marine birds feature heavily, but the collections also include more exotic specimens like a Bearded Vulture and African Cape Vulture.
Zoology (everything else)
The Museum holds many British species of mammals and reptiles, and a large collection of skeletal material, including skulls of tigers, leopards, bears and more domestic animals. Exotic species are also represented, and include a duck billed platypus, Indian pangolin, and slender Loris, as well as the now rare British species such as red squirrel and Scottish wildcat.
The geological collections are largely undocumented, but consist of approximately 6,000 samples in two major collections. The most interesting of these are the collections of R.N. Worth and R.H. Worth father and son and all round collectors. R.H. Worth had varied interests but is best remembered as an expert author and recorder of most aspects of Dartmoor. ‘Worth’s Dartmoor’ was compiled from many articles he wrote for the Devonshire Association, on subjects as wide ranging as barrows and climate. His geological collection consists of many specimens from the Moors and from all over the local area as well as British and international samples. The Museum also holds a photographic archive and exposure records of R.H. Worth’s along with a temporary exhibition in store entitled, ‘Handsford Worth’s Images of Dartmoor.’ This collection includes some of the first colour photographic slides taken of the Moor.
No natural history museum would be complete without a mineral collection, and Torquay Museum is no exception with over 3,000 mineral specimens from all over the world. This well documented collection includes material from R.N. Worth and A.H. Ogilvie, and includes examples of most minerals. Perhaps the most famous pieces are the specimens of Torquay gold. This is dendritic gold from the Devonian limestone of Hope’s Nose, Torquay, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The specimens were presented by Professor W.T. Gordon, of Kings College, London, in 1922. He discovered the gold while taking a party of students to Hope’s Nose to study limestone faults.