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The Booth Museum, Brighton
Booth Museum of Natural History (Brighton)
Member Name: micksheff
Booth Museum of Natural History (Brighton)
Advantages: Free admission, plenty to see and do
Disadvantages: Not very centrally located
The Booth Museum is located on Brighton's suburban back streets well away from the town centre but having said that it is on Dyke Road (the A2010) which is one of the major routes through the town and so it is relatively easy to find.
The museum is named after the Victorian natural historian Edward Thomas Booth who spent much of his life in Brighton. Primarily it houses his personal collection of stuffed birds but there are also animals, insects, fossils and skeletons. These collections were amassed during his lifetime and contain over half a million different specimens. He lived between 1840 and 1890.
Like most Victorian naturalists of the time he was an avid collector. It seems odd nowadays to think that someone that was considered to be such a lover of these creatures should hunt them down and shoot them. However we need to consider that without such collections our understanding of the natural world would be far less, especially considering that several of the specimens within Booth's collection are now extinct.
Birds were Booth's first love and it is therefore not surprising to discover that the bulk of the museum is dedicated to birds. These specimens are housed within glass cages that have been designed to resemble the species natural habitat so each of the glass cases hold several different species of bird. These include common British garden birds right through to exotic Birds of Paradise. I am a keen ornithologist and I thought that the majority of the stuffed birds looked very authentic but there were a few that looked a little bit odd, especially some of the small Passerines like Finches where their naturally vivid colours appeared to have badly faded. I recall one rather drab Goldfinch that was so faded it looked more like a Sparrow at first glance.
The museum is set over a single floor so it should be accessible for disabled visitors although some of the aisles between the cases didn't seem to be very wide. To preserve the specimens it is vital that that the rooms are kept at a specific temperature so it also did feel a little bit cold inside.
Like all good museums there were several different interactive areas for younger visitors and I would guess that many of them would be fascinated by some of the dinosaur skeletons. The largest skeleton in the exhibition however belongs to a Blue Whale and this is truly huge.
Amongst the stuffed birds there is a Dodo, perhaps the most famous extinct bird, but there are many other examples of extinct species too. Stuffed animals include monkeys, tigers and lesser known creatures as well. There are also several human skeletons, including some early prehistoric versions where they have been put side by side with some of the primates to illustrate their similarities.
Beyond the rooms where the stuffed animals are to be found there is a large area dedicated to insects. These include dozens of cases of butterflies from all around the world arranged in systematic order and with each case containing many hundreds of different specimens. All of the butterflies have a tiny name card beneath them with their Latin botanical name and their English name where one exists beneath them. Above each of the sections there is the name of the continent or region where the species is most commonly found. Looking at these carefully preserved specimens it is easy to see that these were the vital sources of the first identification field guides and still are today. The science of natural history might have come a long way today, especially with the use of DNA but without the vast collections like this one at the Booth Museum none of that might have ever happened.
The Booth Museum is open at the following times:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10am-5pm
Facilities include a small gift shop that is strategically located at the reception in the entrance meaning that you need to pass by this when you first enter the museum and also again when you leave. There are toilets that are equipped for disabled visitors and there is also a reference room/library.
Admission is free so if you are in the area and this sounds like your sort of thing then pay it a visit as it is highly recommended by me.
Booth Museum of Natural History
194 Dyke Road
Tel: 03000 290900
Summary: A museum of natural history
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