Sheffield’s natural history collection offers a glimpse into the amazing beauty and diversity to be found in nature. The collection has been assembled over the last 190 years, partly by museum staff as part of regional ecological surveys, but also thanks to the generosity of a large number of local collectors. Some of these were professional naturalists, bequeathing specimens that had taken a life time to collect. Others were interested members of the public, donating something they found on their travels, or amongst their bananas.
Today, the collections are a unique and vitally important repository of information. They provide an insight into how people interacted with the natural world during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are also a record of how genetics, morphology and biochemistry has changed over that period; information which cannot be found anywhere other than in museums. The collections are used to enthuse the next generation of field naturalists, they are studied to help us better understand how our wildlife has changed, as a 3D guide to species identification and as voucher materials for biological records, ensuring accurate identification even if the designation of the species changes. Most importantly, the collections continue to grow, in order to ensure that future generations have the same snapshot of our natural heritage as it stands today.
The highlights of the collection include the collections of local amateur naturalists Henry Clifton Sorby, Henry Seebohm and Margaret Gatty. The osteology (bones) collections which contain a great many exotic species, many obtained from menageries and circuses in the 19th century. Finally, the insect reference collection is one of the best in the country and a valuable identification tool as well as an irrefutable source for local bioinformatic data.