Natural History

Investigate this collection for a unique glimpse into the colourful 19th-century natural world of Dorset and beyond. Highlights include bird skins collected from the Malay Archipelago in the 1850s by Alfred Russel Wallace, who later settled in Poole. There is also an extensive collection of Dorset specimens including mammals and birds, bird eggs, molluscs and around 130,000 insects. The herbarium contains plant specimens collected by John Clavell Mansel-Pleydell during the late 19th century.

Christmas & New Year Opening Times 

Sat 24 December | CLOSED
Sun 25 December | CLOSED
Mon 26 December | CLOSED
Tues 27 Dec | OPEN, Bank Holiday hours
Wed 28 Dec | OPEN, normal hours
Thurs 29 Dec | OPEN, normal hours
Fri 30 Dec | OPEN, normal hours
Sat 31 Dec | OPEN – 9am to 3pm (early closing)
Sun 1 Jan 2023 | CLOSED
Mon 2 Jan | OPEN, Bank Holiday hours
Tues 3 Jan | OPEN, normal hours


Natural History

November 10, 2020

Helen and Nelson Richardson’s entomology collection    

Helen (c.1855-1936) and Nelson Richardson (1855-1925) collected and documented moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) on Portland and Purbeck, and discovered a number of new species. These…

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Natural History

November 2, 2020

Watercolour by Helen Richardson

Helen Richardson (c.1855-1936) was an enthusiastic field worker, collecting moths at night on Portland. She illustrated specimens in intricate watercolour paintings – some were reproduced…

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Natural History

October 14, 2020

Bird skin collected by Alfred Russel Wallace

On Wallace’s trips to the Malaysian islands he collected over 8,000 bird specimens. Studying them helped him develop his theories on evolution…

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Natural History

September 24, 2020

Cyril Day’s butterfly collection

These are just a small part of Cyril Douglas Day’s (1885-1968) collection of 2,652 insects, representing the wide diversity of species commonly found in Dorset…

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Natural History

September 24, 2020

Great bustard

Great bustards were native to Britain and used to live on parts of Dorset’s open grasslands. By the 1840s hunting and habitat changes had made…

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