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November 2011 One Hundred Years Later, a New Museum Guide
One Hundred Years Later, a New Museum Guide
Only two tattered copies remain of the original Zoology Museum catalogue, published in 1911 by UCG, now known as NUI Galway. One hundred years later, Éamon de Buitléar has officially launched a completely new version of the booklet at a special ceremony on campus.
The Zoology and Marine Biology Museum is housed in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, and currently has over 500 specimens on display from a broad range of animal groups. Specimens include native animals as well as more exotic creatures, including stuffed monkeys, koalas, kiwis and the intriguing kangaroo rat.
The museum’s origins go back to the formation of the University in 1849, with many of the specimens coming from the Zoological Society of London. By 1899 it was among the best working museums of its kind to be found in any university of the time. The previous information booklet, called ‘A Catalogue of the Specimens’ was produced by Professor R. J. Anderson in 1911.
Speaking at the special ceremony on campus this week, the well-known wildlife filmmaker, Éamon de Buitléar, said: “To see this fine museum and launch this booklet is an absolute pleasure. For many of us, the way we lead our lives today means we are getting further and further away from nature. This museum is a valuable resource and portal into our past, and an introduction into the wonders of nature.”
One of the highlights of the museum is its possession of four genuine Charles Darwin specimens that were purchased from the Zoological Society of London. These consist of three mammal specimens: a grison, a cavy and an Azara’s fox; and one bird specimen, a guira cuckoo. All four specimens are native South American species and were collected on Charles Darwin’s trip aboard HMS Beagle from 1831-1836.
Another special collection housed in the museum consists of over 100 ‘Blaschka models’. The father-and-son team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka produced beautiful, intricate glass representations of marine animals, originally developed as educational models. They are now considered to be works of art, with a value that makes them irreplaceable.
“Our museum is a time capsule taking us back to the days of Darwin and other great adventurers who travelled the world collecting exotic species” said Wallace Arthur, Professor of Zoology. “This museum is part of the University, but also belongs very much to Galway and the public. We welcome visitors and encourage them to spend as much time as they wish studying the specimens in whatever way is appropriate for their needs – very different needs for different groups, for example biologists, artists and laypeople.”
Free and open to the public daily, the museum attracts large numbers of visitors, ranging from the general public to school parties to visiting researchers and academics.
The museum collection is used extensively in practical classes for Zoology students. The material allows the students to examine characteristic features of species and broader taxonomic groupings at first hand.