Some frequently asked questions
- How long has it been a museum?
The Natural History Museum was opened in September 1958. All Saints church was last used for regular worship in 1952.
- Where do all the animals on display come from?
Most of the animals that you see in the museum died of natural causes. The museum collection has come from taking in dead animals, brought in by visitors and preserving them for education and display. We also display some of our Victorian natural history specimens. These specimens were collected over a hundred years ago when there was a different attitude to wildlife, things done then would not be acceptable today. We should remember that in the past they did not have the excellent field guides, cameras and binoculars we have today. Naturalists had to examine specimens in the hand to find out what they were.
- Are the specimens real?
Yes they are the actual preserved skins of the animals. The skin is preserved in much the same way as the leather in your shoes but with hair or feathers attached. The skin is put over an artificial body to restore its original form. We can then study the structure and details that are not so easy to see on the living, moving animal. Most of the insects are dried, but soft bodied specimens such as sea anemones and fungi are models.
- If I find a dead bird or other animal what should I do with it?
If you think that it would be of interest to the museum, if possible place it in the deep freeze, wrapped in plastic, with full details of when and where it was found and your name and address, then contact us on 01206 282936 or call in at the museum during opening hours.
- What is eryngo root?
It is commonly known as sea-holly and Colchester was famous for it for many years. Now rare, it used to be candied and sold as a cure-all.
- Are there any talks on wildlife?
Yes the Colchester Natural History Society hold regular indoor meetings at the Cardinal Bourne Hall in Priory Street, Colchester, during the winter to which the public are welcome. For further details visit www.colchesternaturalhistorysociety.org.uk or telephone the museum on 01206 282936
- Do we collect anything now?
- Local geological material: this helps unravel the past 140 million years of history in north east Essex.
- Many different insects: most of them, apart from butterflies and the larger moths, cannot be identified in the field. Knowing accurately what insects are is essential if the biodiversity of the area is to be maintained.
- Specimens of certain groups of plants: collection is essential to allow microscopic examination to ensure their accurate identification.
- Birds, mammals and fish: from accidental deaths, specimens found dead and those legally taken for some other purpose such as pest control. We pass specimens on to researchers in a variety of agencies, as well as having them preserved for educational and display use in the museum.