1 . I n t r o d u c t i o n
2 . Geological collections in Brighton in the 19th century
3 . Referred collections
4 . T h e C a t a l o g u e
5 . R e f e r e n c e s
Rasnitsyn & Jarzembowski 1998 018502, Holotype Upper Weald
Clay, Rudgwick Brickworks, West Sussex
Rasnitsyn, A.P., Jarzembowski, E..A., & Ross, A.J., 1998, p.336-337, Fig.4.
Thomas Edward Booth established the Booth Museum in 1874 as home for his burgeoning collection of mounted British birds in ‘natural surroundings’. The Museum he left to the local authority on his death in 1890 remained relatively unaltered through both world wars, although the rear office did become a store for some of the entomological collections formerly housed in Brighton Museum & Art gallery. With the arrival of John Morley as Director of the Royal Pavilion and Museums in 1968, a root and branch revitalisation of Brighton’s museum service began, resulting in the transformation of a mediocre provincial museum into a service of national and international importance. If this was achieved through the development of collections and exhibitions in the fine and decorative arts, it nevertheless resulted in the establishment of the Booth Museum, not as Booth’s original vision of a home for his unique collection but as a protoregional museum encompassing the whole of natural history, not just birds. A later survey revealed that the natural history collections at the Booth were amongst the largest in UK provincial museums. That Morley was probably glad to see the collections move to the Booth and out of his hair is neither here or there; he appointed four new members of staff to manage the transformation, including a geologist, Dr Alan Smout, who, under the leadership of the Principal Keeper Charles Steel, began the process of unravelling the geological collections from their many packing cases.
Formerly, the geological collections had been on display in the Geological Gallery of Brighton Museum, and although the history is poorly documented, it appears that the gallery had been closed possibly since the war, and was dismantled around 1947 with the collections packed into cases and boxes. Smout had already retired twice from the geological profession before starting work at the Booth, and therefore worked only for 5 years before his third and final retirement arrived. The genesis of this catalogue began just as soon as I arrived as Keeper of Geology at the Booth Museum in September 1981. Prior to this, my understanding of the condition of the Brighton collections was that they were in a parlous state; the Geological Curators’ Group, very active in the 1970s and 80s had identified them as ‘at risk’. In fact, the collections, although mostly packed away and unavailable for study, remained safe and sound, albeit somewhat overlooked. On my arrival I found that the majority of the collections had been unpacked by Smout and stored in rather poor ex-BM(NH) storage cupboards, with only one substantial packing case remaining. A rudimentary cataloguing of the collections had begun on one of the earliest examples of a computerised database in UK museums, developed by Smout himself and using the local authority’s mainframe computer. A steady inspection of these collections revealed an extraordinary richness of specimens, principally from the Sussex Cretaceous, especially Chalk and Wealden fossils, as well as good Quaternary mammal material. It also became quickly clear that there was a large number of type and figured specimens, especially drawn from the Henry Willett collection of Cretaceous fossils, (Willett 1872) and the George Bax Holmes collection of Wealden vertebrates (Cooper 1992, 1993).
However, whilst many of these specimens had been identified, they remained within the main bulk of the collection and had not been extracted or in any way subjected to special treatment, or even properly catalogued, a plight that I sought to remedy. I created more storage space for parts of the collections which I was then able to remove from the main store. This created secure accommodation for the type and figured material which could then be separately stored, at the same time allowing easier access and better environmental damping, and later, in superior furniture that we acquired from the (then) BM(NH).
In 1984, the Royal Pavilion & Museums Department was successful in establishing a Manpower Commission temporary employment scheme and from the funding made available to support the project; the Booth Museum bought one of the first personal computers to be acquired by the Borough Council. Rather than use the cumbersome and slow mainframe computer database for cataloguing the type and figured specimens, I decided to use the new computer – an IBM PC50 – which would give me far more control over data input. It is a boast of mine that despite translation from package to package (starting with Visifile and thence to Samna, Amiproand eventually Word), and from machine to machine, a great deal of the data in the catalogue accompanying this article was created originally from keystrokes on our very first computer and have not been re-entered.
The main bulk of the work or writing the first version of the catalogue was more or less complete by December 1986 when I circulated a few typescript copies to colleagues with special interests in the collections – Dr Angela Milner (reptiles), Dr Andrew Smith (echinoderms) and Dr Alison Longbottom and Dr Colin Patterson (fish), all from the BM(NH). They responded with comments and corrections for which I am most grateful. Despite this, type and figured specimens continued to turn up, having previously laid unrecognised in the collections, a process that I believe ended some years ago (although I would not be surprised if a few remain to be recognised). As a result, various detailed corrections and additions were made to the catalogue over the years, but always with a view to final publication.
In January 1987, the Booth Museum welcomed as its new Principal Keeper, Edmund Jarzembowski, then a rising paleoentomologist with a special interest in Wealden fossil insects. It soon became clear that he would be responsible for the arrival of not only large numbers of fossil insect specimens, (many collected by members of the Brighton & Hove Geological Society) but also that many of them would become type and figured material. At this point I somewhat reluctantly abandoned any thoughts of publication in favour of a running, updated draft catalogue, with a view to eventual publication in due course. Over the next few years a series of workers consulted and used the growing fossil insect collections. Although Jarzembowski is a consummate paleoentomologist he has not specialised in any particular group and relies upon co-workers to provide taxonomic rigour to his overall stratigraphic approach. Thus, a number of visitors have used the collections including workers from France, Russia and Poland, as well, of course, the UK, and published papers individually or more often, jointly with Jarzembowski. Ed Jarzembowski left the Booth Museum in 1993, but the legacy of his studies has lasted long after his departure with papers featuring Booth specimens continuing to appear to the present day (currently August 2010).
In the years since this catalogue was first assembled, a revolution has occurred. No longer is printed publication a viable option for such erudite research; rather electronic publication via the internet now has the potential to reach vastly more workers in all corners of the globe. It is in this spirit that I am delighted to at last see this catalogue reach a wider audience, with only a brief pause to record an old-fashioned lament for the passing of the handsome, bound, printed volume.
I am grateful to colleagues over the years for their support and encouragement, especially my long-serving comrades at the Booth Museum, Dr Gerald Legg and Jeremy Adams and not least to Catherine English, Curator, (Collections Knowledge) Royal Pavilion & Museums, who has masterminded the eventual appearance of this document on to the world-wide web
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