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Natural History


Natural History Gallery

The Orkney Natural History Society was formed on 28th December, 1837, with a view to “...the promoting of Natural Science by the support of a museum and by other means in its power”. 

Exhibits from all over the world first occupied the purpose-built first floor gallery in 1862. The Town Hall on the ground floor became part of the museum in 1930.  The gallery was completely refurbished in 2000 but retains its original Victorian character.

A fossil seed fern. 


Fossilised sharks' teeth.


Plesiosaurus backbone
A Plesiosaurus was a large marine reptile which lived in the Jurassic period. 


Homosteus milleri 
This fossil led Hugh Miller, the self-taught Scottish geologist, to write Footprints of the Creator.


A fish fossil commonly found in Orkney's sedimentary rock. 


Honey buzzard
One of about a dozen honey buzzards seen in Orkney in September 2000. This one was found on roof of Orkney College and it died two days later.  A honey buzzard's wingspan can be 135-150cm (53-59 inches). 


Oil painting
Portrait of Dr Hugh Miller (1802 - 1862).  Born in Cromarty he was a self-taught geologist, theologian, journalist, poet and stone mason.


Morpho butterfly
This irridiscent butterfly is usually found in the tropical forests of Latin America, from Mexico to Colombia. One of the largest butterfies in the world with a wingspan of five to eight inches. 


Golden eagle
Golden eagles have wingspans of from 185 to 220 centimetres (6ft 1in to 7ft 3in).


Greenland falcon
 A subspecies of the Gyrfalcon and a rare visitor to the British Isles. 


Spiny lobster
Spiny lobsters are found in warm seas such as the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and in Australasia. 


The waxwing.  A winter visitor from Scandinavia. Smaller than a starling - approximately 18cm.  


Kingfishers are usually about 15-17 cm; about the size of a sparrow. 


European cowrie shells
These shells are found on Orkney beaches and are known as groatie buckies. 


Brown trout 
Loch Stenness brown trout 9lbs. Caught in August 1888 by J G Millais, the naturlist, gardener and travel writer.  


Puffin breed in Orkney are usually 26-29 cm. This specimen is displayed with an egg between its feet. This specimen has been in the Museum since 1898.


Sea shell display
Domed case with display of flowers made from sea shells


Haematite is a form of iron oxide and can be found on Hoy. 

Magnus Spence’s herbarium in Stromness Museum

Magnus Spence (1853-1919) assembled his herbarium collection in the late Nineteenth and very early Twentieth Centuries. The number of specimens in the herbarium is 918, comprising 556 species of vascular plants, seven algae and five bryophytes. The original total certainly included two further species of vascular plant, each represented by a single specimen.

Click here to go the document library and view the herbarium list.

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