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Natural History Gallery

Exhibits from all over the world first occupied the purpose-built first floor gallery in 1862.  The gallery was completely refurbished in 2000 but retains its original Victorian character.

 

Magnus Spence’s herbarium in Stromness Museum

Orcadian Magnus Spence (1853-1919) assembled his herbarium collection in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries.  Read more about this herbarium in the text below the gallery, and click here to view the herbarium list.

Morpho Butterfly
Morpho Butterfly
This irridiscent butterfly is usually found in the tropical forests of Latin America, from Mexico to Colombia. It is one of the largest butterflies in the world with a wingspan of five to eight inches.
Homosteus milleri
Homosteus milleri
This fossil led Hugh Miller, the self-taught Scottish geologist, to write Footprints of the Creator.
Portrait of Dr Hugh Miller
Portrait of Dr Hugh Miller
Portrait of Dr Hugh Miller (1802 - 1862). Born in Cromarty he was a self-taught geologist, theologian, journalist, poet and stone mason.

Miller’s book "Asterolepis of Stromness" became a formative influence on Darwin’s The Origin of Species, and the fossil remains a star exhibit today.
Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle
Golden eagles have wingspans of from 185 to 220 centimeters (6ft 1in to 7ft 3in).
Honey Buzzard
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).
Neuropteris
Neuropteris
A fossil seed fern.
Spiny Lobster
Spiny Lobster
Spiny lobsters are found in warm seas such as the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and in Australasia.
Carcharodon
Carcharodon
Fossilised sharks' teeth.
Plesiosaurus backbone
Plesiosaurus backbone
A Plesiosaurus was a large marine reptile which lived in the Jurassic period.
Brown Trout
Brown Trout
Stenness Loch Brown Trout, 9lbs. Caught in August 1888 by J G Millais, the naturalist, gardener and travel writer.
Dipterus
Dipterus
A fish fossil commonly found in Orkney's sedimentary rock.
Cowrie shells, or 'groattie buckies'
Cowrie shells, or 'groattie buckies'
These shells are found on Orkney beaches and are known as groattie buckies.
Greenland Falcon
Greenland Falcon
A subspecies of the Gyrfalcon and a rare visitor to the British Isles.
Kingfisher
Kingfisher
Kingfishers are usually about 15-17 cm; about the size of a sparrow.
Sea Shell Display
Sea Shell Display
Domed case with display of flowers made from sea shells
Waxwing
Waxwing
The waxwing. A winter visitor from Scandinavia. Smaller than a starling - approximately 18cm - and regular visitors to Orkney.
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin bred in Orkney are usually 26-29cm. This specimen is displayed with an egg between its feet, and has been in the Museum since 1898.
Haematite
Haematite
Haematite is a form of iron oxide and can be found in Hoy.

Magnus Spence’s herbarium in Stromness Museum, Orkney

Click here to download the list

Magnus Spence (1853-1919) assembled his herbarium 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 several more species of vascular plant.  These are represented by specimens collected by Magnus Spence but now in Henry Halcro Johnston’s (see below) herbarium in Edinburgh, and elsewhere; they appear to have been removed by Johnston.  All except four of Magnus Spence’s specimens were collected in Orkney, the remainder in Shetland.  All but a handful were collected by Spence himself.

Spence named some of the specimens himself, others with the assistance of Arthur Bennett (1843-1929), a well-known botanist of the time who lived in Surrey.

In 1923-4 Henry Halcro Johnston (1856-1939), another eminent Orkney botanist, reorganised the collection, re-labelling all the plants according to the nomenclature of his time.  Mainly he followed Spence’s and Bennett’s identification of species, though in some cases he re-determined them and in others, of critical species, followed the re-determinations made by visiting experts in previous years.  There are cases also where Bennett, or another expert, or Johnston, decided they could not put a species name to a specimen that had earlier be named by Spence or someone else: Johnston gave these a genus name only.  Apart from the re-naming, it is not clear how much reorganising Johnston did: the herbarium sheet numbers are the same as Spence’s, but it seems likely that the ordering by family and the numbering of species are Johnston’s.

A herbarium catalogue was compiled in February and March 2012 by John Crossley, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county Recorder for Orkney, and revised by him in November 2018.  The ordering of plant families and species is unchanged from that of Johnston.  Revisions in 2018 mainly comprise some re-naming of critical taxa following further study and comparison with specimens held in other herbaria.

The catalogue is arranged as a table and comprises:

Column A. Herbarium sheet number

Column B. Family and species name, with authority, as given by Johnston in 1923-4.

Column C. Species name, with authority, up-dated to current synonymy in 2018.  A small number of specimens have been re-determined by JC and others; the names of these have been highlighted in bold type in this column.  Wherever possible, and in the great majority of cases, the naming of vascular plants follows ‘Stace 2010’ (Stace, Clive. A. 2010. New Flora of the British Isles (Third edition). CUP).  Some variety names used by Johnston are not to be found in Stace, and in these cases synonyms were found in other recent publications, especially ‘Sell & Murrell’ (Sell, Peter and Murrell, Gina. 1996-2018. Flora of Great Britain and Ireland, volumes 1-5. CUP), the Flora Europaea dataset at http://www.rbge.org.uk or, failing these, monographs on critical plant groups published by BSBI.  In a very few cases no synonym could be found; the 1920s were a time of unprecedented splitting of the British flora.

Synonyms for algae were taken from Guiry, M.D. & Guiry, G.M. 2012. Algaebase. World-wide electronic publication, National University of Ireland, Galway. http://www.algaebase.org

Synonyms for bryophytes were taken from Smith, A.J.E. 2004. The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland (Second edition). CUP., and Paton, Jean A. 1999. The Liverwort Flora of the British Isles. Harley Books (Colchester).

Column D. Common name (English)

Column E. Collectors’ names

Column F. Page reference for the taxon in Flora Orcadensis, Magnus Spence’s flora of Orkney, published in Kirkwall in 1914.

Column G. Comments. These include comments entered by Johnston on his herbarium sheet labels, where especially pertinent, mainly the names of expert determiners, by Chris Metherell (on Euphrasias only) and by John Crossley

 

John Crossley, 27 November 2018

 

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