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Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum (2008)
by Richard Fortey
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I had to read this for a museum class in a college course I'm taking but I'm thrilled with the insider info it gave me into natural history museums. I've always loved museums and knowing a bit about how they got to where they are was informative. There was a few times when he told stories about people he had worked with in his career that I didn't enjoy how he described them by the way they looked and it was usually in negative terms. ( )
I loved this book, but holy crap I can't believe it's taken me this long to read it. I don't think it's ever taken me this long to finish a book.
If you love museums, if you love natural history, if you've ever thought the idea of getting lost in the back rooms of a museum sounded like something you'd put on your bucket list, I think you'll enjoy this book. Mr. Fortey manages with very few words to make the reader feel like they've toured the back rooms of the Natural History Museum (London) and met some of the more colourful characters to have graced it's halls in the last several decades.
I'm definitely going to re-read this one at some point in the near future: I feel like I probably didn't do the book full justice by trying to read it while I'm on holiday and helping out my friend while her hand heals. The writing is dense and there's a lot to take in (in a good way) and I'd have gotten even more out of it had I been able to fully focus. But I did enjoy it thoroughly and would gladly recommend it.
This is a delightful look behind the scenes of the British Museum, and through its history. Lots of fun stories of people and the work they do or did. Often it seems esoteric but Fortey brings it back time and again to how everything is connected. Learning about nematodes can tell us about the ocean's health. Minerals give us glimpses into the very ancient history of the earth. Fortey is a talented writer who clearly loves science and museums and gives lots of reasons to support them.
This is a special kind of book. A marmite book. It's a memoir of a scientist, of a museum, and of a whole era too in a lot of ways. It manages to cram a history of Taxonomy, the science of classifying things, a personal memoir, a history of the radical changes a century wrought to science in general, particularly the effect Darwin had on all fields of biology, a complete history of the incredible British Museum of Natural History, a biography of Linnaeus, discussion on the value of the colonial legacy of botanical gardens, a history of the changes to the British civil service in the past 40 odd years, a grounding in basic latin and greek, and .... well you get the idea. In fact, I think all the things I listed are covered before the half way point. There's a lot of book in this book! It's a bit of a dry read, unless you're really fascinated by that kind of thing which I am. It's chock full of hilarious anecdotes too. You just have to slog through a bit of science to find them. Like the one about the marine cryptogam expert (that's fungi) who was mistaken for a cryptogram expert (note the extra r in there) and whisked off to Bletchley park during the war - only to accidentally save the day (and possibly the war) when he was the only one who knew how to save and restore German codebooks retrieved from a sunken submarine. I read a good chunk of this, but then I was busy and set it to text-to-speech - which I really don't like usually, but I have this one posh english voice to use so I tried it out - and it actually worked pretty well. ' I suspect the audiobook version of this would be really great, if it's got a good narrator, and would probably get a whole 'nother star. In fact, I think I will look out for that, because there's SO much in this book, I am pretty sure I could read it another 3 times and still be finding new things.
Richard Fortey is an expert on trilobites and he was a long time employee of the Natural History Museum in England. In this book he spends time behind the scenes of all the major departments in the museum and tells stories about a few scientists from each area. He also spends a lot of time discussing the importance of taxonomy and the change in science in todays world where research is so heavily tied to getting grant money. An interesting book.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In an elegant and illuminating narrative, Fortey acquaints the reader with the extraordinary people, meticulous research and driving passions that helped to create the timeless experiences of wonder that fill London's Natural History Museum. And with the museum's hallways and collection rooms providing a dazzling framework, Fortey offers an often eye-opening social history of the scientific accomplishments of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.--From publisher description.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)508.07442134Natural sciences and mathematics General Science Natural history
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