Exhibitions & displays
Between 1968 and 1970 the Museum was moved into the current purpose-designed accommodation. The large modern display galleries with 300 metres of steel and glass display frontage were reopened in 1973.
The permanent display aims to show at least one specimen of every group of animal, both fossil and living, that the Museum holds. In this way, a large and comprehensive part of the Museum’s collection is represented by the displays.
The specimens on display are used for undergraduate teaching, so the gallery layout and the majority of the accompanying text relates to the anatomy of the specimens and their evolutionary relationships. The smaller, simpler organisms and the earlier vertebrates are on the first level, moving through to the birds and mammals in the lower gallery.
Individual curators are responsible for the different styles of display adopted for their particular area of specialism. Some exhibits, such as Moths in the royal bedchamber, combine information, images and related stories about specimens.
Beetles, Finches and Barnacles:
the zoological collections of Charles Darwin
On December 27th 1831, at the age of 22, Charles Darwin set sail aboard HMS Beagle bound for South America. During the five year surveying voyage, Darwin collected many specimens of animals, plants, rocks and fossils. The observations he made were important in the formulation of his theory of descent with modification, and many feature in his revolutionary work ‘The Origin of Species’, published in 1859. Some of the material collected on the Beagle voyage is now housed in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge.
Other Darwin material, including the box of British beetles, a diverse collection of invertebrates collected on the Beagle voyage, and the barnacle material studied by Darwin for his taxonomic work on the Cirripedia.
To celebrate the bicentennary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 2009, the museum opened a permanent exhibition showcasing these Darwin specimens from its collections. A guide to this exhibition can be downloaded here:
Temporary exhibitions with a scientific, usually zoological theme are staged at various times throughout the year.