Wonders of the Animal Kingdom: A New Museum of Zoology

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A Cambridge landmark

Finback Whale skeleton Museum of Zoology,Cambridge

The internationally renowned Museum of Zoology in Cambridge is raising funds to redisplay this famous Cambridge landmark. We are asking the public and corporate sponsors alike to help us raise the £150,000 needed to put our iconic 70ft long Finback whale and other amazing specimens back on public display in time for our re-opening.

Our collections are badly in need of cleaning, conserving and remounting. Without your support, many of these specimens will deteriorate in storage. We want to display as many items from our collections as possible, at their glorious best, so the public may visit and marvel at the wonders of the animal kingdom for generations to come.

The most challenging specimen to remount is our iconic, 70ft long Finback whale skeleton – the largest of its kind on public display in the world. The lengthy, bone-by-bone dismantling process took place over 5 weeks during autumn 2013.

 Watch the whale being dismantled

External view of refurbished Museum of Zoology Cambridge

Now the whale is about to begin its epic return journey to centre-stage. A new, glass Whale Hall is currently under construction and the enormous skeleton will be reassembled and suspended from the ceiling, providing a grand, spectacular greeting to all visitors to the Museum.

Please help us achieve our aim: to display our specimens in a manner befitting their magnificence, showcasing the importance of conservation of these extraordinary animals.

You can donate by sending a cheque made payable to ‘University of Cambridge’ adding your name, address and Gift Aid declaration on the back, to: Museum Administrator, Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ. You can also make a donation online by clicking on the ‘Give Online’ above. Thank you!

Arup Building renamed in honour of Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough at the Museum of Zoology

On Tuesday 21st of April, we had the enormous privilege of welcoming Sir David Attenborough behind the scenes at our Museum. The special visit was in honour of the official renaming of the Arup building, the home of the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, which will now be known as The David Attenborough Building. Sir David enjoyed an extensive tour of our fantastic new state-of-the-art stores, which are still being fitted as part of our £1.8m HLF funded refurbishment. Here he is examining a recent acquisition of ours – a Scaly-foot Gastropod collected from a hydrothermal vent in the Indian Ocean.

Museum of Zoology awarded £1.8 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund

HLF logo

The Museum of Zoology has been awarded a £1.8 million grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our vision is to create a Museum that inspires its visitors and celebrates the amazing diversity of animal life, showcasing the wonders of the Animal Kingdom and emphasising the importance of conserving biodiversity for the future.

Wonders of the Animal Kingdom

This significant grant will enable the Museum to:
• Create displays and new interpretation to engage people with the wonders of animal diversity;
• Create new stores to care for the Museum’s internationally significant collections to the highest standards;
• expand the Museum’s learning programmes, reaching out to wider audiences and increasing online resources
In order to realise our ambitious vision for the Museum we need to raise further funds. You can donate either online through the  Online Giving page or by sending a cheque (made payable to “University of Cambridge” and sent to Professor Paul Brakefield, Director, University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ).

Any donation, however small, will help us to care for our amazing collections and engage people with their remarkable stories through new displays.

(More details can be found in the online publication  Wonders of the Animal Kingdom)

For regular updates on the progress of the Museum’s redevelopment, visit the  Inside the Cocoon blog

The Redevelopment of the Museum of Zoology

The Museum’s redevelopment consists of three major elements:

Image courtesy of Nicholas Hare Architects
Approach to the new entrance to the Museum and Department of Zoology, image courtesy of Nicholas Hare Architects
Image courtesy of Nicholas Hare Architects
The Finback Whale skeleton displayed in the new Whale Hall, image courtesy of Nicholas Hare Architects
  • The new Whale Hall providing a dramatic new entrance to the Museum and safe home for the iconic Finback Whale skeleton;
  • New gallery displays that celebrate animal diversity, explore its evolution and the threats it faces, and open up the stories of the people behind our understanding and protection of it;
  • New stores to house the rich, historically and scientifically important collections.

The new, glass Whale Hall, seen here on the right in the architect’s drawing, will form a spectacular two storey high entrance to the Museum and Department of Zoology.

Our iconic Finback Whale skeleton, the largest on display anywhere in the world, will be redisplayed in this space. Here visitors can view it from below at ground level, or alongside it on a walkway through to a new cafe and the adjoining Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Image courtesy of Blue The Design Company
The new entrance to the Museum galleries, image courtesy of Blue The Design Company
Image courtesy of Blue The Design Company
The new displays will make the most of the height and space in the galleries, and incorporate specimens that have not been on public display for many years, such as the Asian Elephant, alongside favourites such as the Giant Ground Sloth. Image courtesy of Blue The Design Company

The newly refurbished galleries will bring the Museum into the 21st century with displays to inspire and engage audiences with the wonders of the Animal Kingdom. The displays will interpret our amazing collections, rich in their historical and scientific importance and of great significance on a world stage, to a wide audience. By highlighting the extraordinary beauty of the specimens, illustrating their remarkable diversity, and providing accessible interpretation, the new displays will allow the collections to tell their stories of evolution, exploration and conservation.

With wonderful treasures such as collections made by great naturalists of the past including Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, rare and extinct animals like the skeleton of a Dodo from Mauritius and a superb skin of a Great Auk, and specimens important for scientific research today, the Museum can chronicle animal diversity past, present and future and give visitors and memorable and inspiring experience.

New facilities in the Museum will include a Discovery Space exploring local wildlife with displays and hands on activities, and an Activity Room providing space for schools.

The new stores being built as part of this project will make it possible for the Museum to preserve its internationally renowned collections for future generations. The current stores are dangerously full, but the new stores will provide 20% expansion space for the active, growing collections of the Museum as well as new, up-to-date storage units.

University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

While all this is going on, the Museum is shrouded in scaffolding for the necessary refurbishment to be done. This will enable the contractors, Kier, to replace the roof and the cladding to much of the building.

For regular updates on progress in the Museum Redevelopment Project, visit our  Inside the Cocoon blog

To make an donation to the Museum’s Redevelopment project, please go to the  University’s Online Giving page.

or send a cheque made payable to “University of Cambridge” to Professor Paul Brakefield, Director, University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ.

Last updated: 13 September 2017