A Wander Around the Alfred Denny Museum

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A museum doesn't need to be big to be beautiful...
Green turtle foetus, displayed at the museum

This week marked the start of British Science Week, a nationwide celebration of everything cool about science. As part of it, on Friday was the university of Sheffield's Discovery Week, and I decided that after work I would finally do what I've been meaning to for years: visit the Alfred Denny Museum.

The museum forms part of the University of Sheffield's animal and plant sciences department and was created in 1905, back when the university was known as Firth College. It was created by the university's' first professor in biology, Alfred Denny, who pulled the collection together to aid his teaching. His lectures were engaging, often drawing in some 600 people and he was fascinated by the quirks and logic of evolution, so it paid to have practical items on hand to use as demonstrations.

The museum itself is located within the Alfred Denny building,just before the Arts Tower as you emerge from under the bridge at the students union. It's tiny, limited to only one room but when you find your way it to it instantly exudes a Victorian/Edwardian charm. The antique cabinets are absolutely jam packed with specimens in formaldehyde jars or displayed as bleached skeletons, to the point where i was quite taken aback. There was so much to see that you didn't quite know where to start.

Luckily the museum does have quite a good sense of order amongst all the variety, with each set of cabinets holding particular groups of animals. Jellyfish blend into molluscs and into sponges and arthropods, insects, fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and even a human skeleton, all joined intermittently by beautiful fossils. 

There's a sense of grim beauty about the tightly-packed displays, especially when you happen upon the tiny examples of foetuses vulnerably frozen in time. Or when you find the more unsettling exhibits, such as a cluster of preserved bloatfly larvae in a horses' stomach. The skeletons are especially impressive - a must see for anyone who's got a little goth in them - but you can also find  exhibits with entire organ sets spread out for
consideration, with some even bisected completely.

It's clear that Denny made a wise choice when investing in this museum and it is certainly the best collection of educational taxidermy that I've seen in my travels so far. If you're in the area it's definitely worth checking out for yourself.

The Alfred Denny Museum opens to the public on the first Saturday of every month at 10am, 11am and 12pm for guided tours. 

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Stay curious!

For More Museum Trips...

- Wax Vikings: A Trip to the Jorvik Viking Centre
A Trip to York Castle Museum and the Amazing Victorian Street
- A Visit to Stonehenge

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