Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History MuseumPaperback
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- Publisher: HarperPerennial
- Format: Paperback | 320 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 24mm | 299g
- Publication date: 1 September 2008
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0007209894
- ISBN 13: 9780007209897
- Illustrations note: Illustrations (some col.)
- Sales rank: 79,218
'Dry Store Room No. 1' is an intimate biography of the Natural History Museum, celebrating the eccentric personalities who have peopled it and capturing the wonders of scientific endeavour, academic rigour and imagination. Behind the public facade of any great museum there lies a secret domain: one of unseen galleries, locked doors, priceless specimens and hidden lives.Through the stories of the numerous eccentric individuals whose long careers have left their mark on the study of evolutionary science, Richard Fortey, former senior paleaontologist at London's Natural History Museum, celebrates the pioneering work of the Museum from its inception to the present day. He delves into the feuds, affairs, scandals and skulduggery that have punctuated its long history, and formed a backdrop to extraordinary scientific endeavour from Darwin to the present day. He explores the staying power and adaptability of the Museum as it responds to changes wrought by advances in technology and molecular biology - 'spare' bones from an extinct giant bird suddenly become cutting-edge science with the new knowledge that DNA can be extracted from them, and ancient fish are tested with the latest equipment that is able to measure rises in pollution. 'Dry Store Room No.1' is a fascinating and affectionate account of a hidden world of untold treasures, where every fragment tells a story about time past, by a scientist who combines rigorous professional learning with a gift for prose that sparkles with wit and literary sensibility.
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Richard Fortey retired from his position as senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in 2006. He has won both the Lewis Thomas and Michael Faraday medals for his science writing. He was elected President of the Geological Society of London for its bicentennial year in 2007, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
By Mark Thwaite 10 Dec 2008
Dry Store Room No.1 is not a very appealing title nor a very enlightening one but, happily, Richard Fortey's book is both hugely appealing and very enlightening, and a wonderfully quirky history of a singular British institution.
Fortey, a retired senior palaentologist, author of The Earth: An intimate history, gives us just what the subtitle promises, The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum. He takes us behind the public facade of the museum to what he calls "a kind of museum of the mind ... It is my own collection, a personal archive, designed to explain what goes on behind the polished doors in the Natural History Museum. The lustre of a museum does not depend only on the artefacts or objects it contains - the people who work out of sight are what keeps a museum alive ... I want to bring those invisible people into the sunlight."
And a lot of those "people who work out of sight" are probably best kept far away from the public -- many of them seem quite wonderfully eccentric! "Feuds, affairs, scandals and skulduggery ... have punctuated the Museum's long history" as have the working lives of many hugely clever and inspiring individuals who have spent their whole careers studying evolutionary science and helping us all to understand our place in the universe just that little bit better.
'This book is worthy of the place it tells us about, and that is a pretty lofty chunk of praise.' The Times 'In this loving survey of his life at the museum, Fortey...is never less than enthused by all the museum's collections.' Financial Times 'Fortey...sneaks us behind the scenes with all the glee of a small child seeing for the first time the museum's iconic Diplodocus skeleton. The beauty of the book is that - just like a museum - you can visit the different sections in any order you choose, lingering in the places that most take your fancy ... and there is plenty of solid science to enjoy, elucidated with brilliant flair.' Sunday Times "There is nothing dry about this exploration of life behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum...Richard Fortey is an amiable, amusing and erudite guide, with a copious supply of anecdotes...Fortey also has a more serious point: that the unglamorous scientific work of taxonomy...is vital not only for the unexpected discoveries it can lead to...but also because it is intrinsically valuable to understand our world during our short stay here." Independent on Sunday