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BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM; Hidden treasures of city attraction are too fragile to show.

Byline: ALAN WESTON ECHO Reporter alan.weston@

LIVERPOOL'S World Museum is a treasure-trove of priceless treasures drawn from around the world.

But what many people do not realise is that the building also houses a subterranean world of artefacts which are rarely, if ever, seen by the public.

World Museum is the oldest of National Museum Liverpool's venues, and was officially opened in its current location on William Brown Street in 1861.

That's more than 150 years worth of collecting, displaying and looking after objects from the life sciences, earth sciences and world cultures.

Some objects are too fragile to be publicly displayed, so are kept in special conditions to reduce deterioration.

Others are too valuable to risk being moved, so are kept under lock and key to be occasionally produced for specialists.

Among the most fascinating exhibits are in the zoology section. Much of this is drawn from the 13th Earl of Derby's collection of stuffed birds and mammals, which he bequeathed to the people of Liverpool on his death in 1851.

Items include a Kiwi-type specimen, the first ever to be discovered, which caused gasps of disbelief when it was revealed in the 19th century, with some people assuming it was a fake. As the national bird of New Zealand, it now draws visitors from that country.

Curators are constantly making new discoveries about objects' origins and backgrounds. Last year, it was discovered that a 230-year-old spotted green pigeon specimen was not only unique, but related to the extinct, flightless bird, the Dodo.

The pigeon - nicknamed the Liverpool Pigeon - even has a pub in Crosby named after it.

Elsewhere in the zoology department, there is a whole collection of stuffed animals ranging in size from tigers to rabbits, which are sometimes lent out to other centres. Dr Clemency Fisher, the senior curator of vertebrate zoology, said the artefacts were only put on view to the public, if at all, on a temporary basis.

She said: "They have to be kept in a carefully controlled atmosphere because the galleries are too warm. They are vulnerable to light, pest damage, and humidity."

Some of the stories behind the exhibits are as amazing as the exhibits themselves.

For example, the 19th century Chevrier beetle collection is the oldest in the museum's stock of almost 1m insects. The "lost" collection was discovered by chance in Bootle town hall in the 1970s when the cabinet, which was being used as a stand for another exhibit and had been screwed shut, was opened.

It is even more valuable as the museum's historic collection was lost when the building was firebombed in the blitz of May 1941, meaning it had to be built up again from scratch.

Another specimen, known as the woodwasp, was first brought into the museum during the Second World War as a suspected enemy weapon. In fact, the large insect is harmless and doesn't even have a sting.

As well as zoology and entomology, there are collections relating to botany, with amazing specimens drawn from the first Liverpool Botanic Garden and from Captain Cook's second voyage round the Pacific from 1772-75.


weapon OF WAR: This woodwasp | |was so big, someone brought it into the museum during World War II fearing it was a German weapon

LOOK BUSY! A selection | |of exhibits from the museum's Vertebrate Zoology Department

THE REALLY WILD SHOW: A wild cat from the World Museum's stores

RARE SPECIMENS: Dr | |Clemency Fisher with a very rare Falklands Wolf skull. The wolf, the only native land mammal in the Falkland Islands, became extinct in 1876. Left, drawings and plant samples from the Royle collection

KIWI CONUNDRUM: | |When this New Zealand bird was first displayed in the 19th century, many people dismissed it as a fake

| HIDDEN STORE: Dr Clemency Fisher, senior | |curator of vertebrate zoology at the World Museum, in the museum's stores. Top right, a Quetzal bird. Right, an Australian Paradise Parrot - the species is now extinct PICTURES: GAVIN TRAFFORD

WITH THE BEETLES: Guy Knight, the museum's curator of | |entomology, with one of the trays of Bootle Beetles
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 31, 2015
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