Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum

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9780007209880: Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum

‘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.

‘This book is 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.’

Behind the public façade 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. 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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Review:

‘Fortey…in his affectionate portrayal of the institution in which he spent his working life…sneaks us behind the scenes with all the glee of a small child seeing for the first time the museum's iconic Diplodocus skeleton…always authoritative…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

‘Immensely satisfying…not just enjoyable and informative, but inspiring.’ The Independent

‘Richard Fortey…a superb writer, is the perfect guide to the extraordinary Victorian edifice that he compares several times to Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast.’ The Guardian

‘An enchanting book.’ Sunday Express

'Teeming with life, Fortey's prose is eloquent, lively and suffused with often self–deprecating humour.' New Statesman

‘Fortey has a scientist's regard for fact but a poet's delight in wonder. This is a rare intoxicating insight into a hidden community intent on unlocking the universe's myriad secrets.’ Metro

‘Engaging…Fortey's writing is enough to make the behind–the–scenes work of the museum totally fascinating…(his) delightful book, like the museum it describes, is both rambling and elegant.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Compendious and entertaining…much of the narrative interest of the book is carried anecdotally, by wonderful stories…it is a book filled with a passion for nature and pride in an institution that has done so much to compile its inventory. Fortey is a knowledgeable guide, with a keen eye and gentle humour’ Evening Standard

‘Richard Fortey’s wonderful book…shows the unspectacular elements of the museum collection as the most interesting part of its work, while placing the well-known exhibits in a new and often comical light…with eccentricity flourishing unchecked among its staff Fortey has amassed a brilliant collection of anecdotes about their habits’ Daily Telegraph

'His glorious new book is generously illustrated…the tale he tells is often very funny as well as erudite…it is impossible to avoid list–making in reviewing such a book. Really, all that needs to be said is simply read it, and enjoy it.' Country Life

More praise for ‘Dry Store Room No. 1’:

‘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…in his affectionate portrayal of the institution in which he spent his working life…sneaks us behind the scenes with all the glee of a small child seeing for the first time the museum’s iconic Diplodocus skeleton…always authoritative…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

‘Engaging…Fortey’s writing is enough to make the behind-the-scenes work of the museum totally fascinating…(his) delightful book, like the museum it describes, is both rambling and elegant’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Fortey has a scientist’s regard for fact but a poet’s delight in wonder. This is a rare intoxicating insight into a hidden community intent on unlocking the universe's myriad secrets’ Metro

Praise for ‘The Earth’:

‘Richard Fortey is without peer among science writers.’ Bill Bryson

‘“The Earth” is a true delight: full of awe-inspiring details…it blends travel, history, reportage and science to create an unforgettable picture of our ancient earth.’ Sunday Times

‘This is not a book for people who like science books. It is a book for people who love books, and life…Fortey has written a wonderful book.’ Tim Radford, Guardian

‘Read this book because it is, indeed, the best natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth.’ John Gribbin, Sunday Times

‘[an] enchanting book…it cannot be denied that the denizens of the Natural History Museum…might well be the ones to ride to the rescue and help reverse or check the environmental catastrophes that increasingly face us’ Sunday Express

‘Fortey writes beautifully and this is a wonderful biography of rock and life…He has restored palaeontology to its rightful place in the pantheon.’ Lewis Wolpert, Observer

‘The tale of life needs constant retelling. Thank some happy accident of history that we have Fortey to tell it to us anew.’ Ted Nield, New Scientist

‘This book is a metaphor: a book about a museum that is itself a museum…a natural history of the Natural History Museum. It contains collections, of objects and of people; it educates and entertains; it helps you to see the world, and the NHM with new eyes.’ Spectator

Review:

`Fortey urges us all to open our eyes to, and preserve, its rich diversity past and present before the shadows fall

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