The London Natural History Museum faces—like many other museums in London—the pleasant problem of holding so many important objects that they cannot all be on display at the same time. The public is invited to visit the museum archives so as long as they can demonstrate their research interest to the museum. We recently visited the archive to look at slabs of two species of saurus, but for us the thrill of the visit began a long time before the actual visit.

 

Partial skeleton of Pelagosauras. This was found in Whitby, Yorkshire. 佩拉古鱷的部分骨頭。是在惠特比,英格蘭北約克郡裏發現的。

 

A large amount of amonnites are still intact on the slab which helps indicating the age of the fossil. 岩板上大量的菊石有助確定化石的年齡。

 

To arrange a visit one has to contact the responsible curator, in our case the curator of the crocodylomorph and early archosaur collections. For three months our emails and letters were met with silence from the museum, but after sending a Freedom of Information request the museum responded after only one additional reminder letter and a one month wait, which is pretty much lightning speed for most government affairs in the UK. If Freedom of Information requests go unanswered, one may appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office who then chases the institution for an answer. Once we got through to her, the curator was extremely helpful and knowledgeable and we arranged a meeting for four months later.

Before the day of the visit, visitors should look up the precise specimens they want to inspect in one of the museum’s online collections. In our case, we had seen the several slabs in the permanent exhibition of the museum, and wanted to inspect two other kinds of saurus—Geosaurus and Steneosaurus—which are locked up in the archives and not on display.

In the archive we looked at beautifully preserved slabs—one geosaurus and one steneosaurus—and geosaurus skulls. Sadly, we were too slow and missed our chance to look at a steneosaurus skull: Between arranging the visit and our actual visit it had been reclassified and was now known as Lemmysuchus obtusidens. On the bright side: the steneosaurus slab only become a steneosaurus in 2012 and before lived under the radar as a pelagosaurus. Apparently it is common for palaeontologic objects to change their species every once in a while. That’s less evolution at work and more because the taxonomy is difficult and sometimes decided in the field, but with some extra time and in the quiet of the laboratory one recognises a need to revise this decision.

So, whether you want to go on a palaentological adventure or just want to file your first Freedom of Information request, the NHM and its impressive archive are there for you.

 

 

倫敦自然歷史博物館和許多附近的博物館,都面對一個問題—就是極多重要的藏品(是優點,還是缺點?)。出於展出場地所限,很多藏品往往不能被大眾欣賞。其實,公眾人士是能跟博物館申請,表明其研究興趣,以參觀存庫的藏品的。我們最近就參觀了倫敦自然歷史博物館的存庫的兩種「龍」(saurus)的岩板。

欲安排參觀,必先聯繫相關負責的館員。是次相應的藏館就是鱷形超目和主龍類藏館。自申請三個月以來,我們寄出的電子郵件和信件都石沉大海;不過,當提出了資訊自由法的要求,再緊接一封催函,一個月後,便收到博物館的回覆了。這跟大多數英國的政府部門比較,可稱得上是十分迅速。如果提出了資訊自由法的要求後仍然杳無音信,可向專員辦公室申訴,然後其會代為向該機構尋求解答。最後,當我們跟館員成功接洽後,她非常樂於協助,知識亦十分淵博;參觀便安排了在四個月後。

參觀者在到訪之前應該先瀏覽網上館藏清單確定想看的藏品。我們在博物館的常設展覽中看過幾塊岩板,計劃將參觀存庫中的另外兩種「龍」:地龍和狹蜥鱷。

我們對於此行感到十分雀躍。在存庫中,我們欣賞到保存完整的地龍和狹蜥鱷岩板,以及地龍頭骨。剛巧,頭骨在參觀前被重新分類,變成Lemmysuchus obtusidens。而狹蜥鱷岩板就在2012年被改斷為狹蜥鱷,之前都被誤當作佩拉古鱷。顯然,偶爾古生物的物種會「轉化」—但意不在物種進化,而是分類改變。這是因為正確分類實不容易,像有時在頃刻之間作決定,便容易出錯。所以在後整理時修改分類也是有的。

無論是作為開展古生物探險之旅的首站,還是提交閣下首份資訊自由法要求的對象,自然歷史博物館的存庫都可在考慮之列呢。

Categories: Archives 檔案館