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。這是在惠特比，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.