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Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History

The oldest of the museums within the University of St. Andrews, the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History is located within the Bute Medical Buildings behind St. Mary's College in the centre of St. Andrews.

The museum holds a large collection of taxidermy, including examples of several extinct species, such as the dodo, moa, passenger pigeon, Tasmanian wolf (thylacine), together with the horns of an Irish elk and one of only a very few sets of Blaubock horns, an extinct species of South African antelope. The museum also contains several type specimens, that is those specimens used to provide the original description of a particular organism. Also included are a number of fossil fish excavated from Dura Den by Prof. Matthew Heddle in 1861 and there is also a cast of a hind leg of a Diplodocus dinosaur presented by industrialist Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919), who was Rector of the University from 1901-07. Many items are displayed in original 19th-C. display cases. There is also a small but important collection of scientific instruments, while other themes include biodiversity and the history of biology at St. Andrews.

Described as "a rare survival of a Victorian teaching museum", its origins go back to the foundation of the Literary and Philosophical Society of St. Andrews in 1838. Their museum was located in Upper College Hall and was open to both students and the public, and regarded as the Town Museum. By the end of the 19th C. the collection had grown to encompass all manner of fields and the museum was overcrowded, yet the Literary and Philosophical Society had declined. Thus, the substantial collection was handed over to the University in 1904. A new home was required and a new building was funded by the widow of Prof. James Bell Pettigrew (1834 - 1908). Renamed in his honour, this new museum opened in 1912. In the 1950s the university no longer saw the need to run a general-purpose museum and it was reduced in size. Its collections were dispersed and the Bell Pettigrew took on the specialist role of supporting zoology teaching, allowing students to understand the evolutionary and taxonomic relationships between the animal species.

Today the museum is used by undergraduate students, visiting school parties and is occasionally open to the public in the summer months.


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