Primate skeletons grin from within glass cases. Splayed amphibians and tiny invertebrates line the shelves, suspended in formaldehyde. Oddly-labelled molluscs and cold-blooded reptiles join them, locked in airtight boxes. Fossils fill chests of draws, while a cross-sectioned dolphin sits on the windowsill. Nowhere in Sheffield is so packed with curiosities of nature as The Alfred Denny Museum.
Sheffield's natural history museum was named after the University of Sheffield's first professor of zoology, and is today housed within the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. Its history dates back to 1905. Back then, and for many years to come, this little museum was kept a secret from the general public, visited only for research purposes by the uni's staff and students. The doors opened to anyone and everyone for the first time in 2012, during Festival of the Mind. And its collection of preserved animals has been filling our minds with awe and wonder ever since.
The Alfred Denny opens on the first Saturday of each month at three time slots (10am, 11am and 12pm) that can be booked in advance on its website. Visits begin with a short guided tour and then you're free to acquaint yourself with the museum's creatures – from the cute (hey there, red slender loris; hi, axolotl!) to the creepy (flying fox skeleton, sorry but we're looking at you), with a few unfortunately named species between (poor boring clams).
Keep an eye out for the occasional talk from the museum's curator, Professor Tim Birkhead.
And if this place gives you a taste for all things science, you'll be into our printed guide Sheffield: Science City, made in collaboration with the University of Sheffield.
- Words by
- Kathryn Hall