Identification of specimens & cataloguing of the Coleoptera (beetle) collection of Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery

I am identifying specimens & cataloguing the Coleoptera (beetle) collection of the Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery – & so far processed most of Carabidae (ground beetles) & a large part of the water beetles.

The  collection has 1772 species of 11 460 specimens according to museum documentation of 19 April 1910. This approaches half the number of species of beetle of Britain & Ireland. The collection appears to have remained static since 1910.

 According to my knowledge gained so far, the Museum collection of Coleoptera (beetles) can be seen to have five sources, partly recorded in the minutes of the Museum Sub-committee, of following dates & collectors:

  • 12 May 1902 – John E. Fletcher  (specimens, labelled in Fletcher’s handwriting, record provenance, including site detail, or name of the collector who gave him the specimen plus date);
  • 19 Oct 1909 – Rev. Harvey Bloom (specimens labelled: “Purchd from Bloom Collection  1909”);
  • 22 June 1910  – Rev. H.S. Gorham (specimens  labelled: “Rev. H. S. Gorham. 04.06.1910”);
  • No reference to A. Ford was located in the minutes, but his specimens are quite numerous (each labelled: “Puchd from A. Ford 1896”);
  • Additionally there are specimens labelled “OLD MUSEUM COLLECTION”, presumably from earlier parts of the 19th century.

 Of these entomologists, John Edward Fletcher (b.1836 – d.1902) collected insects within about 7km radius of his home in St Johns, Worcester, & he was given numerous specimens by his correspondents in Britain. His collection is the source of majority of specimens in the current Museum Coleoptera (beetle) collection. He  labelled his specimens in some  detail of provenance; hence examination of his specimens & labels provides a picture of beetle species in the Worcester locality around the later part of the 19th century. Some of the names of people who gave specimens to J. E. Fletcher’s collection are: Rev. W. W. Fowler (Lincoln), A. E. Hodgson (Abergaveny), Richard Wilding (Liverpool), W. H Harwood, W. H. Bennet (Hastings), Robert Gillo (Bath), Dr J. W. Elis (Liverpool), A. Ford (as above) & J. H. Threlfall (Preston). Except the last name, the names are covered by the Biographical Dictionary at http://www.coleopterist.org.uk/. I have noted further names, but I am unsure of them presently owing to difficulty of interpreting tiny handwriting.

 The Museum collection covers scarce & rare species: the data produced is of both national & local value. Worcestershire, as other counties, would benefit from an updated & more readily visitable insect collection for scientific work, whether funded or of productive leisure, for which the current collection would provide a good basis.

 My thanks to Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery & to the museum staff for providing regular access for me to examine the collection – especially to Garston D. Phillips who also provided documentation & historical information.

This guest post was written by David M. Green who has been studying snails, moths, beetles, flies and other insects since 1996 and has surveyed Asilus crabroniformis (Hornet Robber Fly) in the Kidderminster area for a number of years. His work at Worcester City Museums will benefit not only our own users but will enhance the records at Worcestershire Biological Records Centre as well.

For further information regarding the Natural History Collections at Worcester City Museums please contact Garston Phillips at museumcollections@worcestershire.gov.uk

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