In October 1997, Sandy Anderson recalled his great excitement at discovering the Audubon bird skins.

"The specimen-drawer that I had just pulled out from the cupboard under the stairs leading to the Museum gallery was shallow and about a yard square. Like the 5 or 6 others, its contents were shrouded in a thick layer of soot-like dust. I had already examined and discarded rubbish from the other drawers, but in this tray the little objects beneath their dusty blanket showed themselves as neat rows of rounded humps.

On picking one of these, a pair of labels swung from the legs of what was now obviously a small bird 'cabinet' skin with the old-fashioned handling stick protruding from its rear. A quick 'puff' at the labels revealed the name of an American warbler and that of the collector - J.J. Audubon. I thrilled at the thought of what was, to me, a historic moment; unlike the reaction of the chief technician, Alex Hyland, whom I had called over to witness the find, 'What a horrible mess, throw them out!' he exclaimed.

Fortunately, I did not act on his advice but instead set about the exciting task of discovery by vacuum cleaner. A few hours later, Prof. V.C. Wynne-Edwards was introduced to the collection. He was not the sort to shout 'Eureka'. but he came close to it that day, over 40 years ago."

Bird specimens


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