Originally founded as a Victorian collector’s private museum, the Booth Museum, part of Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, brings natural history to life with interactive displays and ‘hands on’ activities. An now The Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust is welcoming visitors back to The Booth Museum on Sat 31 July.
Since the first lockdown, staff at the Booth Museum have been busy caring for the nearly a million objects held in the building. Natural history collections are particularly prone to attack by museum pests, so staff have rolled out a big conservation project behind closed doors to check each piece of the taxidermy and treat any showing signs of damage.
“It’s wonderful to have the Booth Museum reopen after such a long time, says CEO of RPMT Hedley Swain. “This is a fascinating museum which is popular with families and the local community and the final one of our five sites to reopen since the lockdown.”
Staff have been busy cleaning and preparing the galleries for re-opening, along with creating a new display which shows some of the recent big (but tiny) dinosaur discoveries among the collection.
For the first time, visitors can view a tiny fossil. This has excited scientists after discovering it had been previously mis-identified and is now believed to indicate a new species of pterosaur from the age of the dinosaurs.
In February 2020 Roy Smith of Portsmouth University visited the Booth Museum geological collections. He spotted several fossils donated by Arthur Griffith in 1912 identified as shark spines, that he thought were more likely to be pterosaur (flying reptile) bones.
“It’s fascinating to know that the items in the collection, many of which are millions of years old are still relevant to modern experts and improve our knowledge of natural history,” adds Swain.
Smith discovered that the fossils had nerve holes which do not appear on shark spines, so must be from a group of flying reptiles known as Ornithostoma. He found a fragment of a jawbone of a previously undiscovered flying reptile that was possibly the size of a magpie.
This fragment is too small to base a new species on. The rocks it was found in have long since been broken up and it is unlikely more of this specimen will ever be found. It remains a tiny tantalising glimpse of life 100 million years ago.
Booth Museum of Natural History is at 194 Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 5AA
Open all year – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday (10am-5pm) and Sunday )1-4pm), including Bank Holidays (except Christmas)
Image by Jim Holden