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Collection Summary

Collection Title
Bird Collection
Pre-eminent bird collection comprising British and foreign specimens which are fully catalogued with individual database records. Over 1800 recognised species are represented. Because of the importance of Norfolk in the history of British ornithology, what is primarily a local collection has national significance. The specimens are in the form of cabinet and round skins; mounted and cased specimens, including some in Victorian glass domes; feet; heads and wings; mounted feathers; and skeletons, skulls and bones. The skins constitute an important British and European collection including historically important specimens, often used for reference by artists and amateur and professional ornithologists as a variety of plumages are represented. The wide range of cased specimens by respected taxidermists such as T.E. Gunn, W. Lowne and B. Leadbetter, is important in understanding the techniques used in taxidermy and the artistic development of the case interiors. Some feature an artificial display of many colourful birds together. Many of the interiors feature real plant material and nests and eggs used as groundwork. This collection contains examples of work of all the major East Anglian taxidermists from 1790 to the present day. Among them are several historically important specimens, including first records for Britain, indispensible for investigations into the status of rare species. Many famous local ornithologists were involved in putting the collection together, notably J.H. Gurney senior, J.H. Gurney junior and Dr. B.B. Riviere. The objects in the collection were mostly collected and aquired by the museum between the mid 19th century and the mid 20th century.

Much of the collection is on display in the Bird Galleries of Norwich Castle Museum in a series of bespoke cabinet which have been a feature of the museum since 1895, and the collection is also displayed in dioramas of Norfolk landscapes in the Ted Ellis Norfolk Room
  • 15800 specimens
Star Item(s)
British Great Bustards, now extinct in the UK,
raptors collected by John Henry Gurney senior
Date range of collection
1790 - 2006
Accumulation Dates
Suggested Audience
general interest,primary education (age 4-11),secondary education (age 10-16),sixth form college,further education (age 16+),higher education,community education,research
Associated People or Organisations
Associated Places
Viewing the collection
Material which is not on display can be viewed by appointment, telephone the Access Officer on 01603 493640
This collection is about

Location Details

Norwich Castle Museum And Art Gallery
Castle Meadow Norwich NR1 3JU United Kingdom
Open Map
+44 (0)1603 493625
+44 (0)1603 493623 
Building Information
Norwich Castle Museum, as its name suggests, is housed in the keep of the former Norman Castle which became a Victorian prison. Galleries were added to the keep in the 1890s when the building was converted into a museum. The Museum sits atop the Castle Mound, dominating the Norwich skyline and is reached by a medieval bridge or via a lift from the Castle gardens. Visitors can ascend to the battlements for a guided tour taking in a panoramic view of the city, and descend to the former dungeons. Adjoining the Castle Museum is the Shirehall Study Centre (former courthouse). Here, by appointment, collections can be explored in more depth and objects which are not on display can be visited.
Collections Overview
Norwich Castle, built by the Normans as a Royal Palace, was used as a prison from the 14th century and became Norfolk’s main museum in 1894. It has designated collections of fine and decorative art, archaeology and natural history and includes the best collections of paintings by the Norwich School of Artists and the world's largest collection of ceramic teapots. Search Norfolk Museums database and NOAH (Norfolk Online Access to Heritage) can be searched on-line for libraries, museums and record office. Currently, this includes the entire library catalogue, over 200,000 museum objects, about 16,000 digitised photographs, the index to over 23,000 local newspaper articles and over 63,000 archive records. For Stanger's Hall see Social History.
Display Overview
The Castle Keep has elaborate carvings in the stonework of the entrance, garderobes, fighting gallery, spiral stone staircase. Visitors can explore life in the Norman keep by touch screens, computer animation and a giant model of the keep. There are displays of when it was a prison with original graffiti. The keep also has displays of Norwich Silver, Norwich Civic Regalia, a re-creation of a medieval street scene, models of when it was being built and hands-on exhibits. There is an Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery, including a reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon grave site and a collection of jewellery; a Boudica Gallery with displays of Iceni treasure including gold torcs and a re-creation of an Iceni chariot; the Egyptian Gallery has an Egyptian tomb with mummies. The Fitch Room contains an eclectic collection of objects from the Ethnographic, Decorative Art and Archaeological collections, housed in Victorian wooden cabinets. The Art Galleries show 17th - 20th century paintings on show English watercolours, Dutch landscapes and modern British paintings including Norwich School artists. Look at Lowestoft porcelain, glass and English silver and Twinings Teapot Gallery with ceramic teapots. The Natural History Galleries are a favourite with families and include mounted birds and mammals and dioramas of Norfolk bird habitats.
For details of other collections held at the same location: See the location record

Additional Collection Information

Accrual Status
accrual policy : active, accrual method : deposit & purchase, accrual periodicity : irregular
Custodial History
The collection was considerably larger until 1956 when much of it, including a large proportion of the raptors and the foreign specimens, was sold to the Natural History Museum, Exeter Museums, Liverpool Museums and transferred to the then Norwich City Council Education Department for use in schools.
Related Publications
Management Information (Type)
  • Museum.
Collection Creator(s)
Collection Custodians(s)
Associated Collection(s)
  • Related Collection: Egg Collection

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