Cumberland House Natural History Museum

Cumberland House Natural History Museum Portsmouth City Council's natural history museum and seasonal butterfly house. Open Tues-Sun and bank holiday Mondays, free entry.
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Temporarily closed

18/09/2020
Insect collection

As we can't have visitors at the moment, we've put together a short video for #PortsmouthHODs #HeritageOpenDays, to give you a peek at the c60'000 insects that aren't on display, but held in the Portsmouth Museums Store!

Head over to the Portsmouth City Museum page to see what the rest of the team have been producing for Heritage Open Day

Really excited to be part of Portsmouth city council Heritage Open Days events programme!All the events are virtual this...
08/09/2020

Really excited to be part of Portsmouth city council Heritage Open Days events programme!
All the events are virtual this year so the natural history team are busy creating a video looking at some of the 60,000 insects held in our entomology store which can be viewed Friday 18 September #PortsmouthHODs

We have just come across this group of objects (nightjar study skin, two nightjar eggs and a cuckoo egg in a clutch of g...
03/09/2020

We have just come across this group of objects (nightjar study skin, two nightjar eggs and a cuckoo egg in a clutch of greenfinch eggs). They were returned in 2011, about 50 years after they were taken from the museum by a relative of the person who returned them anonymously. We are pleased that this rather sorry tale had a happy ending!

We found these two lovely nautilus shells in the collections - the one on the left shows the mother of pearl (nacre) lin...
28/08/2020

We found these two lovely nautilus shells in the collections - the one on the left shows the mother of pearl (nacre) lining of the shell.
Nautilus are related to octopus and squid and have up to 90 tentacles. Their shell is divided into chambers filled with gas and air which enables them to adjust their buoyancy.
They are found near the coast and on coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans where they hunt crabs, shrimps and small fish.
Nautilus are still collected for their mother of pearl lining which are used as ornaments and in jewellery, although they now have increased protection regulating international trade.

We have been working in the store, going through the natural history collections and photographing objects. Here's Chris...
26/08/2020

We have been working in the store, going through the natural history collections and photographing objects. Here's Christine with a gannet.

We have been photographing sawfish rostra (nose extensions) for a scientific research enquiry this week. Sawfish belong ...
21/08/2020

We have been photographing sawfish rostra (nose extensions) for a scientific research enquiry this week.
Sawfish belong to the ray family and have a long saw-shaped rostrum with sharp teeth on either side. This one measures 61.9 cm and has an uneven number of teeth - 31 on one side and 33 on the other side. The rostrum is used to catch fish by thrashing it from side to side, dislodging prey from the sea bed and stunning groups of fish.
There are five species, this one is Pristis zijsron, the longcomb sawfish thought to be the largest reaching a length between 6 - 7m.
Sawfish are now endangered as they were (and still are) hunted for shark fin soup and for their saws.

We’ve been photographing various specimens over the last couple of weeks & couldn’t help but share this marvellous groun...
12/08/2020

We’ve been photographing various specimens over the last couple of weeks & couldn’t help but share this marvellous ground beetle, Agonum sexpunctatum. Although common on mainland Europe, it’s scarce in the UK & found primarily on coastal habitats and wet areas of lowland heaths.

This one was found at Wellington College in Berkshire in 1919!

A surprising find in the collections - a tunic embellished with beetle elytra (hardened forewings of beetles). It is tho...
10/08/2020

A surprising find in the collections - a tunic embellished with beetle elytra (hardened forewings of beetles). It is thought to date to the mid/late 19th century.
The elytra are from beetles in the jewel beetle (Buprestidae) family. The most commonly used beetles used for beetlewing art were Sternocera aequisignata which are found in India, Thailand and Burma which is where this piece is thought to originate from.

This Ghost Orchid in our natural history collections has caused excitement. Our Curator discovered in the herbarium (pla...
06/08/2020

This Ghost Orchid in our natural history collections has caused excitement. Our Curator discovered in the herbarium (plant collection). Wild Orchids UK and Ireland had this to say about it.
‘It was collected in 1924 in Oxfordshire, and is around the size of a 1p piece!
This is a very important find, a newly discovered specimen, held at Portsmouth museum herbarium.
It was the first Ghost to be found in the Chilterns, and the first record for 32 years at the time!’

We have been photographing some of our study skins today. These two Kea and a Kaka were preserved by New Zealand taxider...
05/08/2020

We have been photographing some of our study skins today. These two Kea and a Kaka were preserved by New Zealand taxidermist William Smyth of Dunedin c1900

Many of our natural history specimens are held in store rather than on display as they are voucher specimens. Today 1200...
04/08/2020

Many of our natural history specimens are held in store rather than on display as they are voucher specimens. Today 1200 bees were sent out on loan for verifying (having their identities checked) and for adding to the forth coming atlas of Sussex bees.

A rare visitor to the British Isles. This Bath white butterfly in our natural history collections was found near Niton, ...
03/08/2020

A rare visitor to the British Isles. This Bath white butterfly in our natural history collections was found near Niton, Isle of Wight in July 1976

We had a meeting with Richard, Portsdown Hill Countryside Officer, yesterday . We spent some time on the slopes of the h...
31/07/2020

We had a meeting with Richard, Portsdown Hill Countryside Officer, yesterday . We spent some time on the slopes of the hill which was buzzing with insects, including a great green bush cricket which landed on Brad's shoulder.

We have been photographing some of the natural history collection and found this exotic looking bird, with a pinkish bod...
28/07/2020

We have been photographing some of the natural history collection and found this exotic looking bird, with a pinkish body and black and white wings. It is a Hoopoe, Upupa epops, and was found in Portsmouth c1900. It has black-tipped crest of pinkish feathers which they can raise when startled. The birds migrate north from Africa to Europe in spring and individual birds can be occasionally be seen mainly on the south coast of England.

We are very pleased to see that one of our banana plants is bearing  fruit.
27/07/2020

We are very pleased to see that one of our banana plants is bearing fruit.

We love these strange and wonderful porcupine fish (and a box fish on the lower left). They found in our natural history...
24/07/2020

We love these strange and wonderful porcupine fish (and a box fish on the lower left). They found in our natural history collections and given a light clean yesterday. They remind us of characters from a well known animated film about a lost fish. #fishfriday #fishyfriends

Brad and Christine are very happy to working on the collections in store again and adapting to reduced work space to mai...
21/07/2020

Brad and Christine are very happy to working on the collections in store again and adapting to reduced work space to maintain social distancing.
Portsmouth Museums have re-opened The D-Day Story and plan to re-open Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery mid-August. While we focus on opening these two museums safely, our other museums - Cumberland House, Southsea Castle, Dickens Birthplace and Eastney Engines - will remain closed at this time.

Gilbert White also studied 3 species of cricket; house, field, and mole crickets. He noted that, although very closely r...
17/07/2020

Gilbert White also studied 3 species of cricket; house, field, and mole crickets. He noted that, although very closely related, each species occupied very different habitats and therefore had very different ways of life.

"How diversified are the modes of life, not only of incongruous, but even of congenerous animals; and yet their specific distinctions are not more various than their propensities. Thus, while the field-cricket delights in sunny dry banks, and the house-cricket rejoices amidst the glowing heat of the kitchen hearth or oven, the gryllus gryllo talpa (the mole-cricket), haunts moist meadows, and frequents the sides of ponds and banks of streams, performing all its functions in a swampy wet soil."

Mole cricket
The mole cricket is quite bizarre-looking with its mole-like feet. Sadly, it’s endangered in the UK, but in the 1700’s White described that ‘mole-crickets often infest gardens by the sides of canals, they are unwelcome guests to the gardener’ – what a difference 300 years makes!

“With a pair of fore-feet, curiously adapted to the purpose, it burrows and works under ground like the mole, raising a ridge as it proceeds, but seldom throwing up hillocks.”

House cricket
The house cricket is bar far the most common of the three species Gilbert White wrote about

"The gryllus domesticus, or house-cricket, resides altogether within our dwellings, intruding itself upon our notice whether we will or no. This species delights in new-built houses, being, like the spider, pleased with the moisture of the walls…They are particularly fond of kitchens and bakers’ ovens, on account of their perpetual warmth."

Field
The field cricket is another threatened insect and is considered Vulnerable in the UK. But unlike the mole cricket which used to be common, it was certainly not an ‘unwelcome guest’

"This spot abounds with the gryllus campestris, or field-cricket; which, though frequent in these parts, is by no means a common insect in many other counties."

Don't forget that the Big Butterfly Count starts today and runs until 9 August. We will be out recording which species w...
17/07/2020

Don't forget that the Big Butterfly Count starts today and runs until 9 August. We will be out recording which species we have seen over the weekend and the next few weeks. Visit the link below for an identification guide and details on how to record your finds.
https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/

Although Gilbert White mostly wrote about insects in terms of them being the food of other organisms, there are several ...
17/07/2020

Although Gilbert White mostly wrote about insects in terms of them being the food of other organisms, there are several instances where he observed the behaviour, diet, and biology of insects themselves, such as this eyed hawkmoth

‘A vast insect appears after it is dusk, flying with a humming noise, and inserting its tongue into the bloom of the honey-suckle; it scarcely settles upon the plants, but feeds on the wing in the manner of hummingbirds.’

EDIT: eyed hawk moths don't actually feed as adults, but other species do. Even the pros like Gilbert White misidentify species occasionally!

Another beneficial animal for gardeners is the common toad, which frequently feed on slugs and snails, so it’s a good id...
16/07/2020

Another beneficial animal for gardeners is the common toad, which frequently feed on slugs and snails, so it’s a good idea to look after those that you find in you garden. The people in this quote took it a step further and made friends with one! #GW300

"I have been informed also, from undoubted authority, that some ladies…took a fancy to a toad, which they nourished, summer after summer, for many years, till he grew to a monstrous size, with the maggots which turn to flesh-flies. The reptile used to come forth every evening from a hole under the garden steps, and was taken up, after supper, on the table to be fed”

It’s certainly a treat to spot a hedgehog nowadays; their numbers have been declining recently, but it seems they were m...
16/07/2020

It’s certainly a treat to spot a hedgehog nowadays; their numbers have been declining recently, but it seems they were much more common back in the 1700’s, and viewed as a gardeners friend by Gilbert White, as they eat inverts and apparently weeds! Have you seen any recently?

“Hedgehogs abound in my gardens and fields. The manner in which they eat the roots of the plantain in my grass-walks is very curious; with their upper mandible, which is much longer than their lower, they bore under the plant, and so eat the root off upwards, leaving the tuft of leaves untouched. In this respect they are serviceable, as they destroy a very troublesome weed”

Due to their declining numbers, hedgehogs should never be disturbed, save a bit of food and water in your garden. But Gilbert White was lucky enough to see some hoglets and took the opportunity to study them…

One of our most impressive birds of prey, the peregrine falcon, seemed to be a rare sight for Gilbert White in Hampshire...
15/07/2020

One of our most impressive birds of prey, the peregrine falcon, seemed to be a rare sight for Gilbert White in Hampshire during the late 1700’s

“The falco peregrinus, or haggard-falcon, is a noble species of hawk seldom seen in the southern counties”

But when he was able to make notes on one, he did so in superb detail...

Gilbert White would often observe a pair of barn owls which would nest in his local church every year“About an hour befo...
15/07/2020

Gilbert White would often observe a pair of barn owls which would nest in his local church every year

“About an hour before sunset (for then the mice begin to run) they sally forth in quest of prey, and hunt all round the hedges of meadows and small enclosures for them”

He also noted their harsh calls. Anyone who has ever heard a barn owl call will know that, although they look beautiful, they aren’t the nicest sounding birds! Their range of calls have even sparked superstitions among some people!

Today, in celebration of Gilbert White’s tercentenary, we’ll be continuing the bird theme! First up is the nightjar, als...
15/07/2020

Today, in celebration of Gilbert White’s tercentenary, we’ll be continuing the bird theme!

First up is the nightjar, also called the goatsucker due to the myth that they stole milk from goats! However, this connection is more likely due to the abundance of insects attracted to livestock!

“There is no bird, I believe, whose manners I have studied more than that of the caprimulgus (the goat-sucker), as it is a wonderful and curious creature” G.W., Natural History of Selborne

One of the most striking things about nightjars are their calls...

“the fern-owl, or goat-sucker, from the dusk till daybreak, serenades his mate with the clattering of castanets.”

...which even has a connection to Portsmouth!

Gilbert White made detailed notes about swifts, swallows & martins, and often in a rather poetic way...“able to dash thr...
14/07/2020

Gilbert White made detailed notes about swifts, swallows & martins, and often in a rather poetic way...

“able to dash through the air almost with the inconceivable swiftness of a meteor, and perhaps in their emigration must traverse vast continents and oceans as distant as the equator.”

“These birds have a peculiar manner of flying; flitting about with odd jerks, and vacillations, not unlike the motions of a butterfly. Doubtless the flight of all hirundines is influenced by, and adapted to, the peculiar sort of insects which furnish their food.”

"Martins are by far the least agile of the four species; their wings and tails are short, and therefore they are not capable of such surprising turns and quick and glancing evolutions as the swallow."

The first set of species we’ll be showing you were a favourite of Gilbert White’s – swifts, swallows, and martins.He des...
14/07/2020

The first set of species we’ll be showing you were a favourite of Gilbert White’s – swifts, swallows, and martins.

He described them as “…a most inoffensive, harmless, entertaining, social, and useful tribe of birds” which “amuse us with their migrations, songs, and marvelous agility”

“there are few towns or large villages but what abound with house-martins; few churches, towers, or steeples, but what are haunted by some swifts; scarce a hamlet or single cottage-chimney that has not its swallow” - The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne #GW300

It's the week of Gilbert White's 300th birthday! He was an 18th century naturalist most famous for his book 'The Natural...
13/07/2020

It's the week of Gilbert White's 300th birthday! He was an 18th century naturalist most famous for his book 'The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne'. The team over at the Gilbert White and The Oates Collection are running a series of online events on friday 18th July, so be sure to take a look!
http://www.gw300.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk

For the rest of the week, we'll be posting about Gilbert White and his observations of the Natural World, along with some of the specimens in the Portsmouth collections! #GW300

We have seen more butterflies this year than in previous years. If you are in your garden or out walking, see how many s...
11/07/2020

We have seen more butterflies this year than in previous years. If you are in your garden or out walking, see how many species you can spot and take part in the Big #ButterflyCount which launches next week

Just 6 days until the launch of our Big #ButterflyCount 2020!

Get ready. Download our free app or ID chart today 👉 bigbutterflycount.org

We have spotted these lovely beetles more frequently over the last few weeks. It is a 7-spot ladybird, one of our most c...
08/07/2020

We have spotted these lovely beetles more frequently over the last few weeks. It is a 7-spot ladybird, one of our most common ladybirds, which get its common name and scientific name Coccinella septempunctata(sept = 7 and puntata = spot) from the number of spots on its elytra (hardened wings cases).
They are found throughout the UK in a variety of habitats and often known as the ‘gardener’s friend’ as they feed on aphids.
Their bright red colour warns predators that they have an unpleasant taste, but they can also produce a vile tasting yellow fluid from their joints.
Did you know?
A 19th century remedy for toothache was putting a mashed-up ladybird into a hollow tooth to relieve toothache!

If you are up early in the next few days you may get a glimpse of comet Neowisehttps://astronomynow.com/2020/07/07/comet...
08/07/2020
A naked-eye comet in the pre-dawn sky – Astronomy Now

If you are up early in the next few days you may get a glimpse of comet Neowise

https://astronomynow.com/2020/07/07/comet-2020-f3-neowise-a-naked-eye-comet-visible-in-the-pre-dawn-sky/

A naked-eye comet in the pre-dawn sky 7 July 2020 Mark Armstrong Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is looking great in the pre-dawn sky at the moment, shining at around magnitude +1 and sporting nice tail of around a degree in length. Gerald Rhemann shot this striking image of the comet on the morning of 6 Ju...

07/07/2020
Natural History Museum, London

A live talk about spiders on Friday

What kind of spiders are living in your garden or home? We might not have exciting mammals like lions or bears living in the UK but who needs them when you have spiders! Join volunteer Leah (and some special eight-legged guests) to learn more about the amazing spiders that live in the UK.

All Nature Live Online talks are FREE to watch on our official website, verified page or YouTube channel. You do NOT need to enter any personal information.

Kingfishers are one of our most colourful birds, but did you know that their brilliant blue feathers do not contain any ...
07/07/2020

Kingfishers are one of our most colourful birds, but did you know that their brilliant blue feathers do not contain any blue pigment and are actually brown?
The blue colour is the result of structural colouration, which makes many birds look brighter and more colourful than they really are. In the case of our kingfisher the structural arrangement of their feathers reflects blue light when light shines on them, making them appear blue.
This can be seen in bird specimens held in our store and on display. Feathers with pigments are often faded after being exposed to light. Feathers with structural colour do not fade and still look bright and colourful.

A super collection of over 1500 land and freshwater snails that one of our volunteers has been working on. They are main...
06/07/2020

A super collection of over 1500 land and freshwater snails that one of our volunteers has been working on. They are mainly from southern England and collected between 1900 and the 1920s.

Address

Cumberland House, Eastern Parade
Southsea
PO4 9RF

Opening Hours

Tuesday 10:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 17:00
Thursday 10:00 - 17:00
Friday 10:00 - 17:00
Saturday 10:00 - 17:00
Sunday 10:00 - 17:00

Telephone

023 9282 7261

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Comments

got lots of butterflies in my garden put bits of banana/apples/pears/kiwi all chopped up not to small
The girls found this lovely free book in the odeon cinema Port Solent they will be taking it into Wicor Primary School and donating to the library. Celebrating 125 years of Portsmouth Museums
Have you still got the dinosaur in the middle of the staircase?
Thought you might like to know you're featured in this top 5! :)
Lovely morning watching the 🦋 butterflies
is the butterfly house open yet please
My father-in-law said I should share this photo with you as he thinks the spider is unusual. It lives in our insect house. Anyway, here you go:
Producer MoonFire Tower is feeling luckier than a two dollar bill these days as he prepares for his largest show to date: Camp Squirt, at The Side Bar, 504 Angela Street, Key West, Florida. This show is a Fine Art and Entertainment Extravaganza, which helps kick off Gay Pride Week, in America's Southern Most City, on June 7th, 2017 from 6pm until 4am. The show features the found object sculptures of Bryce LeVan Cushing, who has shown extensively internationally, with the Drap-Art Collective, and just finished a month long exhibition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sponsored by the Andy Warhol, and Carnegie Mellon Museums. Cushing is co-curating the fine art show with multi-dimensional artist Alberto DeAndrea, of Gallery Uno, 310 Duval Street. DeAndrea has been marketing his work in Key West for over thirty years, and will be showing provocative mixed media sculptures that represent a departure from his usual Key West themed paintings, and are a must see! The Fine art show opens at 6 pm, and will also include acrylic paintings by the current Mr. Gay Pride Key West, Ronnie Carruthers, as well as the dynamic Reverse Paintings on Glass by Steven Frazer. The art will be on display for the entire evening as will be the new jewelry line: MoonFire Tower Ware, which will be featured at the midnight, Comedy Fashion Show! At 8 pm Camp Squirt takes a sharp turn towards the heavens when guests are blessed by a set of performance by 3 SUM (La Te Da). This group is a local favorite and will be singing every two hours, until 12am. Joining in the performance fun will be a long time MoonFire Tower collaborator, singer songwriter, The Great Applesauce (Washington D.C.). The evening will be full of unexpected twists and turns, including the debut performance by the long lost sister of Ma Evan’s: Pepper Mancini; and the campy shenanigans of The Cowboy from Fogarty's: Will Gray. The event will be extra special for MoonFire Tower as he celebrates the Twentieth Anniversary of Camp Squirt, which has toured extensively throughout the United States since its debut in Philadelphia in the 1990's. The performance troupe MFT will be releasing and performing their latest EP titled: Key West at this show! For more information and to download the new EP Free, please go to www.brycelevancushing.com Camp Squirt is a One Night Only Fine Art and Entertainment Extravaganza featuring local, national and international talent. This show is Not To Be Missed! Doors open at 6pm on June 7th, 2017. This event at the new venue, the Side Bar Key West, is Free.