british museum of natural history


Catalogue of the Lepidoptera Phalænæ in the British museum.

By British Museum (Natural History). Department of Zoology.
Hampson, George Francis, Sir, 10th bart., 1860-1936
Publication info London :Printed by Order of the Trustees,1898-19.
Contributor: California Academy of Sciences
BHL Collections:
Ernst Mayr Library of the MCZ, Harvard University

Serious question- is it like some sacred pilgrimage for white people, especially white photographers, to go to Tanzania or Kenya and take basic ass photographs of Maasai people? It’s like their trip to the zoo. Look- Maasai jumping! Look Maasai piercing! How often do you see a humanizing photograph? Never.

As an African photographer, it’s SO easy for me to tell when a photograph in ~Africa~ was taken by a non-black and non-African person. It’s always the same shit. Cameras angled down on children, literally looking DOWN on them. Children peering around corners at the camera since they have no fucking clue who this person is waltzing around their community like its a safari. The same basic exotifying shit you would see on the discovery channel of a pack of hyenas with the exhibit this time featuring either the Maasai or the Himba. Poverty pornography. It’s all horrific.

And then I compare that to the work of African photographers like Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibe, Zanele Muholi, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Sabelo Mlangeni, James Barnor and much more. These are the people who inspire me every single day and the core of their work is grace, art and an enduring humanity. When you look at a Keita photograph from Bamako, Mali in the 50s, it’s like you’re having a conversation with that person today. I’m always arrested by his work and that of the other African photography greats.

The photographic work of white people on the continent and non-Africans more broadly, on the other hand, does nothing for me. There is no gentleness, kindness, warmth or- fundamentally- humanity in the works. They just don’t get it or really SEE us and it shows.

There’s no way that anyone can ever tell me that great art about Africa can be made by non-Africans. It just does not compute. The continent has been pillaged for centuries. In addition to robbing us of millions of people (including countless creatives) who were exploited and killed through the slave trade, the artistic labor of our ancestors were also savaged and shipped all over the West (e.g. the Benin Bronzes). You can walk into almost any “Natural History Museum” today and find the fruits of our labor featured next to other stolen antiquities between various wild animal exhibits. When I went to the Brooklyn Museum I was captivated by the incredible indigenous art on display, but also by the exploitation, brutality and colonization which spirited this art away from its home communities all the way to Brooklyn. I hear that the British Natural History Museum is an even more horrifying glorification of colonial exploitation in the form of stolen artwork- including a huge inventory from their former African colonies.

So I honestly find it offensive when non-Africans, especially white people, are running around trying to tell African stories FOR us. Robbing us of our agency like they’ve been attempting to do for centuries now. But in spite of all of this, we rise, we create and we flourish. We create works by and for us and there’s so much power in that… and us! I’m so inspired by African artists from across the diaspora and looking at the amazing work being produced day in and day out it reminds me that we shall overcome in spite of any and all bs.



Illustrations of typical specimens of Lepidoptera Heterocera in the collection of the British Museum.

By British Museum (Natural History). Department of Zoology.
Butler, Arthur G. (Arthur Gardiner), 1844-1925
Hampson, George Francis, Sir, 10th bart., 1860-1936
Publication info London Printed by order of the Trustees1879-
Contributor: Gerstein - University of Toronto (

Mary Anning

Mary Anning was born #onthisday in 1799, one of the most famous fossil finders of her day. Her family had earned a living for years by gathering fossils on the shore at Lyme Regis in Dorset to sell to collectors, leading to the well-known rhyme: ‘She sells sea shells by the sea shore’. Mary learned about the fossils from her parents. Despite the lack of a formal education, she became an expert on the fossils she found, and the most eminent geologists of the day often sought her advice. In the 1820s she became the first person in Britain to find complete specimens of an ichthyosaur, a plesiosaur and a pterodactyl.

The specimens that Anning collected can still be found in museums throughout Britain. This large skull is part of the skull and lower jaw of an ichthyosaur (Ichthyosaurus platyodon). The British Museum purchased this shortly after Anning discovered it. The Museum’s natural history collections moved to South Kensington in the 1880s and this is now on loan from the Natural History Museum, on display in our Enlightenment Gallery.


A monograph of lichens found in Britain being a descriptive catalogue of the species in the herbarium of the British Museum.

By British Museum (Natural History). Department of Botany.
Crombie, James Morrison, 1833-1906 ;Smith, Annie Lorrain, 1854-1937
Publication info London,Printed by Order of the Trustees,1894-1911.
Contributor:Cornell University Library

“The body of a perfectly preserved, carefully mummified alien was found buried in an ancient pyramid. A mysterious creature from between 150 and 160 centimeters was found by an archaeologist near Lahun when exploring a small pyramid near the Dynasty doceaba of Senusret II.  The mummy, of what appears to be an alien, dates back more than 2,000 years and it seems it would be a humanoid.”

This mummified alien (5’ 3”) was found buried in an ancient Egyptian pyramid by the archaeologist, Dr. Viktor Lubek near Lahun near Sakkara.   It was discovered while exploring a small pyramid south of the Dynasty doceaba of Senusret II, which contains the queen of the pharaoh. This of course was not revealed immediately to the public either, and dates back to about 1880 B.C.

Inscriptions on the tomb of the mummy showed that this being was a counselor to the pharaoh and was named Osirunet, meaning “star” or “sent from heaven.”  The body was said to be buried with great respect and care, and was accompanied by a number of strange artifacts made of a synthetic material that is not found in any other Egyptian tomb.  Also the source claimed, “It’s unclear what sex it was, but we do know it had unusual reptilian-type skin, no external ears and overly large, almond-shaped eyes.”

The anonymous person that provided this find’s details claimed that the discovery has caused great controversy among Egyptian officials, who want to keep it hidden until a “plausible explanation” for the strange mummy can be made. The Egyptian government has consulted a number of respected archaeologists, but to date none can explain the finding in ordinary terms.

The truth is that every expert who has seen the mummy has concluded that it is not of earthly origin,” said one source. “There is a sense that this is an alien who somehow ended up advising an Egyptian king.” But everyone in the government is moving away from that conclusion which would support the new ideas that the ancient Egyptians had help from aliens in building their extraordinary civilization. The Egyptians refuse to believe that their heritage came from outer space.  It would re-write history books and our understanding of the world as we know it.

Famous Egyptologists like the now deposed Antiquities Minister, Dr. Zahi Hawass (who was sentenced to prison for smuggling antiquities), found bizarre artifacts and disturbing tomb paintings and clamped down on the embarrassing finds with a tight lid of security.  Any leaks that emerged concerning the discoveries were met with denials, derision, and sometimes veiled threats.  These discoveries are said to be hidden away on the 4th floor of the Cairo Museum where other ET mummies are kept.  (Those skilled in remote viewing should have a field day in this place.)  Similar finds are claimed to be found in the British Royal Museum of Natural History.  If true, the London curator and staff are not talking.

In a shocking statement, the head of the Cairo University Archaeology Department, Dr Ala Shaheen (who is now the current Antiquities Minister) told an audience that there might be truth to the theory that aliens helped the Ancient Egyptians build the oldest of pyramids, the Pyramids of Giza.  On being further questioned by Mr. Marek Novak, a delegate from Poland, as to whether the pyramid might still contain alien technology or even a UFO within its structure, Dr Shaheen was vague and replied, “I cannot confirm or deny this, but there is something inside the pyramid that is “not of this world.”  Delegates to the conference on ancient Egyptian architecture were left shocked.  However, Dr Shaheen has refused to comment further or elaborate on his UFO and alien-related statements.

****OK you UFO, extraterrestrial deniers, this is solid proof, is"nt it ?

want more solid proofs :



Report on the collections of natural history made in the Antarctic regions during the voyage of the Southern Cross.

By British Museum (Natural History)
Lankester, E. Ray Sir, (Edwin Ray), 1847-1929
Publication info
London :Printed by order of the Trustees,1902.
Contributing Library:
Smithsonian Libraries

Dippy Casts Abroad

A cast of Dippy installed in the Natural History Museum in London

A cast of dippy being installed in Paris

While Dippy was making his grand debut in Pittsburgh, he caught the attention of a king across the ocean. King Edward VII asked Andrew Carnegie for a dinosaur for England. Dr. William Holland, the director of the Carnegie Museum, suggested that the museum could give the king a cast of Dippy’s skeleton — a copy made from plaster.

Under the supervision of Carnegie scientists, the Diplodocus cast was erected in the British Museum of Natural History in London.

But Dippy’s overseas popularity did not stop there. Governments of many other nations asked Carnegie if they could have their own copies. One cast famously premiered in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris to cries of “Vive la Dippy!” 

Today, replicas of Dippy stand in major natural history museums in England,  Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Russia, Spain, Argentina, and Mexico. Even Carnegie Museum of Natural History made a life-size statue of Dippy that stands on Forbes Avenue outside of the museum in 1999. You might know him from the fun scarves he wears!

Of course, the original Dippy still calls Carnegie Museum of Natural History home and remains the most famous piece in our massive collection.  

Dippy on display in Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 

This is the third post in a three-part blog series about Diplodocus carnegii, aka Dippy. We are celebrating all things Dippy as we launch our new logo featuring his silhouette. Share your own Dippy photos, art, and stories using #newdippylogo.

The British Museum opened its doors to visitors for the first time on 15 January 1759. The Trustees decided that the Museum should be freely open to the general public as well as to academic visitors. However, they were afraid that the collections would be damaged if large crowds of people were allowed into the building. They therefore ordered that visitors should not be admitted unless they held tickets, and that only a small number of tickets should be issued for each day.

Like this ticket, issued for 1 p.m., all tickets were issued for a particular time. Visitors were taken around the Museum in groups of five, each group guided by one of the Under-Librarians. They were taken up the Great Staircase, through the upper rooms and down again to the ground floor. During their tour they were shown the collections of manuscripts, medals, antiquities and natural history.

Zadie Smith and Nick Laird Make a Dashing Duo at Natural History Gala

Plenty of well-turned-out couples were in attendance at last night’s American Museum of Natural History Gala, but British writers Zadie Smith and Nick Laird stick out as the night’s best-dressed couple.

Ms. Smith’s signature turban’s apricot hue perfectly coordinates with her gold accessories, without being too matchy, while Mr. Laird looks distinguished in his tailored tux.

This photo of a glamorous and put-together literary couple is perfect to whip out next time someone repeats the old cliché that writers are schlubs.