Ongoing re-housing and re-curating of the Manchester Museum’s entomological collections constitute a significant part of the work undertaken by the Curator and his colleagues. Two years ago, a good start was done by Graham Proudlove (the Honorary Curatorial Associate; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) with re-curating of the departmental collections of Myriapoda (centipedes and millipedes).
As Honorary Curator of Myriapoda in the Manchester Museum Graham Proudlove is responsible for all of the specimens of multi-legged animal – that’s the millipedes (Diplopoda), centipedes (Chilopoda), Pauropoda and Symphyla (the last two without common names). The Museum holds three very important collections of myriapods and he is working his way slowly through re-curation and cataloguing of each of them one by one.
The first collection is that of J. Gordon Blower, the British authority on millipedes from 1950 to 1995. When he retired from the University of Manchester in 1984 he donated his whole collection of millipedes, and his library, to the Department of Entomology in the Museum. Graham Proudlove has now completed the re-curation of this collection which consists of 4560 bottles in 181 boxes. Currently an Excel database is being produced for this collection which will allow us to analyse what is present in more detail. During the re-curation process we extracted specimens of nearly every British species into the J. Gordon Blower reference collection of British Diplopoda.
The Museum also holds two other important collections of myriapods. One is a part of the collection of the very prolific German worker K. W. Verhoeff who was intensely active from about 1880 to 1945. Most of what remains of his massive collection (he studied myriapods from around the world) is in various German museums but in 1908 the Manchester Museum bought a collection from him for the sum of £18 (anywhere between £2000 and £7000 now depending on the conversion used). Graham Proudlove is now in the process of re-curating this collection. One difficult aspect of this task is in determining the modern names of the animals in the collection. The official Latin name of animals can change (for reasons given in the International Code on Zoological Nomenclature that governs how animals are named) and it is important to use the correct name. The re-curation process will probably take over a year to complete.
The third collection, which so far has not been examined in detail, is that of two remarkable scientists who were active from about 1915 to 1939. Their collection probably arrived in the Museum by way of Gordon Blower who was given it sometime, we think, in the 1950s. Born as Hilda K. Brade and S. Graham Birks they met at the University of Manchester, were married in 1916, and took the married surname of Brade-Birks. Between 1916 and 1939 they produced 36 papers on myriapods, which they titled “Notes on Myriapoda” 1-36. They were the most important workers on this group throughout that time and described four species as new to science as well as doing a great deal of important literature work which stabilised the names of these animals. Without their ground-breaking work Gordon Blower would have had a much more difficult time when he took up work on the millipedes in 1950. Their collection is large, we estimate 50 large bottles each with dozens of tubed within them. It is likely that work will not start on the re-curation and cataloguing of this collection for some years.
Details of each of these collections, and other myriapodological resources in the Manchester Museum, will be published in the Bulletin of the British Myriapod and Isopod Group (BMIG) later in 2011.