Natural Science Archives

geological map
Natural Science archives
natural Science archives
Natural Science archives
Natural Science archives

The Department of Natural Sciences holds a number of historical archives which relate to the history of science.

The G. B. Sowerby 1st Archive

The letter archive of eminent naturalist, illustrator and conchologist G. B. Sowerby 1st (1788-1854) is housed at Amgueddfa Cymru. Sowerby worked closely with his family producing beautifully illustrated natural history books with a particular focus on fossil and modern shells. The archive highlights this with many letters to his brother James de Carle Sowerby and his son G. B. Sowerby 2nd.Throughout his life he also corresponded with many of the important people in conchology including characters such as Hugh Cuming, Thomas Lombe-Taylor and Lovell Reeve. Letters from notable geologists such as Mary Anning, William Buckland and Henry de la Beche are also present in the archives.

The archive contains over 650 letters on 2520 pages bound into 12 hardback volumes. It starts when Sowerby was just a young adult of 18 years old in 1806 and spans to the year of his death in 1854.

The Tomlin Archive

John Read le Brockton Tomlin was one of the most highly respected conchologists of his time. Included in the Melvill-Tomlin bequest (link to collection info) was a unique archive of correspondence between Tomlin and his many shell associates around the world.

It is estimated to contain well over one thousand documents, spanning the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. The content mostly concerns the everyday aspects of shell collecting and identification. It is an archive not only of scientific history, capturing a bygone era of collecting, but also an archive of personal and social history. It has brought into focus aspects of the lives of the people that contributed to it, recounting collecting expeditions and voyages, personal illness and hardship, war, dinner invitations, and even Christmas cards.

Documenting the Past - The Tomlin archive

The Hyde Archive

Amgueddfa Cymru holds a large collection of research papers, notebooks, correspondence and reprints belonging to Harold Augustus Hyde, who was Keeper of Botany from 1922-1962. Hyde was a pioneer in the field of palynology and published over 100 papers. He worked with local physician, Dr D.A. Williams, and they published many innovative papers on hay fever and other allergies. Hyde also wrote several books describing the flora of Wales. This collection came from Sully Hospital in 1997.

The De la Beche Archive

Sir Henry Thomas de la Beche was one of the first professional geologists and founder of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. His archive at Amgueddfa Cymru contains over 2000 letters, drawings, notebooks and photographs from the early 19th century. This was a time when geology was an emerging science, and Charles Darwin, William Buckland, Charles Lyell, and Roderick Murchison feature in the correspondence.

The collection includes several of De La Beche’s sketches and cartoons, including the original watercolour of “Duria Antiquior” (A more ancient Dorset), painted in 1830 to raise funds for Mary Anning’s family. This was the first reconstruction of an entire environment from the geologic past.

Geological map collection

Amgueddfa Cymru holds the world’s largest collection of William Smith’s famous geological map, “A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland…” also known as ‘the map that changed the world’. We have six complete and three incomplete editions produced between 1815 and 1834. We also hold several of Smith’s county maps, and a geological cross-section from Snowdon to London (1815).

Much of the geological map collection was assembled in the 1920s and 1930s by the former Keeper of Geology F. J. North. It includes maps of Wales and England from 1573 onwards, Admiralty Charts of British waters and many later geological maps.

The Museum collection also contains:

  • Models of geological structures by Thomas Sopwith (1803-1879).
  • Glass lantern slides, including photographs of Welsh scenery and geology taken by Dixon-Hewitt between 1907 and 1938.
  • The correspondence of George Robert Vine (1825-1893), an amateur naturalist who studied bryozoans and coal measure plants.
  • Plaster relief models illustrating the geology of Wales.
  • Douglas Bassett Archive, Director of National Museum of Wales and Keeper of Geology.
  • Research papers and notebooks belonging to eminent botanists including P.W. Richards, R.D. Fitzgerald & J.W. Fitzgerald, A.E. Wade, J.A. Wheldon, and A.J.E. Smith
  • Archive papers associated with the British Bryological Society and the BBSUK collection
  • Manuscripts important to the history of botany in Wales including Samuel Brewer’s diary and the manuscript for Flora of Glamorgan by Riddelsdell
  • The diaries of Eleanor Vachell, responsible for the Herbarium during World War I and an important collector
  • Notebooks of E.A. Jenkins, botanical artist in residence 1927-1959
  • Photographs of important Welsh botanists including Eleanor Vachell, Harold Hyde, Paul W. Richards and John Storrie


Sarah Lendrum

Administrative Assistant