The Sorby Natural History Society, Sheffield

Covering a full range of natural history interests in Sheffield and the surrounding area, providing for both interested beginners and specialists.

Sorby Museums and Collections Group

Secretary: Alistair McLean

What are natural science collections?

A natural science collection can include herbarium (botanical specimens pressed onto paper), insects, invertebrates, shells, bones, pellets, mammal and bird skins, historical egg collections, reptiles, amphibians and fish, rocks, minerals, fossils and sub-fossils, microscope slides, notebooks, documents, photographs and other natural history archives.

Why are they important?

Many species of animal and plant can be very difficult to identify.  It’s easy for even an experienced naturalist to occasionally get things wrong.  Retention of identified specimens is not only ethical, but also necessary to ensure the validity and trustworthiness of the identifications.  Retention removes doubt.  Additionally, as our understanding of how species relate to each other changes, taxonomy (the naming of species) changes too.  Identifications can be made invalid by the splitting of a species.  Only by retaining a specimen will it be possible to redetermine which of the two ‘split’ species has been recorded.  Finally, natural science specimens can form a vital reference guide to identification.  It is often impossible to learn how to identify some species without seeing a specimen of it first.

Aims of Sorby Museums & Collections Group

  • To liaise with museums in the Sorby area, and to encourage members to visit the museums and use the collections.
  • To act as a watchdog for the care and conservation and long-term security of collections.
  • To organise formal and informal visits to museums and collections.
  • To hold meetings for discussions and to invite speakers about collections and museums.
  • To ensure that local collections with scientific merit are deposited in suitable institutions. (Sorby Natural History Society current Policy is to encourage members to deposit their collections at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield; being the only museum in the region with a specific post dedicated to natural history).
  • To encourage collecting (particularly voucher specimens) to the highest ethical, legal and scientific standards.


The Group will not own or accept donations of collections (except on a temporary holding basis pending deposition in a proper institution).