Little and large

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Amo Spooner from the Museum’s Life Collections has been out in the Museum sharing some of her favourite objects. Here’s the latest in our Spotlight Specimens series…



Big impressive beetles or small shiny ones? That is the question. For me it’s all about the small ones, but here I am getting people’s (and the T. rex’s) attention with the big ones. It’s my tactic for engaging their interest before I try to convince them that the small ones are so much cooler!

Monday – Thursday at 2.30pm a member of the Museum’s collections staff can be found out in the Museum talking about something interesting. For my latest session of Spotlight Specimens I chose to show off drawers of my favourite beetles.

P1020715The big ones are from a family of beetles called Cerambycidae or Longhorn Beetles. This family is found all over the world and varies greatly in size and colour. These ones are particularly interesting to me because of the historic collection they are from. The vast Baden-Sommer collection, containing many different beetle families, came to the museum via a dealer in 1910 and unusually it is still in its original layout. The labels you can see in the drawer were written by the two entomologists that collected the specimens, J. Baden and M. Sommer.

The one you see in my hand (above) is in the subfamily Lamiinae – also charmingly known as Flat Faced Longhorns.

Part of my job is to re-curate and move historic specimens into pest-proof housing –  I am currently writing a blog post explaining this, so watch this space! In a nutshell, the Baden-Sommer Longhorns are a good example of drawers in need of some TLC. This leads me nicely on to my second choice of drawer, the Histeridae.

P1020717These are my first love when it comes to beetles. The Histeridae, or Clown Beetles, vary a lot in size; the one in my hand (below) is about as big as they get, but they can be as small as 1 mm in length.

P1020709I have re-curated all of the Museum’s historic Histeridae specimens and mounted up many modern ones, like you can see above. This modern system of trays and pest proof drawers ensures the longevity of specimens, as well as making them easier to access.

So what makes the little ones so special? During the afternoon I met visitors from home and abroad, young and old. I convinced them to to look a little closer, admiring their shiny black armour and fascinating adaptations. I think they finally agreed that big isn’t always best.

Amo Spooner, Collections assistant (Life)

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More than a Dodo

I'm Public Engagement Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I look after permanent displays and other interpretation. I do a bit of social media on the side, too.

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