BookBrowse Reviews Dry Storeroom No. 1 by Richard Fortey

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Dry Storeroom No. 1

The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum

By Richard Fortey

Dry Storeroom No. 1
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2008,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2009,
    352 pages.

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A museum of the mind and a behind-the-scenes guide to a legendary place

From mushroom gnats to amethysts, botanical prints to vertebrae, the ordinary rests alongside the extraordinary in Dry Storeroom No. 1, The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum. Like artist Joseph Cornell's boxes, the book presents a cloistered world with all the eccentric curiosities inherent in the process of acquiring, labeling, and storing specimens.

Once viewed as markers of civilization, museums were a gentleman's pastime. Fortey's passing references to the British Empire could make it seem as though 19th century game trophies were on a par with women's genteel watercolors, but despite any omissions regarding colonialism or the ethics of hunting abroad for collections, the book maintains a charm difficult to criticize.

Rather than dwelling on the unsavory aspects of museum-making—at one point Fortey encounters a cupboard filled with ...

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