Research Collections

Some of our Natural History collections are so significant that they are available to view by appointment only.

These include Magnus Spence’s Herbarium, a collection of over 900 plants, algae and bryophytes gathered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly in Orkney. This important collection was reorganised by another eminent Orkney botanist, Henry Halcro-Johnston in the 1920s, when the plants were re-labelled according to the nomenclature of his time. A herbarium catalogue has been compiled by John Crossley, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county Recorder for Orkney.  To learn more about the herbarium click Magnus Spence herbarium.pdf and to view and download the catalogue click Magnus Spence Herbarium List 2018 for ONHS.xlsx.

Archive box. Image © Stromness Museum.
Research collection. Image © Stromness Museum.

We also hold the unique collection of about 4,000 rockslides and associated hand specimens of Ted Kellock, an amateur geologist and naturalist who collected mainly igneous and metamorphic rocks from Orkney, Shetland, Scotland and worldwide. He cut, prepared, ground and mounted his specimens as microscope thin sections on equipment designed and built by himself.

The Museum also holds approximately 390 specimens of pressed seaweed collected between 1839 and 1962. These were collected by several key naturalists including Robert Rendall, George William Traill, Rev. John H Pollexfen, and George Ellison. The collections were digitised as part of a UK-wide project and can be accessed by visiting Seaweed Collections Online and searching for ‘STS’ in the ‘Institution’ field.

We have compiled a guide to some Orkney Seaweeds as part of our 2017 project Celebrating the life and work of Charles Clouston, funded by The Royal Society Local Heroes Grant Scheme.  Click Stromness Museum Seaweed Guide to download the guide for free.

There is a comprehensive collection of Orkney shells held in the Museum by local naturalist Robert Rendall (1898 – 1967) who published Mollusca Orcadensia (The Sea Shells of Orkney) in 1956.  The collection has recently been fully catalogued and photgraphed and will be online soon.  We have also produced an Orkney Shell Guide.pdf which you can download and use while exploring Orkney's shores.

For more information of accessing these important collections, contact our Curator or Collections Manager.