“The Natural History Museum is, first and foremost, a celebration of what time has done to life,” writes Fortey, whose engaging book similarly commemorates the vast record of life on Earth. As he meanders through the halls of the museum’s back rooms, Fortey proves to be an excellent, witty guide to the scientists and specimens that give testament to this history. Far from being a dry read, Dry Storeroom No. 1
weaves together colorful anecdotes about the scientists, their research, and the value of museums, defending evolution while admitting how much we still don’t know about the Earth’s species (starting with beetles, for example). A few critics pointed out that Fortey errs on the side of including too much information, but most readers will embrace his guide to, well, everything having to do with life.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Fortey, senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London and author (Life, 1999; Trilobite! 2000), here turns his eye to the inner workings of a natural history museum. Though a paleontologist and an expert on trilobites, Fortey looks at all of the major departments of the museum, examining how they work, providing brief backgrounds on the sciences themselves, and telling stories of many of the museum’s scientists both past and present. Explaining how science works through his stories from the museum, Fortey tells of truffles and how they illustrate the science of taxonomy; the Piltdown Man fraud and how more modern techniques exposed the hoax; how one of the ichthyologists found a lost Mozart manuscript while searching for a sixteenth-century book’s illustration of a herring; and how the “First Law of Museums”—never throw anything away—turned up a cast of the Koh-i-noor diamond made before it was recut. Well illustrated with photos, this chatty book meanders from tale to tale in the endlessly fascinating manner of a good storyteller. --Nancy Bent