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Aremarkable behind-the-scenes look at the extraordinary people, meticulous research, and driving passions that make London’s Natural History Museum one of the world’s greatest institutions.
In an elegant and illuminating narrative, Richard Fortey takes his readers to a place where only a few privileged scientists, curators, and research specialists have been—the hallowed halls that hold the permanent collection of the Natural History Museum. Replete with fossils, jewels, rare plants, and exotic species, Fortey’s walk through offers an intimate view of many of the premiere scientific accomplishments of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Like looking into the mind of mankind and all the fascinating discoveries, ideas, and accomplishments that reside there, Fortey’s tour is utterly entertaining from first to last.
“A fascinating tour.”
—The Seattle Times
“Lifts the veil on the inner penetralia of the world’s premiere natural historymuseum.”
—The New York Review of Books
“An idiosyncratic, endearing, and colorful journey through the towers, vaults, libraries, collections, offices, and cabinets that lie beyond the public galleries.”
—The Boston Globe
“Fortey. . . in his affectionate portrayal of the institution in which he spent his working life. . . sneaks us behind the scenes with all the glee of a small child seeing for the first time the museum's iconic Diplodocus skeleton . . .always authoritative. . . the beauty of the book is that - just like a museum - you can visit the different sections in any order you choose, lingering in the places that most take your fancy. . . and there is plenty of solid science to enjoy, elucidated with brilliant flair.”
“Fortey has a scientist's regard for fact but a poet's delight in wonder. This is a rare intoxicating insight into a hidden community intent on unlocking the universe's myriad secrets.”
"Engaging. . . .Fortey's writing is enough to make the behind-the-scenes work of the museum totally fascinating. . . . (his) delightful book, like the museum it describes, is both rambling and elegant."
“This book is worthy of the place it tells us about, and that is a pretty lofty chunk of praise.”
“Richard Fortey's wonderful book . . . shows the unspectacular elements of the museum collection as the most interesting part of its work, while placing the well-known exhibits in a new and often comical light. . . with eccentricity flourishing unchecked among its staff Fortey has amassed a brilliant collection of anecdotes about their habits.”
“In this loving survey of his life at the museum, Fortey. . . is never less than enthused by all the museum's collections.”
“Compendious and entertaining. . . much of the narrative interest of the book is carried anecdotally, by wonderful stories. . . Fortey gives us a vivid virtual tour of the museum's hidden stores and retired displays. . . . it is a book filled with a passion for nature and pride in an institution that has done so much to compile its inventory. Fortey is a knowledgeable guide, with a keen eye and gentle humour."