Object of the month: sphagnum moss

Our archive is filled with thousands of treasures from the past, many of which never get to see the light of day. We want to change this, which is why each month we’ll now shine a spotlight on one of our many objects. First up is a perfectly-preserved specimen of sphagnum moss (c. 1900), introduced by Beth – a PhD student who is working with us as part of their science internship.

Specimen of sphagnum moss, around 1900.

Specimen of sphagnum moss, around 1900.

This object is a sheet from the Ernest Charles Horrell collection of mosses, which forms part of the University Herbarium at Winterbourne.

Horrell was a British bryologist (a botanist who studies moss and liverworts) who donated his research and moss specimens to the University of Birmingham in 1907/8. Much of the collection comprises sheets exactly like this – with a moss specimen pasted onto the paper, annotations, and often with hand-drawn diagrams.

The moss sample is “foreign”, likely from Germany owing to the annotations written in German. Many of Horrell’s specimens were acquired from collectors operating in continental Europe, as well as some in North America, New Zealand and elsewhere.

This object therefore demonstrates the wide geographic range of the collection, as well as illustrating the vast social networks that Horrell was a part of.  This specimen has survived for over 120 years and is still in remarkable condition.

Horrell’s collection will feature in a new exhibition at Winterbourne later this year

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