Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Quex Park - Part 2

As suggested in the last post, what a surprise we had on entering the museum - not about cotton at all but this gentleman,
Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton
He was the epitome of a Victorian explorer who explored Africa and Asia between 1887 and 1939
He was also a big game hunter and there were 5 galleries displaying his collections
This post is not to discuss the current thinking on this kind of lifestyle but it was a fact of life in days gone by

I have captured only a few of the 500 stuffed animals on display here. On walking into the first gallery it was a 'wow' factor as all the animals looked so real and we were not expecting it.
Apparently behind the scenes there is an even bigger display

Apart from anything else it was amazing to think that this was the lifetime's work of one man but also the people that built the so life like displays and the backing murals

At the end of this post you will see some information to show that this became a scientific project in recent years as DNA from these animals has helped with a breading programme to save the rarer animals from distinction

A model of a typical African village of the time

Model of a Fulani Cavalryman from North Cameroon & horse 1931

Masks made from animal skins that enabled humans to get closer

Powell-Cotton's personal guns
There was much, much more than I have shown here - just a taster

The Major’s travels through Africa unearthed a wealth of artefacts, including thousands of photographs dating back to the early 1880s and home movie footage from as early as 1927.
There may only be 500 animals on display, but behind the scenes lies an even bigger collection of animal samples. Four and a half thousand skeletal specimens and six thousand skins are stored at Quex House.
As the collection expanded, The Major began to catalogue his specimens. Each animal was measured, labelled and even the lines of latitude and longitude where the animal was found, were recorded. It became less or a sport and more of a science.
In the 21st Century, the Major’s activities may be deemed far from tasteful or politically correct. The Major however, unknowingly left behind a legacy that at the expense of the animals of yesteryear, is a vital conservation tool for today’s endangered species.
ontained in the specimens of Quex House is a vast genetic record, DNA. In 1997 the museum put this genetic information to use. Using Giant Sable Skulls and hides, collected in Angola in 1921, the team were able to take samples of DNA.
The samples proved that South African researchers had found a number of pure Giant Sables. The DNA was the proof the team needed to begin a breeding program designed to save these creatures from extinction.
"You are able to get a genetic blue print of the Giant Sable. It’s a remarkable depository of DNA in that it allows taxonomists to study animal information over time." 
John Frederick Walker - US journalist and author of "A Certain Curve of Horn".
DNA from Quex House was to prove vital once again, when the museum got involved in the Quagga project, five years ago.
The Quagga is an extinct form of Zebra. The Cape Mountain Zebra was a close sister Quagga and through the DNA samples from Quex House, scientists are now able to breed Cape Mountain Zebra that are similar to Quagga in all aspects except their DNA.
At first glance, The Major’s collection of stuffed creatures may appear distasteful and would certainly be frowned upon were he still hunting today. The legacy he left however, has provided a key role in conservation work today.
So the creatures residing in Quex House can rest assured that their untimely death at the hand of the Major is now helping to save future generations from extinction.

From here it was lunch in the lovely tearoom before visiting the house which was interesting too - next post.


Deanna said...

Hello Barbara. Sweet Summer Blessings to you.

What an outstanding place to visit and see this in person. Thank you for sharing. Amazing and creative how these exhibits are created and displayed to see.


God bless,

Elizabeth said...

The first part of the post reminded me a lot of the Museum of Natural History in New York where there are big African animal displays.
Yes, it would be quite wrong to judge Victorian/early 20th century explorers by our current moral standards, though I was a bit horrified in India where there were exhibitions of 1920's tiger hunts where 20+ were killed at one time.
Must now go off to explore Quex Park history more!
So good to see all the young people in your garden.

Vee said...

Fascinating...thoroughly fascinating! I did not learn all of this from my limited research, believe me. How incredible to think of the vast stores behind the scenes and to have these remains prove invaluable in saving a species today is remarkable. You always find the most intriguing things, Barbara!

CherryPie said...

Goodness! I didn't expect that, very interesting.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

That museum is most unusual for sure. Hard to imagine that one man could have done all that. I have heard of magnificent safari's but little did I realize all they might contain. Just to see what is put together there is like walking into a different realm. Can;t wait to see what kind of house this man lived in.

Sara said...

I can see what you mean about the wow factor! It is good to know that something positive has come of all that hunting for sport.

Anonymous said...

You are quite right, we cannot judge by today's standards, because thinking was so different. It is also encouraging that some good has come out of it with the DNA research.

Winifred said...

My Barbara that was quite a tally of killing wasn't it. They look really impressive displays. It's good to know that the DNA has been used to help save these animals.

Terri said...

If you want to see the world on a small budget, go to the UK! Or, like me, read Barbara's blog! You live in an amazing country. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Cheri said...

All I can say is WOW and that was very interesting.