Guide to the Hugh Miller collection in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, c. 1920 - NMS Research Repository
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Guide to the Hugh Miller collection in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, c. 1920

8 August 2017


Around 1920, the retired Geological Survey worker Benjamin Neeve Peach (1842-1926) wrote a guide to the permanent exhibition, which he had just completed, of fossils from the collection of Hugh Miller (1802-1856) in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh (now part of National Museums Scotland). This guide also incorporated an older assessment of Miller's work on fossil fishes by the former Keeper of Natural Sciences, Ramsay Heatley Traquair (1840-1912). The guide was not issued, probably because of economic pressures on the museum in a period of fiscal stringency after the Great War. It is here published with an introduction and notes. It contains considerable information on the structure, content, and interpretive strategy of the exhibition, a rare survival for displays of that ear. It shows how Miller and his collections were perceived by a leading Scottish geologist of that day, and how the collection extended beyond just Old Red Sandstone fishes, with notable strengths also in Jurassic plants and Quaternary mollusc. It provides new evidence of Ben Peach's activity in his seventies, and his thoughts on the geology and palaeontology of Scotland once safely retired from the Survey and its domineering director Archibald Geikie, and looking back to the activities not only of Miller but of his own father Charles W. Peach (1800-1886). Finally, the guide is of real curatorial value for future work on the collection.


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