In front of me, pinned to an office shelf, are seagulls, two adults and three young,
stuffed and photographed against a rocky background to make a postcard: 'No.
233. Great Black-Backed Gull and young' (see Figure 6.3 ). The postcard is a
curiosity in itself, and a memory of a curious place, the Booth Museum of Natural
History, Dyke Road, Brighton, built by Edward Booth in his garden in 1874 to
house a collection of stuffed birds, mounted in over 300 display cases showing
'natural' settings. Cases of birds go up to the ceiling, many shot on Breydon Water
before making a last posthumous migration to the south coast for stuffing. Day, not
surprisingly, liked this place, although he missed the name of the founder:
Probably the best collection of Breydon birds can be seen in the Dyke Road
Museum at Brighton. They were collected by the late R.Fielding Harmer, a
noted 'gentleman gunner', who regularly punted on Breydon some sixty years
or more ago. The collection is quite outstanding.
Forty years further on, visiting the museum, I too rather liked the place, although I
do not much like Day. Perhaps these stuffed seagulls have migrated in meaning from
being simple trophies of gunning men. Taxidermy a hundred years on, still in its
original case and multiplied 300 times up to the ceiling, carries a pathos in relation
to both the doomed-to-be-ever-static animals and their killers. The museum was no
longer, for this visitor at any rate, a celebratory exhibition of naturalist shooting.
Rather the birds' mute presence triggered some reflection on the different reasons
for which they and other birds like them might have died. If these birds ended up as
south coast trophies, others not here were shot for the
Figure 6.3 A postcard of stuffed gulls from the Booth Museum, Dyke Road,
Source: Postcard in author's possession