written by Nancy Nixon Ensign, Special Collections
Just a few weeks ago a small male or female walrus tusk was returned into the Patterson Library's book drop box with a note wrapped around it "Patterson Natural History Collection-stolen 30 years ago (not by me) Walrus Tusk returned." This taxidermy item returned to the Natural Science collection makes for an interesting question in itself, "What other specimens have been removed from this site and are on their way back? "
"Natural history collections are demonstrably important –- not just for education and cultural reasons, but for wider environmental reasons too. If we want to maintain our biodiversity and understand changes in our environment we need to sustain our natural history collections. Natural science collections underpin our understanding of the planet and the life that lives on it. Natural science collections can also provide rich historical record of cultural activity and a valuable tool for engaging people from all backgrounds with the diversity of life on their doorstep and on the rest of the planet. Those specimens in the Patterson collection are the only way of studying the species and represent that they are a reminder of the importance of conservation before time runs out. "
The Patterson Library Robert Harter Memorial Natural Science Room was a designated repository of several fine collections of natural history for scientific study or display. The Harter Room housed the rock and mineral collections of the later Arthur Macer and GW Patterson. A wide range collection of sea shells from John D. Patterson gathered prior to the 1870's and by the Rev. Tinker who spent many years as a missionary in Hawaii. In 1832, Rev. Tinker was sent on a mission to the Marquesas where ,it is believed, the sea shells were found. The collection was identified and classified in the early 1970's by Rev. and Mrs. Marlin Stewart. There are over 300 varieties of shells in the collections including two rare golden cowries. The library proudly displays a collection of stuffed animals completed in the early 1900;s by HW Mossman , and a spectacular bird collection formerly owned by John D. Patterson of some 255 specimens collected during the 1860's and 1870's. The natural science collection is now spread throughout the Patterson Library as the room is now the site of the Local History Archives housing hundreds of genealogy and local history books dating back into the early 1800's.
I want to thank the person in question for returning this gloriously preserved specimen back to the Patterson Library. It is without doubt, one of the more interesting items which has been returned into the Book Drop!