The PSNS Story – The Museum of Natural History and the PSNS Library

The Museum of Natural History

As regards the formation of a Museum, the Society, while not neglecting to form a good general typical collection,  should more especially devote itself to the acquisition of as perfect a museum as possible of all natural products of the County.

Inaugural Address by the President, Francis Buchanan White, 7th March 1867

An ambition of the Society was to establish a museum with a fine natural history collection. It was to be as comprehensive as possible in its collections of Perthshire’s rocks, minerals, plants and animals.

In 1877 Sir Thomas Moncreiffe, the President, proposed the society should build the museum, including a library and lecture hall, in Tay Street.   The businessman Robert Pullar of Perth’s North British Dyeworks, contributed generously to the cost of the building. After Sir Thomas’s unexpected death, the new museum which opened in 1881 was named in his honour, the Moncreiffe Memorial Natural History Museum. The museum was educational and free. Crowds flocked to the opening event and there were upwards of 7,000 visitors in its first nine months.

By 1885 the museum was becoming overcrowded. Fundraising began and ten years later an extended museum was opened with a dedicated space for displays of Perthshire’s natural history. Mr Alex Rodger was appointed as the Society’s first paid curator. 

The running and salary costs of the new museum were difficult for the Society to sustain and the museum and its collections were offered to the community. Perth Town Council took over ownership in 1902 and the museum was run by a joint committee.

In 1935 the Town Council opened Perth Museum and Art Gallery (this building) in George Street. The old museum in Tay Street closed and its natural history collections were moved to the new building.

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An interior view the museum extension shortly after it was completed in 1895. It housed the Perthshire Gallery, a collection of local animals, plants and rocks. The ground floor contained the vertebrate animals and in the gallery above were plants, insects, shells, rocks, minerals and fossils. At the time the Museum was declared one of the best in layout and design in Scotland.
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Removing the exhibits from the Tay Street Museum in 1935

The PSNS Library

Long before the computer and the internet, a library was an essential tool for scientific study. From its founding in 1867 the Society accumulated a vast collection of books and journals. Today, the Library remains in the possession of the Society and is housed in Perth Museum and Art Gallery. It is, perhaps, the most complete Victorian natural history library outside of a university or a national library. There are around 2,500 books in the collection, most were published in the 19th century. 

Library Room
The PSNS Library Room