Handle with care: historical geographies and difficult cultural legacies of egg-collecting

Cole, Edward (2016) Handle with care: historical geographies and difficult cultural legacies of egg-collecting. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
PDF (edited version, 3rd party copyright removed)
Download (7MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3273597


This thesis offers an examination of egg-collecting, which was a very popular pastime in Britain from the Victorian era well into the twentieth century. Collectors, both young and old, would often spend whole days and sometimes longer trips in a wide variety of different habitats, from sea shores to moorlands, wetlands to craggy mountainsides, searching for birds’ nests and the bounty to be found within them. Once collectors had found and taken eggs, they emptied out the contents; hence, they were really eggshell collectors. Some egg collectors claimed that egg-collecting was not just a hobby but a science, going by the name of oology, and seeking to establish oology as a recognised sub-discipline of ornithology, these collectors or oologists established formal institutions such as associations and societies, attended meetings where they exhibited unusual finds, and also contributed to specialist publications dedicated to oology. Egg-collecting was therefore many things at once: a culture of the British countryside, from where many eggs were taken; a culture of natural history, taking on the trappings of a science; and a culture of enthusiasm, providing a consuming passion for many collectors. By the early twentieth century, however, opposing voices were increasingly being raised, by conservation groups and other observers, about the impact that egg-collecting was having on bird populations and on the welfare of individual birds. By mid-century the tide had turned against the collectors, and egg-collecting in Britain was largely outlawed in 1954, with further restrictions imposed in 1981.

While many egg collections have been lost or destroyed, some have been donated to museums, including Glasgow Museums (GM), which holds in its collections over 30,000 eggs. As a Collaborative Doctoral Award involving the University of Glasgow and GM, the project outlined in this thesis aims to bring to light and to life these egg collections, the activities of the collectors who originally built them, and the wider world of British egg-collecting. By researching archival material held by Glasgow Museums, published specialist egg-collecting journals and other published sources, as well as the eggs as a material archive, this thesis seeks to recover some of the practices and preoccupations of egg collectors. It also recounts the practical activities carried out during the course of the project at GM, particularly those involving a collection of eggs newly donated to the museum during the course of this project, culminating in a new temporary display of birds’ eggs at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: historical geography, cultural geography, animal geographies, birds' eggs, natural history, collecting, enthusiasm, museums.
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB)
Supervisor's Name: Lorimer, Professor Hayden
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Edward Cole
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7800
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2016 09:52
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2017 10:01
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7800

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year