‘Hidden Sheffield treasure’ set to open doors to the public

Professor Tim Birkhead with a skull from a terror bird.
Professor Tim Birkhead with a skull from a terror bird.
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A ‘SECRET’ museum at Sheffield University is to open its doors on a regular basis – after a one-off event last year proved a huge success.

The little-known Alfred Denny Museum is packed with artefacts from the natural world, such as the enormous skull of an extinct man-sized eagle known as the terror bird.

The museum was opened to the public for the first time in over a century during the Festival of the Mind last September by TV bird expert and animal behaviour specialist Professor Tim Birkhead.

A series of guided tours proved to be a big hit, with visitors flocking in their hundreds.

The teaching museum was created by the university’s first professor of biology, Alfred Denny, in 1905.

Now Prof Birkhead has secured funding to open the museum to the public on the first Saturday of every month, between 9.30am and 1pm.

Alongside the terror bird, exhibits include a half porpoise, fossilised tiny flying dinosaurs, and sun spiders with ferocious, poisonous jaws.

The collection, which is a working study museum for students in the university’s animal and plant sciences department, will be manned by volunteers during opening hours.

Volunteer Duncan Jackson, aged 19, said: “Having the museum in the department really helped with my course work.

“I would like a career working with zoology collections in museums, so having the opportunity to get some experience as a volunteer in the Alfred Denny Museum will really help.”

A visitor during Festival of the Mind signed the visitor book saying: “What a hidden treasure. It has been a real privilege to be allowed to see it.

“It was a surprise how extensive the collection is, and how instructive. What an amazing collection.”

Prof Birkhead said: “The public’s enthusiasm for the museum has been inspirational. We’re thrilled to be able to open up the museum for everyone.”

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, who curated and directed Festival of the Mind, said: “The fact that the Alfred Denny Museum, or the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ as it was known during the Festival, will now be regularly open to the public is fantastic.”

The museum, in the university’s Alfred Denny Building on Western Bank, will be open to the public next on Saturday, March 2.