Little known Sheffield museum to open to the public


A private museum which has not been seen by the public for 40 years is opening up its strange collection.

The little-known Alfred Denny Museum, at Sheffield University, includes strange items from the world of natural history such as the skull of an extinct man-sized eagle, half a dolphin, tiny flying dinosaur skeletons and sun spiders complete with ferocious, poisonous jaws.

Many of the exhibits have never been seen by the public before.

It is being opened-up as part of the Festival Of The Mind, which is bringing leading academics from the university together with a range of artists to bring their research to a wider audience.

The museum was founded in 1905 and is used to teach students in biology and related fields.

Its curator, Professor Tim Birkhead, will be providing a series of tours for interested outsiders.

Prof Birkhead will also be outlining the story behind the museum's treasure in a talk called The Cabinet Of Curiosities, which he will deliver in a rare Belgian circus tent made with stained glass windows and wooden pews.

In another Festival Of The Mind event, called Animal Magic, Prof Birkhead is teaming up with contemporary artist Paul Evans to create a series of giant 8ft bowerbird nest structures around Sheffield.

Once built, artists will be stationed in the human-sized bowers - which in nature look remarkably like human-built huts adorned with trinkets - transforming them into full-scale interactive art pieces.

Prof Birkhead said: "This is a great way to show the public just how amazing nature can be.

"Not many people know about bowerbirds, and even fewer can believe that birds can build such sophisticated structures.

"Science might seem dull on paper but it really is quite remarkable and this is a great way of getting it out of the textbooks and into people's imaginations."

The 11-day Festival Of The Mind will feature 56 events across the city and starts today. It was the idea of Sheffield University's head of cultural engagement and festival producer Vanessa Toulmin sculptor Anthony Bennett.

Professor Toulmin said: "The talks and exhibitions will all be accessible but will never over-simplify complex thinking.

"The academics involved in The Festival Of The Mind don't want to patronise, they want to educate.

"But to help do this in a novel way, about half of the researchers, doctors and professors taking part have teamed up with the city's creative community to help bring their subject to life."

Events will include the real-time production of a piece of giant installation art, painted by robots that have been programmed by Dr Tom Stafford and artist Mattias Jones to respond to an algorithm based on the flight pattern of bees.

Prof Toulmin said: "The Festival Of The Mind will see some of the world's leading thinkers engaging with their local communities.

"It could easily become a template for other universities both in the UK and internationally to mirror.

"If there is any perception now that the university doesn't engage with the city, then there certainly won't be by the end of the month."

Sheffield University vice-chancellor Professor Keith Burnett said: "My father used to say that the richest people in the world are those who take pleasure in ideas.

"Our university and our city are overflowing with ideas.

"Now, with Festival Of The Mind, we have the perfect opportunity to come together and celebrate that."

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk