Tucked away in a small, dark room at Slimbridge stand five wooden cabinets. Surrounded by wildfowl specimens, they house one of WWT’s most delicate and scientifically valuable collections – row after row of individually boxed, beautifully arranged eggs.
Donated to the Trust in 1973, the Tomkinson collection has 22,000 specimens representing over 300 European species: from eider eggs to tiny blue tit eggs, the size of your little fingernail. Each egg has been blown and carefully arranged to reflect how the clutch was found in the nest.
Two generations of the Tomkinson family collected eggs between 1888 and 1945, back when egg collecting was legal, and a passionate pursuit for some naturalists. The Tomkinsons labelled and catalogued each egg and documented their finds in diaries and photo albums.
The collection is unique because it is so complete. The Natural History Museum describes it as one of the most important private egg collections in Europe – possibly the world – for its historical and scientific value.
Given its international importance, we have been considering how to make the collection more widely available as part of the Slimbridge 2020 project. We also want to make sure it is preserved in the best environmental conditions. So we are donating it to the Natural History Museum in 2017. It will join their existing collection of 300,000 clutches of eggs that provide a valuable resource for the global scientific community