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Beetle mania... Birmingham's amazing insect collection is latest Museums Trust 'object of the month'

Collection is latest of series of objects of the month the Museums Trust is unveiling through the Birmingham Post

The Stuart Carlier collection of almost 100 drawers of beetles

One of the country’s best collections of British beetles is Birmingham Museums Trust ’s latest object of the month.

The Stuart Carlier collection of almost 100 drawers of beetles is held in the city’s Museum Collections Centre, where it will be on display during this month’s open afternoon on Friday, July 31.

The collection becomes the latest of a series of objects of the month the Museums Trust is unveiling through the Birmingham Post to highlight the finest civic collection in England.

Previous objects of the month include industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton’s tea urn , The Sultanganj Buddha sculpture , a unique velvet hat which, according to rumour, belonged to the last Muslim ruler of Delhi , and the Smethwick Engine, the oldest working steam engine in the world.

Stuart Wace Carlier (1899-1962) was an expert in insects, particularly butterflies, moths and beetles.

He lived in Birmingham for most of his life and is perhaps one of the most underrated entomologists in the country, according to Museums Trust spokeswoman Abi Rogansky.

“Beetles are incredibly diverse and there are more than 4,000 species in the UK alone,” said Ms Rogansky.

“Stuart Carlier spent much of his life building up a very comprehensive collection of British beetles and his collecting took him to wild places such as Cannock Chase, Sutton Park and Oversley Wood in all weathers.

“Here he collected beetles by beating and sweeping vegetation with a net and by looking on flowers, under logs, in dead leaves and in dung.

“After collection, Carlier dried and painstakingly arranged his beetles on small rectangles of card to protect them.”

Natural history recording was booming in the 1940s and 1950s. Around Birmingham, many enthusiasts were members of the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society, of which Carlier was Secretary of between 1937 and 1962.

Carlier also lectured in entomology at Birmingham University and wrote scientific articles about beetles, using his beetle collection for both studying and teaching. Carlier’s obituary describes how those who could look past his brusque manner found him to be an inspiring teacher.

“Carlier meticulously recorded information about where, when and how his beetles were caught and kept this both on tiny labels pinned underneath the specimen and in a variety of cards and notebooks, which used an eccentric numbering system derived from three languages,” added Ms Roginsky.

“Because we have so much information, the collection forms a record of changing biodiversity.

“Stuart Carlier would no doubt be glad we can still use his collection to understand changes in species distribution and to guide modern conservation efforts.”

Birmingham's Museum Collection Centre is in Nechells. Open afternoons are on the last Friday of every month, from 1.30pm-3.30pm. For more information about its open days visit www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/collection/museum-collection-centre

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