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Diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by Klaus Kemp. Image by Spike Walker

Diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by Klaus Kemp. Image by Spike Walker

Microscope slides

alsoMany of the organisms on Earth are so small that you need a microscope to appreciate them individually. These include corals, sponges, foraminifera, radiolaria and diatoms. Although they are tiny they are very important. For example the ancient remains of foraminifera shells form today’s chalk cliffs.

Such tiny organisms are usually kept and viewed on microscope slides. Sometimes these slides are just simple spreads of organisms. Others are works of art where the organisms are arranged in intricate and beautiful patterns.

Microscope slides at RAMM

One of RAMM’s hidden treasures is the collection of around 7000 microscope slides. Many are Victorian. They are is unique insight into a strange and colourful world that had previously been invisible to the naked eye.

Percy Sladen was fascinated by the natural world from an early age. After visiting a marine research station he became particularly interested in starfish, sea urchins and sea lilies. Preparations of these creatures formed the basis of his collection including very small whole animals but also sections of their limbs and spines.

He acquired the slide collections of Dr. W. B. Carpenter and also that of Carpenter’s son, P. H. Carpenter. W. B. Carpenter had trained as a medical doctor and as part of his training he studied a wide variety of life forms. He prepared microscope slides of their organs and tissues in order to prepare himself for a better understanding of the functioning of the human body.

Specimens included animal hair, blood (sometimes the maker’s own) cross-sections of bone, feathers and also the iridescent wings of moths and butterflies. Dissected insects were a particular favourite.

Browse some of RAMM’s collection on Collections Explorer.

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