Erasmus Darwin House holds a number of objects which belonged to Erasmus and his family, which are on loan from organisations such as Lichfield City Council, Stoke on Trent Potteries Museum, Holburne Museum and English Heritage. His work covered a variety of subjects, from science and inventions to medicine and the education of women, and the collections reflect this, covering topics such as these and more!
Our most prized object is Darwin’s Common Place Book which gives us great insight into the mind of this amazing man. It is a large notebook on loan from English Heritage which contains Darwin’s own notes on his medical cases, his thoughts on such things as meteorology and botany, and some fantastic drawings of his inventions. A group of volunteers have recently completed a demanding project to transcribe the book for our visitors.
‘It was a privilege to transcribe Darwin’s original hand written notes… it felt like he was in the room and speaking the words!
A copy can now be found on the lectern in the Inventions Room which compares Darwin’s original page to a translated page, so now we can better understand his passion for medicine and engineering!
You will also find the Common Place Book as part of the British Museums Teaching History in 100 Objects project which provides resources for teachers who want to use museum objects as a way to interpret history.
Object in Focus
Not many people know that it was Erasmus who inspired the story behind Frankenstein. Mary Shelley (1797-1851) describes how the idea came about in the preface to the book.
She talks of a time on holiday in Lake Geneva with Lord Byron and her future husband, Percy, when they were telling ghost stories. Percy, an admirer of Darwin’s poetry, recounted a story of Darwin’s experiments in galvanism – the stimulation of parts using an electric current. Mary went to bed but was unable to sleep. In the morning the announced she had an idea for a story…
This copy is on loan from a Committee member and is on display in the Inventions Room. Darwin died long before the book was written but we think it’s fantastic for our Darwin to have a connection with such a well known work of fiction!