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Behind the scenes

It is the data that accompanies each natural history specimen that makes this collection so valuable for researchers. Percy Powell-Cotton was an excellent record keeper and noted geographic locations, specific longitude and latitude coordinates, details of body measurements, the age and sex of each specimen and any external pathology, along with local names for diseases. The primate collection is particularly well renowned, consisting of almost 2,000 specimens including one of the largest collections of great apes in any research collection worldwide. Every year many researchers, both students and professionals, come to the museum from across the world to use this valuable resource. The museum workshops offer a space in which the collections can be examined and researched and accompanying archival data provides an excellent additional research resource.

Percy Powell-Cotton also collected approximately 20,000 ethnographic objects from Africa and Asia. Like the natural history collections, these are exceptionally well documented and provenanced. Between 2009-2012 the Museum hosted a PhD research associate undertaking a study of the archival film footage shot by Diana and Antoinette Powell-Cotton in 1930s Angola. This led to a Heritage Lottery Funded community project resulting in a reinterpretation and display of some of our Angolan collection. A further research project titled ‘Ethnography in Kent and Sussex’ is funding additional research and the permanent display of these collections within the museum. The ethnographic collections are also available for research use.

The museum’s archive and library holdings are available to support research work on the museum’s collections.  Direct enquiries regarding the archive and library collections are welcomed and visits to view particular material can be arranged. Please note that we are happy to arrange one-off or ‘scoping’ visits to the archive free of charge but larger requests for information or long terms projects may be charged a fee. This is due to the limited staffing resources available within the museum and archive, however please note we will also do our best to accommodate all requests for information as effectively as we can.

If you are interested in a research visit to the Powell-Cotton Museum, please refer to our guidelines below, which you will need to read, fill in and submit for approval. Please be aware that bench fees do apply to all collections research visits.

Powell-Cotton Museum/Researchers Guidelines 

If you would like to use/take photographs or film for academic/educational or commercial purposes, you will need to submit the relevant permissions form and charges may apply (for non-academic publications only). Please click this link for further information.

Please send any informal research requests via our contact form with your details and our collections team will respond to you directly.  

The following are just a few of the names that have made use of our collections for research purposes

  • Jaimie Morris, PhD Student - Department of Geographical and Life Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent Megafauna in Motion 
  • Dr Alice May Roberts BSc MB BCh - Rotator Cuff Disease in humans and apes: a palaeopathological and evolutionary perspective on shoulder pathology – Abstract 
  • Thomas Doherty-Bone - Affiliated with the Natural History Museum, London Pickled Toads 
  • Thomas Doherty-Bone - A Merfield’s-eye-view of Cameroon’s rainforest biodiversity: the fluid collections of the Powell-Cotton Museum 
  • Dr. Ashley N. Coutu - University of York, Results from the Powell-Cotton Museum African Elephant Collection 
  • Dr Simon Black and Dr Jim Groombridge - Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent 
  • Alison Bennet - Victoria and Albert Museum, Quex Park Case Study, part of the ‘East India Company at Home’ project.


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