Visitors to Gibraltar will be able to discover the Rock’s rich natural history in a newly expanded national museum setting due to open this autumn. The planned opening is the next stage in the development of Gibraltar’s museums and heritage services, and it follows the launch of its nature reserve website earlier this year.
Announcing the initiative, the government said that for over a decade Gibraltar National Museum had been actively researching the natural history value of another site which it manages, Parson’s Lodge.
“Best known for its historical significance, Parson’s Lodge is also a site of natural history significance as the museum’s research is showing. It is part of the Gibraltar National Park and holds a rich plant and animal community; its strategic position makes it a staging post for migratory birds moving between Africa and Europe; and its proximity to the coastline gives it added value in terms of marine and intertidal biology.
“Parson’s Lodge is situated on top of a rich fossiliferous vein, known as the Rosia breccias, which were first explored by the Reverend John White in the late 18th century. The breccias became internationally known as providing significant evidence of evolutionary processes and are considered a key site in the history of science.”
According to the government, the ongoing expansion of galleries, laboratories and storage areas in the Gibraltar National Museum, at its Bomb House Lane premises, has reached saturation after many years of active development. It was, therefore, logical that a solution to the museum’s expansion problems could be Parson’s Lodge, which will now become the dedicated site to Gibraltar’s rich natural history as the Gibraltar National Museum (Natural History).
The premises at Bomb House Lane will be fully dedicated to history and cultural heritage, and all aspects of natural history (with the exception of Neanderthal-related exhibits) will be transferred to Parson’s Lodge.
The overall development of the Parson’s Lodge site will be phased over several years, and it is expected that the new Natural History Museum, in its first phase of development, will open to the public in autumn.
The idea is to make use of the site’s natural assets and turn it into a living museum. There will also be interpretation panels, and open-air and enclosed exhibits telling the story of Gibraltar’s natural history, as well as opportunities to establish an interactive museum, including lectures and workshops as key components. Even though the focus is on natural history, says the government, the important history of the battery and, more widely, of the Rosia Bay area will also be interpreted at the site.
Commenting on the development, minister with responsibility for heritage and the environment John Cortes said, “I have been developing the joint heritage-environment potential of Gibraltar, with the expansion of our nature reserve, the development of nature trails, a network of bird migration sites (of which this is one), and finally the creation of our very own national park. To now have a site dedicated as a museum of natural history would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.
“I am delighted and I wish to express my gratitude to the managers and staff of the Gibraltar National Museum for working with me so positively to achieve this goal. I sincerely hope that the public will now support this initiative and that tour operators will see the benefits of bringing tourists here. It can be the perfect introduction to a tour of the Upper Rock.”
The opening hours will be the same as at Bomb House Lane (10am-6pm, Mondays to Fridays; 10 am-2 pm, Saturdays) and access will, as at Bomb House Lane, be free to residents.
New Interpretation Panels in Camp Bay Area
Meanwhile, eight new interpretation panels have been placed throughout Juan Carlos Perez Promenade, Keightley Way Road and Camp Bay to provide information on Gibraltar’s history and environment.
Both residents and visitors have been invited to learn about the area’s fascinating historical episodes, including:
- The use of convict labour throughout the 19th century
- Camp Bay quarries
- World War II prisoner of war camp in Little Bay
- Military installations in the area
- Marine Protected Areas of Gibraltar’s Southern Waters
- The Spanish Period
- Social history of the Dolphin Pool
“Highlighting the most important aspects of our natural, social and military heritage is really important,” said minister John Cortes. “It sets us in the context of our history, and reminds us of who we are. We will continue to improve and enhance what we have on offer as it is important for us to be aware of our past. History is all about collective memory and I am certain that families and individuals who frequent the area will now be able to enjoy it even more”.