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Eton livens up its stuffed animals

A collection of natural history specimens gathered for the edification of Eton scholars is to be dusted off and rebranded for the mass market.

The stuffed animals, fossils, minerals, butterflies, moths at the Pounds 7,896-a-term school's natural history museum have been aimed largely at the school's A-level pupils. But now curator George Fussey is revamping the collection, in an attempt to attract local primary schools and families.

He will provide colouring materials, questionnaires and alphabet trails, to appeal to younger, and less academic children. "We want to give people an enjoyable afternoon," he said.

"We've got some outstanding materials, attractively displayed. And a lot of the materials tie in with the national curriculum. "We're also a cosy museum, with three largish rooms. You can never lose your children here."

The museum, which is open to the public on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, was established in 1875. Its collection has been assembled from donations dating back to the early 19th century, and includes displays about famous Etonian explorers, naturalists and biologists.

Highlights include a stuffed kakapo (a rare antipodean bird), and a page from Charles Darwin's manuscript for The Origin of Species.

Mr Fussey intends Etonians to act as guides for children visiting to the collections.

"We want to see the museum better used," he said.

Neighbouring Eton Porny primary will be among the local schools taking advantage of the revamped museum.

Christine McLeod, its head, says it is a welcome alternative to taking her pupils on a day-trip to a London museum.

Pupil Dennis Applebaum, nine, said: "Eton's the most famous school in the world. It's so big and interesting. I'll see things I haven't seen before.

I like researching, and museums are good for that. But it might be a bit scary to be where the older boys are."

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