Tucked away far from the heart of Bournemouth and seldom found merely by chance. You’d be forgiven for not knowing of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society. But when you walk through its ancient corridors it becomes no surprise to you why those in the society dub it “Bournemouth’s hidden treasure.”
I was invited to the Society, or BNSS for short, on an open day to discover everything the group had to offer. Between squeezing through congested hallways I was able to view the spectacular collections on display: butterflies, minerals, and Egyptology and dinosaur samples – just to name a few.
“We were almost overwhelmed, the most people we’ve had on a single day. We had over 900 on Saturday. It shows we’ve got the popularity” Said Mark Spencer, president of the BNSS.
“Every time the public comes along they think it’s fantastic. We’ve recently opened ourselves up a lot more to the public.”
The society has been functioning in its current incarnation since 1903 and has seen a century of growth and progression from its long-term home on Christchurch Road – culminating in them being awarded accreditation as an official museum two years ago.
Naturally for a society so old and ingrained in Bournemouth town, thoughts must shift to the future.
John Cresswell, historian and 17 years a member said: “We’ve always been driven by the members. Everything you see around here has been paid for by members.
“There are guys in this place and they’ll tell you everything you want to know. They’ve been here years and years and you can’t get rid of them!”
The challenge is now passing this knowledge and enthusiasm onto a new generation: “Most of the people doing this stuff are retired and once we pop off the edge there’s no young people coming up which is both worrying and sad.” Said Mr Cresswell.
Mr Spencer added “We have a young explorers section now. You wouldn’t believe how far we’ve come to get that.
“If you can catch someone’s interest, especially when they’re young – that can trigger that interest and search for knowledge which goes on for your whole life.”
The BNSS may remain “Bournemouth’s hidden treasure” for now but if the popularity of the establishment continues to rise then the next generation of enthusiastic members is surely around the corner.