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About the Redpath Museum

The Redpath Musem | The Redpath Biodiversity Project


The Redpath Museum

Mandate of the Museum
The Redpath Museum of McGill University exists to foster the study of the history and diversity of the natural world. Its mandate includes geological, biological and cultural diversity and it carries out conventional academic teaching and research activities on the scale of academic departments of comparable size. The museum also provides academic services to other units. Its distinctive feature is the preservation and curation of objects, the registration of their existence, and the provision of access to other collections. Through the public display and interpretation of these objects, it both advances undergraduate and graduate education, and serves the general public.

History of the Museum
The Museum is one of McGill's most prominent buildings, looking out over the McGill campus. The Museum was commissioned in 1880 by Peter Redpath, a prominent businessman who owned Canada's first sugar refinery, to preserve and display the collections of Sir William Dawson. Dawson had in his possession a collection of fossils and minerals from Nova Scotia, of great scientific value. Peter Redpath publicly announced his donation at a banquet held on April 1880 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dawson's appointment at McGill. Architects A.C. Hutchison and A.D. Steele were appointed to design the building. The Redpath Museum. Photo: Torsten Bernhardt

The opening of the Redpath Museum in August, 1882 coincided with the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting held at McGill that year. The building was singled out as one of the best examples of the "good modern work" that had been erected in Canada. Initially it was intended that the museum and its collections should be in the first place for the professors and students of McGill College and University and secondarily for all the students of Natural Science and for the public.

In 1952, the Museum broadened its focus to become effectively a natural history museum for elementary and high school students. In 1971, McGill under extreme financial pressure, dramatically reduced public access and focused on its scientific research and teaching roles. In 1985-86 the doors of the Museum were once again opened in a limited way to the general public. Today, the Museum is opened to the McGill population, the public at large and visiting school groups. Its public program includes guided tours and children's discovery workshops in both official languages.


The Redpath Biodiversity Project

The purpose of the Redpath Biodiversity Project (RBP) is to provide a central registry of information about biological diversity. This information consists of biological surveys in digital format. It is supplemented by digital maps of the geographical region covered by a survey, including elevation, drainage, climate, land use and other landscape features. This allows the fauna and flora of an area to be related to the structure of the landscape.

The scope of the RBP is both local and global. The local projects are directed towards providing an account of biological diversity in Quebec accessible through the web and therefore available to the general public. This work is funded by the Quebec government. The global projects are concerned to collect the most reliable and systematic biological surveys available, from any region of the world. This work is funded primarily through federal and provincial research grants. All projects are conducted from a computer facility located at the Redpath Museum of McGill University.

The value of the RBP will grow as its data base expands, and so we are always eager to add new high-quality data. Any digital records supplied to us are stored on a server and backed up. They will be used for educational purposes only, and will not be made available to any third party without the express permission of the donor. We are always willing to collaborate by providing supplementary data for a group or a region.

This page was written by Helen Sarakinos.


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