On the back stairs of the Museum, in a collector’s cabinet, is a small brass microscope. In the Museum’s archive we discovered a box of microscope slides that had been produced in the 1930’s and belonged to local man Gordon Parsons, a naturalist by hobby. They were gifted to the museum in the 1980’s along with this small brass microscope and his camera. There was also a handwritten sheet of paper explaining what the slides were of, but we could not see if they had survived the decades.
Thanks to Exeter University, Falmouth Campus, we were able to look at and record what was on the slides, using their high-tech microscopes. We were amazed.
Gordon Ernest Daniel Parsons was born on 27th July 1909 in Chagford and Died 9th July 1990 in Torquay after spending most of his life working in Okehampton.
His parents were Ernest and Ellen Parsons and they lived at Downton Cottage, Chagford. They were tailors by trade.
Gordon went to Chagford School but did not have the opportunity to receive further education so his family paid for him to do correspondence courses from the Workers Educational Association. It may have been one of these courses that started his interest in nature and wanting to see what his naked eyes could not.
Looking through his microscope must have been like peering into a magical world. Gordon looked at things he found on Dartmoor such as flora, fauna and insects and also things from his own home like fish scales and mouse hair. Through newspaper advertisements, we believe, he purchased some slides of more exotic species.
Gordon became very skilled at putting things he could barely see onto glass slides and then he would examine them through his tiny microscope. But this was only ever a hobby for him as we believe he worked at the post office.
The museum has been using photographs of what is on these slides to inspire children to think about the beauty of nature and why we must protect it and we have been encouraging them to also look at Dartmoor under the microscope.