Sea anemone created by Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf Blaschka (1857-1939), glass artists from Bohemia who specialised in representations of plants and animals.

Majestic landscapes, intricate camouflage, or shimmering iridescence – structures in nature frequently inspire artistic interpretations, but visual representations often have more academic uses too.

Models of minerals, organisms or geological formations can be used as teaching aids. They can also represent characteristics that are otherwise hard to preserve, such as colouring in sea anemones. In the case of creatures now lost entirely except for their fossil remains, drawings and models may be the only way of visualising their appearance and habitats.

Before photography, collectors and scientists drew or painted specimens as a documentary record, or as a means of publishing research. Many were gifted artists, as you can see below in the ichthyosaur drawing by 19th-century fossil collector Elizabeth Philpot (1780-1857) and the geological representation of Derbyshire by geologist and sculptor White Watson (1760-1835).

A drawing of the fossilised skull of an ichthyosaur, an extinct marine reptile, by Victorian collector Elizabeth Philpot (1780–1857). It is drawn using her own extraordinary technique of revivifying the dried up ink found in fossilised chambers of extinct squid-like creatures called belemnites. The script reads:“Drawn with colour prepared from the fossil Sepia contemporary with the Ichthyosaurus.”

In this geological representation of the rock strata of Derbyshire each layer is made from the same material that it represents in the model. These inlaid stone tablets were created by White Watson (1760-1835), a geologist, stonemason, sculptor, and writer.

Wax models of the parasitic worm Echinorhynchus angustatus, designed as anatomical teaching aids.