His descendants have donated the red leather container and its “treasures” to English Heritage, who will display it at what was Darwin’s home – Down House, in Kent. Darwin and his wife Emma gave the box to their eldest daughter Annie, but when she died, aged 10 in 1851, it passed to her sister Henrietta, known as Etty. She continued to fill it with souvenirs, including locks of hair belonging to members of the family, Darwin’s silk handkerchief and the shells.
His daughters labelled the objects using scrap paper from his draft manuscripts. It has been donated by Simon and Randal Keynes, the great-great-grandsons of Darwin. They said: “We are delighted to return this box to Down House.”
Darwin lived there for 40 years until his death in 1882. It was where he wrote his 1859 masterpiece, On The Origin Of Species By Means of Natural Selection.
Museum curator Olivia Fryman said: “This will give visitors a valuable sense of Darwin’s work and the family who surrounded and supported him.”