Reverend Henry Higgins was one of the museum’s earliest supporters. He sat on the Library and Museum Committee in the 1850s and as a natural historian he also collected and organised displays for the museum. In 1876 Higgins went on a collecting trip, with museum assistants John Chard and James Woods. They were invited by Reginald Cholmondeley, of Condover Hall, near Shrewsbury, to join him on the Argo, a large steam yacht he had hired for deep sea dredging and collecting in the West Indies. The expedition returned with specimens of fish, insects, crustacea, shells, corals, sponges and mosses for the museum’s collection.
Before the Blitz began the sponges collected by Higgins were requested for loan by the Natural History Museum in London as staff there wanted to carry out research on them.
The sponges were still in London on 3 May 1941. Despite being in London, a city that was also devastated by the Blitz the sponges survived and returned to Liverpool after the Blitz.