A Visit to the Lapworth Museum of Geology
Article by Maria Iredale
The Lapworth Museum of Geology kindly invited me to their opening event on the 10th June. The Museum contains the largest and finest geological collection in the West Midlands region and dates back to 1880 and the foundation of Mason College, the forerunner of the University of Birmingham.
As I had visited the museum when it was still in development, I was very excited to see it completed. The £2.7m redevelopment project retains the museum’s original features and display cases, as well as its Edwardian interior. This is juxtaposed with a state-of-the-art museum experience that is interactive and tactile, with modern technology guaranteeing a more rewarding visit.
Visitors can now explore life over the past 3.5 billion years. The Museum showcases exceptional objects from one of the UK’s most outstanding geological collections, and it’s all completely free of charge. From rocks and fossils to volcanoes, earthquakes, and even dinosaurs, the Museum captures the imagination of all ages. The new displays are based around four key themes:
- Evolution of Life
- Active Earth
- Mineral Wealth
- Learning and Discovery
The collection of over 250,000 objects includes significant material from many influential geologists, scientists and collectors of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including:
- Geological pioneer Charles Lapworth’s collection
- Fred Shotton’s top secret work for the D-Day landings
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s geology collection, which includes Matthew Boulton’s mineral collection
Moreover, the Museum houses some of the finest fossils of the region, recording intervals when Central England was submerged beneath warm tropical seas or covered in coal forests followed by arid desert conditions, whilst the remains of woolly mammoths provide a glimpse of life during the Ice Age.
The mineral and gem collections, some of which date back to the 18th century, contain over 15,000 specimens from all over the world with rare, colourful and exquisite crystal forms. This is a collection of national importance.
Learning resources, including a new dedicated education room, enable schools and visiting groups to discover and learn more about a wide and diverse range of topical geological and environmental issues.
As a non geologist working in an industry filled with these ‘pesky individuals’ I am often struggling to keep up with the terminology and the story of ‘deep time’ as it’s a big and exciting topic. This museum strikes just the right balance between authentic and academic, enough to engage the geologists while remaining accessible to those of any knowledge level, a difficult balance to strike. I left excited about geology with both new knowledge and a better understanding of how the ‘story’ fits together.
I would like to return to the museum both as a private citizen with my children but also as part of a PESGB field trip to be able to view the museum with a group who can add more to my experience by their knowledge of the exhibits. The floor to ceiling rock wall was my favourite exhibit and I look forward to going back, hiding the index, and testing you ‘pesky’ geologists on which rock is which.