Current Temporary Exhibitions

To complement the permanent displays, the Sedgwick Museum curates temporary exhibitions. These include collaborations with researchers and artists and also reflect relevant news stories, events and anniversaries.

Myth or Material

Opened 16th October

Myth or MaterialGillian Ellis is a visual artist currently studying for an MA in Printmaking at Cambridge School of Art and has a First Class Degree in Textile Design from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London.  Gillian’s current work takes inspiration from Victorian Scientific drawings and she creates work that looks printed but in actual fact is painstakingly hand drawn.

Myth or Material was created specifically for the Sedgwick Museum and plays with Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, namely how things change gradually to become new life forms.  The forms depicted on the banner contain a mixture of animal, plant and human and illustrate a period of transition.  They also draw on modern ideas of mutation such as genetic modification and selective breeding.
The latin quote at the bottom of the piece is by Charles Darwin, which translated reads “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful”.

Hanging the banner in such close proximity to the permanent displays creates a discourse between the artwork and the encased specimens. The intention is for the juxtaposition of reality and mythology to make the visitors to the Museum question what they are looking at, is it myth or material?

The Sedgwick collection includes many specimens that belonged to the Renaissance artist and naturalist Agostino Scilla who described and illustrated them in his book “La Vana speculazione disingannata del senso” (“Vain speculation undeceived by sense” 1670). The book which accompanies the banner gives credence and belonging to it within the Museum space and provides an extra dialogue between the two related pieces.
Myth pencil 1Myth pencil 2

Myth pencil 3

Stripping the Earth Bare: William Smith's 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales

Opened August 2015

Accompanying the newly installed permanent display of one of the Museum's copies of the William Smith geological map of Britain from 1815, the exhibition displays a sequence of 15 maps, which show how geological map making has developed over the last 200 years. These maps have been selected from the unique and historic collection of geological maps belonging to the Museum and Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Cambridge. They range from Smith’s remarkable singlehanded attempt to map the distribution of strata across Britain to the kind of hi-tech geological map which students of geology are taught to make today.

‘For Club and Country’: Geologists, The Sedgwick Club and World War 1’

Opened February 2015

In 2014 research was undertaken at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, supported by Arts Council England (ACE), investigating members of the Sedgwick Club who contributed to the war effort. A small exhibition, including specimens and archives opened in February
this year.

The concept was conceived following the donation in 2012 of records from the family of Professor William Bernard Robinson King (1889-1963). During WW1 he supervised and interpreted many of the 400 ‘borings’ which were put down behind the Western Front, which had been investigated for water supply. He was subsequently awarded an OBE for his services. The Archive, which includes notebooks, maps, medals and a photograph album were catalogued and repackaged with the kind assistance of the late Dr Colin Forbes (1922-2014).

The Sedgwick Club, reported to be the oldest student geological club in the world, ceased its regular meetings with the outbreak of war, indicated in the club minute book. A ‘war-list’ was written in February 1915 and displayed in the Museum; College affiliation and military rank of members were provided. Of the 43 members listed, 7 sadly lost their lives, whilst several others were wounded.

During cataloguing staff uncovered a photo, from a Sedgwick Club excursion to Wales in 1911. It was labelled – WBR King, A.Don, TC Nicholas. It transpired that Archibald Don had been a natural sciences student at Trinity College, although switched to Medicine just before the War.

Don’s biography revealed that he had written to the Woodwardian Professor of Geology, Thomas McKenny Hughes in 1916. He had sent mammoth bones and other items to the Museum that the 10th Battalion Black Watch had found in the trenches in Salonika [Thessaloniki], where he was stationed. The bones were located on display in the museum, as were the original letters and sketches (still in their envelopes!). Sadly Don died of malignant malaria 11th September 1916, aged just 25.

A series of 8 panels have been produced to tell the stories that had been uncovered (including the lives of female Sedgwick club members), and to bring specimens and records together. The exhibition, entitled ‘For Club and Country’ was designed in-house by Rob Theodore (Museums Collections Assistant), and the panels printed externally.

From starting out as a ‘simple’ archive cataloguing/preservation project, and some research into WW1, it became so much more, not least of all providing much needed context to the specimens which had been on display in the gallery since they arrived in 1916. It also highlighted the relevance of archives to specimens of potential scientific interest.

Collect - Catherine Watling
Opened April 2009

What motivates a person to collect, label, organise, store and display objects? What do we collect and why? How are scientific collections different from those of others?

A collaboration between artist Catherine Watling and the Sedgwick Museum, this display explores the secrets that hide within a bank of objects, based on the collections held at the Museum.

Through a series of reminiscence and handling workshops in February 2009, people at the Cherry Tree Age Concern Centre in Cambridge were encouraged to contribute to the installation by bringing in and sharing their own collections.


Monday to Friday
10:00 to 13:00 & 14:00 to 17:00

10:00 to 16:00 


Stripping the Land Bare - Framing and Glazing of William Smith's 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales

Stripping the land bare - conservation and restoration of William Smith's 1815 Geological map of England and Wales.