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.
‘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
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). http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb590-wbrk.
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.
Ediacaran Enigmas: Resolving the fossil record of early animals, Drs Alex Liu, Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, Emily Mitchell and doctoral student Charlotte Kenchington.
Opened March 2014
This new display is a snapshot of the research taking place in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge on fossils from the 540-580 million year old Ediacaran Period, known as the 'Ediacaran Biota'. These completely soft-bodied organisms were some of the earliest complex multicellular life on Earth and included the first fossils that can be recognised as animals. The display focuses on one group, the frond-shaped Rangeomorphs. These organisms were like nothing else that has ever been discovered and studies in Cambridge are attempting to better understand these 'Ediacaran enigmas'.
Casts of fossils from Newfoundland in Canada are displayed alongside ones from Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire. This is the first time most of these specimens have been on display anywhere in the world. Also on display are 3D mathematical digital models of these organisms, produced using current research, which try and interpret how some of these organisms may have looked in life. The research in Cambridge makes this the most up-to-date and accurate display on Ediacaran fossils in the UK.
The research contributors to this display are Drs Alex Liu, Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, Emily Mitchell and doctoral student Charlotte Kenchington.
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.
‘As Old As The Hills’ Fossils of the Llanfawr Quarries - Dr Joe Botting
Opened Autumn 2009
A photographic display of 450 million year old fossils from Llandrindod Wells, Mid Wales, capturing a snapshot of an early marine ecosystem.
Llandrindod Wells is a famous Victorian spa town in Wales, but evidence of a lesser known and much older history can be found nearby.
The hills around Llandrindod Wells are formed from 450 million year old mudrocks deposited in a tropical sea during the Ordovician Period. By this time the first truly complex marine ecosystems had developed.
Above the sea floor graptolite colonies floated in their millions and squid-like nautiloids swam in search of prey. Trilobites scuttled among delicate sponges on the muddy sea floor where brachiopods out-competed molluscs for food and living space. The empty chambered shells of dead nautiloids that sank to the sea floor acted as islands of firm ground in the soft mud. These were colonised by encrusting animals including worms.
The remains of these animals were covered in mud, baked by volcanic heat and turned into stone. These fossils were buried deep in the Earth, then much later they were raised to the surface and are now exposed in the Llanfawr Quarries of Llanddrindod.
This series of photographs gives a glimpse of a lost world hundreds of millions of years ago
The possibility that the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago may have been caused by the eruption of the Deccan lavas in India has been increased by new research, published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin (doi:10.1130/B31167.1).
A view of the Mahabaleshwar escarpment in the western Ghats, India. Just a small part of the 3.6 km thick pile of lavas that flooded over the Deccan region of India some 66 million years ago? (photo copyright Dr Sally Gibson, Dept. Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge)