Previous Temporary Exhibitions

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

Opened August

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.

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.

‘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.

Understanding the Earth - Archival Evidence, Sandra Marsh

Opened April 2012

The Sedgwick Museum Archive holds over 800 boxes of irreplaceable materials relating to the history of geology and the Earth Sciences. Dating back to the 17th Century this material provides a unique insight into the development of this field of scientific investigation and the people involved.

Mountains to Microscope: A new window on Cambrian life - Tom, Harvey, Nick Butterfield,
 Rob Theodore

Opened April 2013

The Sedgwick Museum launched its new temporary exhibition cases with an insight into the research undertaken by Drs Tom Harvey and Nick Butterfield on microscopic fragments of animals from the Cambrian rocks of North America. 

Following their study from collecting samples in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to extracting the fossils using dangerous hydrofluoric acid in Cambridge, the exhibition will feature highly magnified images of spectacular specimens and stunning shots of their fieldwork.

Also featured in the exhibition are rare fossils from the celebrated Burgess Shale rocks of Canada. Many of the new microscopic discoveries are parts of these ancient animals, such as mouthparts and scales and they reveal important new details on their biology, evolution and where and when they are found in deep time.

Minerals, Metals and Medals

July 2012 – September 2012

Working with Cambridgeshire Competes, a local partnership of museums and sports centres, the Sedgwick Museum curated a small display with a unique angle on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, held in London. Using the Museum’s mineralogical collection, the exhibition focused on some of the wide variety of minerals used in the manufacture of sport equipment and the broader use of minerals in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

On display were the metal ores use to manufacture iron, titanium and aluminium, plus examples of hydrocarbons used to create plastics and carbon fibre. Also on display were the metals used to make the medals, including pieces of gold and silver, and some of the pieces of equipment used in the games, such as a discus, shot put and tennis racquet. The exhibition explored how the museum’s fossil collections link with the town of Wenlock in Shropshire, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games, with examples of fossils from the Silurian Wenlock Limestone and a new piece of artwork by Palaeoartist Bob Nicholls. Banners and photographs of Cambridgeshire Olympic and Paralympic athletes supplied by Cambridgeshire Competes were placed around the museum.

Mary Anning Day
September 2011

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847) was a pivotally important fossil collector in the 19th century, and September 24th 2011 marked 200 years since her famous discovery of the first ichthyosaur fossil in Dorset. To complement a day of events an exhibition of some of the key specimens discovered by Mary Anning, along with correspondence and sketches relating to her legendary findings held in the archives, were put on display.

Pterosaurs from the Cambridge Greensand
November 2011 – January 2012

The Sedgwick Museum holds most of the Cambridge Greensand pterosaur fossils ever discovered. In November 2011, a temporary display was created in response to research on Cambridge Greensand pterosaurs which had been featured the UK national news. The new display included some of the key specimens used in this research along with up-to-date reconstructions of the pterosaurs found in the Cambridge Greensand, courtesy of Dr Mark Witton, University of Portsmouth.

Beginnings – Helen Gilbart
December 2002 – January 2003

Helen Gilbart was an artist in residence at the Sedgwick Museum. Helen is an established artist who has exhibited widely in Britain and abroad. She paints mainly in oil, draws extensively, and is an experienced printmaker. Her first degree combined Geography with Art; much of her professional practice has related to the Earth Sciences. Two separate fine art awards enabled her to pursue her interest in the land in depth - working in the field in Cyprus and Spain. Helen worked with a private fossil collection developing artworks and increasing her understanding of the subject.

The Sedgwick Museum's internationally renowned collection of fossils formed the basis of a collaboration between Helen, the Museum and the Department of Earth Sciences, generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust. The project explored the evolutionary development of organic life under the title: What Colour is Evolution? An examination celebrating four billion years of Life on Earth. The exhibition was a tribute to aspects of a fragile, rich and awesome history that has shaped life past, life present and its potential future. A selection of works were originally exhibited in the Museum between December 2002 and March 2003. The painting entitled ‘Stardust’ is currently on display in the museum.

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

10:00 to 16:00 


Winter Closure
The Museum will be closed from Friday 22nd December 2017, re-opening Monday 8th January 2018

Dr Elizabeth Harper has been appointed Acting Director of the Sedgwick Museum following the retirement of Dr Ken McNamara.

Celebrating 100 years since John Edward Marr (1857-1933) became the 9th Woodwardian Professor, Monday 30th October: Visit our online Archive gallery