Great A-level day with Altrincham Grammar School

A couple of weeks ago we had a great A-level day with students from Altrincham Grammar School.

Fossil assemblage workshop

Louise Sutherland (from the learning team) and I met the group of students at about 10 and we went up to the Life Lab for the workshops. We began with the drawing fossils workshop, concentrating on bivalves, brachiopods and trilobites. The beauty of running this session in the museum is that we use complete fossils from the collection that really help with the drawings.

After this I showed them some of the more spectacular trilobites from the collection and we went on to the next activity: reconstructing fossil enviroments. The students were given a mystery box of fossils and asked to interpret the environment and deduce the age. The students did really well and by the end of the session were able to sum up their findings using fossils and range charts.

We then looked at more spectacular fossils from the Solnhofen Limestone and some amber.

Store tour

After lunch, we went on a tour of the stores and did the new dinosaur footprints workshop. The workshop uses amazing footprint fossils from the collection and asks the students to interpret a simulated trackway. This was done through measuring stride and foot lengths and calculating height and speed.

The workshops and tours seemed to go down a storm and the evaluation showed it was an exciting and useful introdouction to fossils at A-level.

If you would like to book a workshop, please go to the post 16 page.


Celebrate Darwin’s 201st birthday this Saturday

Join us at The Manchester Museum this Saturday to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 201st birthday. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, transformed the way we understand the natural world. 

Fossil squid with ink sac

We are celebrating his birthday with a range of activities and tours for all ages. Experts will be on hand to talk about Darwin’s ideas and show objects from the collection, including things that Darwin collected himself on the voyage of the Beagle! This is also a fantastic opportunity to take a guided tour of the Darwin exhibition.

I’ll be on hand with an amazing selection of fossils from the Solnhofen limestone, where the famous Archaeopteryx was discovered, just a few years after Darwin’s book ‘On the origin of species’ was published.

Hope to see you there!

Manchester Museum – a great focus for Life Long Learning

Curators and collections staff make a massive contribution to life long learning here at the museum, be we don’t often tell people about it and the impact it has on people’s lives. We help the museum come alive for everyone from small children to older people.

Geology at Manchester Museum

I regularly get asked what my job involves and what I do day to day. Here are some of the main things I do:

  • Public activities

Big Saturday collection days and handling objects on the galleries

  • Outreach

Taking the collection out to communities, such as the Darwin festival

  • Exhibitions

For example the current Darwin exhibition and our research for the new mammals gallery

  • Schools

Leading and developing meet the expert sessions e.g. Geology A-level

  • Research

Helping researchers and artists from around the world to use the collection and loaning them material

In Touch volunteers

  • Tours

Taking people and groups round the gallery and stores

  • Student teaching and university research

Helping teach courses and working with researchers in the university

  • Enquiries

We run a free enquiry service for the public

  • Volunteers

We work with a range of fantastic volunteers who help with the collection and working with the public

Last Christmas post

This is my last post before my Christmas break. Here’s the view from my office window to prove we have a slight dusting of snow.

A dusting of snow on The Manchester Museum

It has been a great year. We have opened the Manchester Gallery and the Darwin The Evolutionist exhibition as part of our Darwin festival. We have continued to run and develop our A-level geology sessions, which have proved a great sucess. There has been an amazing range of public activities from Fern Day to Polar day. Rebecca (the Assistant Curator of Natural Sciences) has been doing stirling work documenting the collection which is fundamental in making the collections available for researchers, exhibitions, learning and the public.

I was very sorry to hear that one of our regular researchers Roger Jacobi died last week. His research pushed forward our understanding of the Last Ice Age and he was a genuinely nice man.

In the last couple of months have been focused on research for the new Mammals Gallery. This has been really interesting and promises to transform this part of the museum in the next couple of years.

Thanks to everyone here at the museum who I have worked with over the last year from staff to volunteers. I look forward to exciting things to come next year.

Happy Christmas!

Ammonites help tell Manchester about Darwin

Staff and volunteers here at the museum have just finished putting together objects for our Darwin outreach programme.  About 20 objects will be taken to community groups around Manchester in the new year to help talk about our Darwin exhibition. Some of the most exciting objects are a collection of ammonites showing evolution over millions of years.

The pattern of the edge of the chambers inside the shell changes over time. The oldest ammonite which is 340 million years old shows a simple curved pattern on the shell. The next oldest is 330 million years old and shows a looped pattern. The youngest at 200 million years old, shows a very complicated pattern.

All the ammonites are all from Britain and show how fossils have changed over time by the process of natural selection. The different patterns are used by geologists to tell how old the rocks are. The fossils always follow this pattern nomatter where they have been found.

Manchester’s fossil stores open to the world!

Take a look round our vertebrate fossil store with the first of our new video tours:

The Joys of Documentation

I’m catching up with some documentation. For those of you who aren’t so familiar with museums, this means transferring information from objects to our computer database.

The invertebrate Palaeontoogy store

The invertebrate Palaeontoogy store

As you might imagine, with a collection of over 70,000 fossils this is quite a big job, but very rewarding. Myself and Rebecca Machin (Assistant Curator of Natural Sciences) have been working hard over the last few years to collect basic information on the entire collection which is now done. We are now filling in the details.

Having the information about the collection on computer makes a massive difference to how we can provide access to the collection. We can answer enquiries more quickly and find things to use in learning, exhibitions and handling at the touch of a button.

See the A-level workshops that use the catalogue or take a look at our Type and Figured catalogue available on-line.

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