Building our new Gorgosaurus!

We’ve got a brand new dinosaur called Gorgosaurus on loan!


It has hot footed it’s way from London after being on display at the Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society.

Thanks to Kate Sherburn for the images.


Zussman visits Howie minerals

IMG_0334I had the privilege of meeting Jack Zussman a couple of weeks ago.

As you may know from my previous posts, we’ve recently acquired Robin Howie’s mineral collection here at the Museum. It is a fantastic collection, but doesn’t have a lot of information with it. Who better to turn to than the last remaining of the famous Deer, Howie and Zussman trio, Jack Zussman?

Jack Zussman, still has an office in the University and was more than happy to help.

It was great to hear his stories about his good friend Robin Howie. My favorite story was about the gemstone talks he used to give: Towards the end of his talk he used to reach under a table and emerge wearing a replica of the crown jewels which he then wore for the rest of the evening. He sounds like a very entertaining man!

Here’s a selection of my favorites from his collection:





Fluorite egg

Fluorite egg

Native Copper

Native Copper

Meteorite mysetery

We have recently acquired the mineral collection from the late Prof. R. A Howie. The collection includes a mysterious meteorite.


Howie was an eminent mineralogist and one of the authors of the student textbook Deer, Howie & Zussman which is well know to all geology under graduates. He spent a significant amount of his career at Manchester University.

I’m hoping to find out as much as possible about this meteorite over the next few weeks. I’m delighted to say that the good people at the Isotope Geochemistry Group have confirmed it is a palasite meteorite, so at least I’m not imagining things!

I’ll let you know what I find out.

My day in conservation

I’m Hetti, a volunteer at Manchester Museum and recently I spent a day working in conservation to clean up some glass slides with thin sections of coal balls and fossilized wood. They had become very dirty sat in storage for a number of years and were being transferred into more suitable card trays lined with acid free tissue paper which will help to preserve them and keep them clean for years to come. Having them neatly stored also makes them much easier to find when they are needed in the future.

Slides before being cleaned and repackaged

Slides before being cleaned and repackaged

To clean them up the dirt and dust was removed with a tissue and then I used swabs dipped in a mix of water and methylated spirit to clean the glass and remove any dust and dirt remaining. I found it a very rewarding job to see the final results all cleaned up and easily accessible for anyone who wishes to use them in the future.

Slides after they have been cleaned and in their new boxes

Slides after they have been cleaned and in their new boxes

The Manchester Museum: Window to the World

The Manchester Museum has just published a fantastic new guide to the museum and collections. It contains some of the most exciting stories about the objects, including a chapter on the geology collection written by yours truly.

Just pop in to the museum to buy your copy.

Interning with Ichthyosaurs

Hi, my name is Anita and I’m a soon-to-be final year MEarthSci student at the University of Manchester. I have been interning in conservation and documentation under ‘Earth Sciences’ at The Manchester Museum for almost 2 weeks now.

 The focus of my time here is to work on the impressive selection of Ichthyosaur specimens (many of which have never been on display) and to identify them as accurately as possible.

 So far I have been; attending meetings, assisting in gem documentation, checking and updating Ichthyosaur records and preparing/conserving fossils for eventual use in ‘Nature’s Library’ (this process involves a review of the current condition of specimens including; checking for pyrite damage, cracks, general grime and removing it).

 Most time however has been applied in research looking for papers describing Jurassic Ichthyosaur type specimens and methods to identify species using various parts of the anatomy. Finding the right papers has been the most challenging aspect so far: they are often written in various languages and can date back to the 1800s making it rather difficult to get our hands on them.

Everyday there is something that leaves me in awe and all of the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, so I’ve really been enjoying myself!

What would you build a lighthouse out of?

Sounds a strange question, but this is what I’m asking Manchester University engineering students.

I’m in the middle of teaching engineering students how to identify different sorts of rocks and asking them to think about how they might use them, based on their properties. This is a key part of their studies and will be helpful throughout their future careers.

First of all, I ask the students to describe ten different rock samples using terms such as grain size, cement and the way they break. After that, they have to try and work out if the rock is sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic and then give the rock a name such as granite or sandstone. Then comes the fun bit!

Gneiss from the Museum's collection. Good lighthouse foundations!

They are given a map of an area of Scotland where they have to decide where to build their lighthouse (hopefully on strong foundations and somewhere near the coast) and then they have to decide which rocks they would use to make the lighthouse walls, floor, road and sea defenses.

We have run this session a couple of times now and the students seemed to have really enjoyed it. More complicated than you first imagine!

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