A German Mystery, can you help?

One of the more spectacular specimens we acquired from Wigan and Leigh College Geology Museum was this beautiful slab of Lithographic Limestone from Solnhofen, Bavaria southern Germany.The Solnhofen Limestone is famous as the beds where the first Archaeopteryx fossil (a primitive bird) was discovered  in 1860, along with a range of other spectacular fossils.

I’ve never come across something like this and assume it is a demonstration piece of the printing blocks that were made from these rocks (the limestone is also known as The Lithographic Limestone).

One of my colleagues from the museum has tried to translate the text, but it is mostly in old german making a translation difficult. Click on the images to make them bigger. If you can help, please let me know!


Palaeontology International Rescue (well Wigan anyway) – Part 2

David Green and I have just got back from Wigan and Leigh College geology museum. There are quite literally just days before the museum closes and the collection disappears.

We collected about 100 fossils, particularly things like graptolites, Solnhofen fossils and trilobites, all things we will be able to use in the museum for things like education, exhibitions and public handling. Some of the collection will be taken to the World Museum Liverpool in the next few days and it is looking like a couple of the schools in the region will take much of the rest of the material. We met the geology teacher form Altringham Boys Grammar today, who had come to look at what they might be able to use there. A group from Altringham Boys Grammar have previously been the museum to do our A-level geology workshops, so it was good to see a familiar face.

So it looks like the vast majority of the fossils will be going to good homes. Excellent news!

Trilobite trackway

The next job is to sort through the material we have rescued and find a home for each of the specimens. Look out for some of these fossil in the coming months.

Palaeontology International Rescue (well Wigan anyway) – Part 1

Last week, David Green (Curator of rock and minerals) and I went to Wigan & Leigh College Museum to have a look at the collection. Unfortunately, this small museum is closing down at the end of the month and is trying to find a home for its collections.

Wigan & Leigh College Geology Museum

The museum was formed in 1883 and was set us as a teaching museum for the college, which was at the centre of the north-west coal mining industry. The collapse of the coal industry in Britain means there is no demand for these courses anymore.

David and I went to see what we would like to acquire for the museum in Manchester. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was really impressed by the quality of some of the specimens from Solnhofen Limestone fossils, to amber and trilobites.

Solnhofen Limestone fossils

Gastrioceras from Upholland

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough room in our stores to acquire the whole collection, but along with the World Museum, Liverpool we will make sure we save the most valuable and important specimens.

We are planning to go across next week on our rescue mission. I’ll keep you posted.

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!

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