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.


Nature’s Library

If you’ve been following my Twitter account recently you’ll have noticed me talking about Nature’s Library a lot.

Nature’s Library is a new natural history gallery which will  be on the gallery above the Living World’s. The gallery will explore why Manchester Museum has a large natural history collection, what we have and how it is used. The gallery will lift the lid on the behind the scenes collections work and show how important and spectacular the 4.5 million objects are.

The gallery will open in the spring of 2013.

I’ll be talking about this gallery loads more over the next few months, but in the meantime here is a great clip from one of our students explaining a bit more about the amazing collection and why it is so important. Find out more on the Entomology Manchester blog.

More great Creswell cave art!

Here are the other two videos I took when I visited Creswell:

Climate Change 6th form talks

I’ve recently give a series of talks about Climate Change and the impact on life on Earth to sixth form groups. Stockport Grammar School have posted a nice blog about my talk there.

The talks were a great opportunity to discuss past climate change with students. I concentrated on the dramatic climate change in the Last Ice Age, showing evidence from Creswell Crags. I then went on to explore Snowball Earth, when ice probably reached the equator and Greenhouse Earth, when forests reached the poles.

To end the talk, I spoke about the implications of current climate change and our responsibility.

I’ve really enjoyed giving these talks, which were also given at Aquinas College, Stockport and St. Christopher’s C of E High School, Accrington.

Lost 1876 watercolour of Creswell Crags rediscovered

I had a really exciting day yesterday as I rediscovered a lost water colour painting of Creswell Crags from 1876.

I had only ever seen a black and white reproduction of this picture in a 1966 paper (Jackson, J.W. 1967. Sir William Boyd Dawkins (1837–1929): A biographical sketch. Cave Science, 5(39) for 1966:397–412). We had more or less come to the conclusion it had been lost.

This image is extremely important as it is one of the only visual records of the time when Creswell Crags was originally excavated. The water colour was painted by Reverend J. Magens Mello who, alongside William Boyd Dawkins of Manchester Museum, made many of the most important discoveries at Creswell.

Creswell Crags is one of the most important sites that records the early human occupation of Britain and transformed our understanding of how humans evolved in Britain in the last Ice Age.
We have recently loaned some of our spectacular fossils from this site to Creswell Crags Museum which is well worth a visit.

New excavation at Creswell Crags

Yesterday, I had a fantastic opportunity to go and look at the exciting new excavation at Creswell Crags.

Creswell Crags is near Worksop and is one of the oldest sites of human occupation in Britain. Most of the caves were excavated by William Boyd Dawkins in the late 1800s, when he was  curator at The Manchester Museum. We still have many of the fossils on display and in the stores today.

Creswell Crags is a protected site and until a  year ago, had not been excavated for many decades. Find out about the University of Sheffield’s excavations below.

The new excavations are looking at an entrance (known as ‘The Crypt’) behind previously excavated scree. The 2009 excavation looked at material that came from the Victorian investigations, but this year’s excavation is looking at an undisturbed part of the cave.

As of yesterday, they had found various bones including a deer jaw (possibly a reindeer or a red deer) and two passages extending under Church Hole cave. These passages were probably not occupied, but could have been holes where the rubbish from the occupied cave above was dumped. If this is the case, the finds so far are the tip of the iceberg! Exciting stuff!

The story of Creswell Crags and climate change in the Last Ice Age will be a key story in our new Living Planet and Ancient Worlds galleries. I have put all my photographs on Flickr if you’d like to see more.

Christmas cheer from 1875

I thought you’d like to see some Christmas cards from our William Boyd Dawkins archive here at the museum. Some of them date back to 1875.

Christmas card sent to William Boyd Dawkins in 1875

William Boyd Dawkins (1837-1929) was Curator of Natural History at Manchester Musum from 1869 until he retired in 1908. He undertook pioneering work on early humans in Britain (especially at Creswell Crags), coal deposits and was even commissioned to produce some plans for the Channel Tunnel in 1882.

He obviously liked Christmas and kept his favourite Christmas cards in a album which is now in the archive which accompanies his collection here at the Manchester Museum. See more cards on Flickr.

This card shows a cartoon of a hippo, elephant, wooly rhino and wooly mammoth all of which lived in the last Ice Age. William Boyd Dawkins was a pioneer of the study of the animals of the Last Ice age mostly at Creswell Crags and Windy Knoll, Derbyshire.

This card, from 1880 shows a cartoon of a hippo, elephant, wooly rhino and wooly mammoth all of which lived in the last Ice Age

This Christmas card sent to William Boyd Dawkins 1912, shows a cartoon of Australopithecus an early himinid

Happy Christmas everyone!

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