Dr Woodward’s Study

Peer into the Woodwardian pew to see a reconstruction of a 17th Century study which houses what is thought to be the oldest surviving geological collection in the world, that of Dr John Woodward. The original, custom-built walnut cases that form part of the display hold nearly 10,000 specimens. These are not just of rocks, fossils and minerals, but also shells, plants and archaeological artefacts from all over the world.

Dr Woodward’s cabinets

Museums as we know them today, did not exist in the 17th century but there were many collections of all kinds of objects, almost all of which were in private hands. However, many collectors, including Dr John Woodward (1665 – 1728) were very proud of their collections and wanted to exhibit them. In order to do so, they commissioned bespoke cabinets full of drawers and compartments to house their precious objects. Such cabinets were often beautifully made and used to display their owner’s wealth and intellect as much as their contents.

Wax Cast

Amongst the variety of objects in Woodward’s collection are some distinctive red coloured fossil casts. Woodward himself may have made the casts with sealing wax, which was commonly used in those days to secure letters and other documents. Pouring the molten wax into hollow moulds of fossils found in sedimentary rocks, the wax positive cast replicates the original form of the fossil and is easier to examine than a hollow mould.

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