Previous Exhibitions

Bicentenary of The Cambridge Philsophical Society

April 2019

Exactly 200 years ago three Cambridge geologists –Adam Sedgwick, John Henslow and Daniel Clarke, founded a new society for the promotion of natural science in the University, looking to the Geological Society of London as a model.

Before long, the Cambridge Philosophical Society was a runaway success and the renaissance of Cambridge science was well underway.

This exhibit explored this early history and the many contributions by geologists past and present.

Illuminating the start of complex life: spatial analyses of Ediacaran communities

Opened March 2019

Cambridge researchers are using cutting edge 3D scanning techniques to understand a community of ancient fossils dating from almost 600 million years ago. Studies of these remarkable and enigmatic Ediacaran fossils are revealing important insights into how they interacted and reproduced. The display is curated by Dr Emily Mitchell as part of her NERC-funded research within the Department of Earth Sciences, and includes casts and 3D prints of these rare and important fossils from both Newfoundland and Leicestershire.

We need more teeth

Opened February 2018

"We need more teeth" celebrates a recent donation of theropod dinosaur casts from Dr Andrew Hempel and that most famous of dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex. Learn all about T rex and take a glimpse at what the Sedgwick Museum's collections team do to curate a new collection. On display are a 1/6 scale cast of a T rex skull along with other casts from our new donation. The display compliments our full-sized T rex skull cast already on display in the Museum.

Geology from the Oceans: Unlocking the history of climate change from the bottom of the sea - Simon Crowhurst and Professor David

Opened October 2018

How can we understand the history of the Earth's oceans by studying microfossils in columns of mud from the bottom of the sea? This exhibition, which focuses on researchers from the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, looks at the way in which sediments from the sea floor have been used over the last fifty years to discover more about the history of the planet. The exhibition explores the Ice Ages that have dominated climate change over the last one million years and looks at how drilling engineering, mass spectrometry, and the Earth's orbit are all ingredients of this remarkable story.

‘For Club and Country’: Geologists, The Sedgwick Club and World War 1’

Opened February 2015

In 2014 research was undertaken at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, supported by Arts Council England (ACE), investigating members of the Sedgwick Club who contributed to the war effort. A small exhibition, including specimens and archives opened in February
this year.

The concept was conceived following the donation in 2012 of records from the family of Professor William Bernard Robinson King (1889-1963). During WW1 he supervised and interpreted many of the 400 ‘borings’ which were put down behind the Western Front, which had been investigated for water supply. He was subsequently awarded an OBE for his services. The Archive, which includes notebooks, maps, medals and a photograph album were catalogued and repackaged with the kind assistance of the late Dr Colin Forbes (1922-2014).

The Sedgwick Club, reported to be the oldest student geological club in the world, ceased its regular meetings with the outbreak of war, indicated in the club minute book. A ‘war-list’ was written in February 1915 and displayed in the Museum; College affiliation and military rank of members were provided. Of the 43 members listed, 7 sadly lost their lives, whilst several others were wounded.

During cataloguing staff uncovered a photo, from a Sedgwick Club excursion to Wales in 1911. It was labelled – WBR King, A.Don, TC Nicholas. It transpired that Archibald Don had been a natural sciences student at Trinity College, although switched to Medicine just before the War.

Don’s biography revealed that he had written to the Woodwardian Professor of Geology, Thomas McKenny Hughes in 1916. He had sent mammoth bones and other items to the Museum that the 10th Battalion Black Watch had found in the trenches in Salonika [Thessaloniki], where he was stationed. The bones were located on display in the museum, as were the original letters and sketches (still in their envelopes!). Sadly Don died of malignant malaria 11th September 1916, aged just 25.

A series of 8 panels have been produced to tell the stories that had been uncovered (including the lives of female Sedgwick club members), and to bring specimens and records together. The exhibition, entitled ‘For Club and Country’ was designed in-house by Rob Theodore (Museums Collections Assistant), and the panels printed externally.

From starting out as a ‘simple’ archive cataloguing/preservation project, and some research into WW1, it became so much more, not least of all providing much needed context to the specimens which had been on display in the gallery since they arrived in 1916. It also highlighted the relevance of archives to specimens of potential scientific interest.

Stripping the Earth Bare: William Smith's 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales

Opened August

Accompanying the newly installed permanent display of one of the Museum's copies of the William Smith geological map of Britain from 1815, the exhibition displays a sequence of 15 maps, which show how geological map making has developed over the last 200 years. These maps have been selected from the unique and historic collection of geological maps belonging to the Museum and Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Cambridge. They range from Smith’s remarkable singlehanded attempt to map the distribution of strata across Britain to the kind of hi-tech geological map which students of geology are taught to make today.

Ediacaran Enigmas: Resolving the fossil record of early
 animals - Drs Alex Liu, Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, Emily Mitchell and doctoral student Charlotte Kenchington.

Opened March 2014

This new display is a snapshot of the research taking place in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge on fossils from the 540-580 million year old Ediacaran Period, known as the 'Ediacaran Biota'. These completely soft-bodied organisms were some of the earliest complex multicellular life on Earth and included the first fossils that can be recognised as animals. The display focuses on one group, the frond-shaped Rangeomorphs. These organisms were like nothing else that has ever been discovered and studies in Cambridge are attempting to better understand these 'Ediacaran enigmas'.

Casts of fossils from Newfoundland in Canada are displayed alongside ones from Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire. This is the first time most of these specimens have been on display anywhere in the world. Also on display are 3D mathematical digital models of these organisms, produced using current research, which try and interpret how some of these organisms may have looked in life. The research in Cambridge makes this the most up-to-date and accurate display on Ediacaran fossils in the UK.

The research contributors to this display are Drs Alex Liu, Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, Emily Mitchell and doctoral student Charlotte Kenchington.

‘As Old As The Hills’ Fossils of the Llanfawr Quarries - Dr Joe Botting
Opened Autumn 2009

A photographic display of 450 million year old fossils from Llandrindod Wells, Mid Wales, capturing a snapshot of an early marine ecosystem.
Llandrindod Wells is a famous Victorian spa town in Wales, but evidence of a lesser known and much older history can be found nearby.
The hills around Llandrindod Wells are formed from 450 million year old mudrocks deposited in a tropical sea during the Ordovician Period. By this time the first truly complex marine ecosystems had developed. 

Above the sea floor graptolite colonies floated in their millions and squid-like nautiloids swam in search of prey. Trilobites scuttled among delicate sponges on the muddy sea floor where brachiopods out-competed molluscs for food and living space. The empty chambered shells of dead nautiloids that sank to the sea floor acted as islands of firm ground in the soft mud. These were colonised by encrusting animals including worms. 

The remains of these animals were covered in mud, baked by volcanic heat and turned into stone. These fossils were buried deep in the Earth, then much later they were raised to the surface and are now exposed in the Llanfawr Quarries of Llanddrindod.
This series of photographs gives a glimpse of a lost world hundreds of millions of years ago.

Understanding the Earth - Archival Evidence, Sandra Marsh

Opened April 2012

The Sedgwick Museum Archive holds over 800 boxes of irreplaceable materials relating to the history of geology and the Earth Sciences. Dating back to the 17th Century this material provides a unique insight into the development of this field of scientific investigation and the people involved.

Mountains to Microscope: A new window on Cambrian life - Tom, Harvey, Nick Butterfield,
 Rob Theodore

Opened April 2013

The Sedgwick Museum launched its new temporary exhibition cases with an insight into the research undertaken by Drs Tom Harvey and Nick Butterfield on microscopic fragments of animals from the Cambrian rocks of North America. 

Following their study from collecting samples in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to extracting the fossils using dangerous hydrofluoric acid in Cambridge, the exhibition will feature highly magnified images of spectacular specimens and stunning shots of their fieldwork.

Also featured in the exhibition are rare fossils from the celebrated Burgess Shale rocks of Canada. Many of the new microscopic discoveries are parts of these ancient animals, such as mouthparts and scales and they reveal important new details on their biology, evolution and where and when they are found in deep time.

Minerals, Metals and Medals

July 2012 – September 2012

Working with Cambridgeshire Competes, a local partnership of museums and sports centres, the Sedgwick Museum curated a small display with a unique angle on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, held in London. Using the Museum’s mineralogical collection, the exhibition focused on some of the wide variety of minerals used in the manufacture of sport equipment and the broader use of minerals in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

On display were the metal ores use to manufacture iron, titanium and aluminium, plus examples of hydrocarbons used to create plastics and carbon fibre. Also on display were the metals used to make the medals, including pieces of gold and silver, and some of the pieces of equipment used in the games, such as a discus, shot put and tennis racquet. The exhibition explored how the museum’s fossil collections link with the town of Wenlock in Shropshire, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games, with examples of fossils from the Silurian Wenlock Limestone and a new piece of artwork by Palaeoartist Bob Nicholls. Banners and photographs of Cambridgeshire Olympic and Paralympic athletes supplied by Cambridgeshire Competes were placed around the museum.

Mary Anning Day
September 2011

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847) was a pivotally important fossil collector in the 19th century, and September 24th 2011 marked 200 years since her famous discovery of the first ichthyosaur fossil in Dorset. To complement a day of events an exhibition of some of the key specimens discovered by Mary Anning, along with correspondence and sketches relating to her legendary findings held in the archives, were put on display.

Pterosaurs from the Cambridge Greensand
November 2011 – January 2012

The Sedgwick Museum holds most of the Cambridge Greensand pterosaur fossils ever discovered. In November 2011, a temporary display was created in response to research on Cambridge Greensand pterosaurs which had been featured the UK national news. The new display included some of the key specimens used in this research along with up-to-date reconstructions of the pterosaurs found in the Cambridge Greensand, courtesy of Dr Mark Witton, University of Portsmouth.

Beginnings – Helen Gilbart
December 2002 – January 2003

Helen Gilbart was an artist in residence at the Sedgwick Museum. Helen is an established artist who has exhibited widely in Britain and abroad. She paints mainly in oil, draws extensively, and is an experienced printmaker. Her first degree combined Geography with Art; much of her professional practice has related to the Earth Sciences. Two separate fine art awards enabled her to pursue her interest in the land in depth - working in the field in Cyprus and Spain. Helen worked with a private fossil collection developing artworks and increasing her understanding of the subject.

The Sedgwick Museum's internationally renowned collection of fossils formed the basis of a collaboration between Helen, the Museum and the Department of Earth Sciences, generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust. The project explored the evolutionary development of organic life under the title: What Colour is Evolution? An examination celebrating four billion years of Life on Earth. The exhibition was a tribute to aspects of a fragile, rich and awesome history that has shaped life past, life present and its potential future. A selection of works were originally exhibited in the Museum between December 2002 and March 2003. The painting entitled ‘Stardust’ is currently on display in the museum.

Monday - Friday: 10am - 5pm

Saturday: 10am - 4pm

Sunday: Closed

Free entry.
No booking required.

Back at the beginning of lock down the Getty museum challenged us to recreate famous works of art with objects from around the home (#GettyMuseumChallenge). As soon as I heard about it I knew I had to make the Duria Antiquior. Despite it’s size, you might have missed the ‘Duria’, high up on a wall in the Jurassic pond area of the museum.

University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) create 28 page Explore and Create pack for families in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.