An Archive for Geological Collections Care

In the early 1980s, a survey of geology collections across the UK (Doughty, 1981) revealed that collections of historical and scientific significance were at risk of decay and neglect due to a lack of qualified staff, poor storage conditions and limited documentation or organisation. The West Midlands Area Museum Service identified an urgent need for some form of pastoral scheme to provide care for geological collections.To this end, the Area Museums Service set up a geological service in 1984, with the appointment of a peripatetic curator to provide skilled care of geological collections. Rosemary Roden was recruited as a peripatetic geology curator to undertake the curation, and in many cases the rescue, of geological collections that were noted to be at risk. These included the rescue curation of Dr Fraser’s collection at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, the acquisition and curation of George Maw’s geological collection at Ironbridge Gorge Museum, and rescue curation of Worcester City Museum’s mineral collection.

Kate Andrew, now Principle Heritage Officer at Herefordshire County Museums Service, was trained in conservation of geological specimens at the Horniman Museum. She has carried out collections work on a consultancy basis across the UK, focusing mainly on specimen conservation. Archive material associated with her work, including conservation records, reports, photographs and correspondence relating to projects undertaken at more than 40 different institutions, provides an important record of work done to improve standards of geological collections care.

To ensure that knowledge of previous work is preserved and made accessible for reference in future projects, a centralised archive has been set up at the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham. Jon Clatworthy, the museum director, prepared space for archival material relating to the assessment, conservation and curation of geological collections over the last 30 years. The transfer of archive material from Rosemary Roden and Kate Andrew has been facilitated by Vicky Tunstall and Holly Sievwright as part of the Regional Geology Stewardship Project. The archive will also hold copies of benchmark assessments and visit reports conducted over the course of the RGS project (2009-2012).

A full list of material included in the archive is available Archive for geological collections care – list of material.

For information on how to access the archive and past collections projects in the West Midlands, please contact Holly Sievwright (holly.sievwright@stoke.gov.uk) and Jon Clatworthy (J.C.Clatworthy@bham.ac.uk).

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