The British Association for the Advancement of Science visited Dudley in 1839, led by Sir Roderik Murchison, with a view to reveal the exceptional geology of the area (in particular, the fossils and geology of limestone mines of Wrens Nest and Castle Hill). As a result, the locals strived to establish a museum of geology in the town. This came to fruition in 1862: the first museum in Dudley opened as a museum of mining and practical geology in the mechanics institute in Wolverhampton Street in the town. This early museum boasted one of the finest geological collections in the country and when it closed, the geology collection and displays were moved to the present site at Dudley Museum and Art Gallery in St James Road. 1911 saw a re-cataloguing of the geological collections and a new geology gallery was opened by Charles Lapworth in December 1912.
The Geological Collections currently occupy three themed galleries within the museum. A dinosaur gallery greets the visitors on entry to the museum. ‘Dudley UnEarthed’ provides an insight into the nature of the geology and landscape of the Dudley area, its mining heritage and the key principles and characters associated with it. On the upper floor, a new climate change gallery hosts a full-sized woolly mammoth reconstruction and describes climate change in the Black Country area through geological time.
The largest and most important collection held by Dudley Museum service is the Dudley Geological Collection which has around 20,000 specimens, including:
- The palaeontology collection of approximately 13,000 specimens;
- The mineralogy and gemstone collection of approximately 6000 specimens; and
- The petrology collection of approximately 1000 specimens.
In addition, the museum holds a representative suite of minerals, rocks and fossils from the UK and many overseas locations as reference, teaching and display collections.
The collection contains the definitive collection of Much Wenlock Limestone (Silurian) marine invertebrate fossils and a very important collection of fossil plants and animals from the Carboniferous Coal Measures of the South Staffordshire Coalfield.
Other highlights include limestone fossils collected during the 19th century with a number of type and figured specimens. Amongst these, there is a particularly fine collection of trilobites and crinoids, including the famous ‘Dudley bug’ trilobite which is visible on the town’s coat of arms
A fine suite of delicate plant fossils from the local Coalfield and a definitive reference collection of local rock types and samples of the worked mineral horizons are also of significance.
The museum hosts an annual programme of events (many relate to geology and earth science) and displays temporary natural history exhibitions. Staff lead themed walks to local geological sites and also host rock and fossil identification days throughout the year.
The Keeper of Geology, Graham Worton, is an expert in local geology and is happy to take geological enquiries and to arrange access to the collections by prior arrangement.
Since 2008, making the geological collection available through the internet has been a priority. At the present time, around 15,000 objects in the collection have been catalogued and made available on an electronic database. Nearly 3000 of them have high resolution photographs. This catalogue is available online together with catalogues of other geological collections held in the Black Country via the web portal.
December 12th 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first geological gallery at Dudley Museum and Art Gallery. Work is currently underway to redisplay objects in ‘Dudley UnEarthed’ and the Climate Change gallery, ready for this significant milestone. This will include new interpretation. We intend to open a new Earth Science ‘lab’ in which active research projects will be displayed and ‘live science’, particularly focussed on microfossils of the Silurian Rocks of Dudley, will be carried out in front of the public by visiting researchers.
Graham Worton Keeper of Geology
t: 01384 815575 e: email@example.com