Museum partnership brings geological collections to life

Rockband, a Heritage Lottery Funded partnership, has enabled a group of five museums to bring in expert advice to provide new ideas to help interpret and communicate about their geology collections in innovative and exciting ways, as well as promoting partnership working.

The collections have been used to reach out to new audiences including blind and partially sighted people. New geology sessions have enabled members of the public to understand the relationship between the geology of the local area, building stones and the natural landscape.

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A collectors box of geological curiosities. Photo Copyright and courtesy of Christine Taylor (HCCAMS).

The project has enabled the Rockband partners to develop their confidence in delivering geology sessions, provided the means to make cross-curricular links with geology and, more importantly, inspired the partners to rediscover and embrace a previously underused area of their collections.

The partners are Hampshire County Council Arts and Museums Service (HCCAMS), English Heritage Education Centre, Dover, Canterbury City Museums and Galleries Service, Painshill Park, Surrey and Vale and Downland Museum, Oxfordshire.

A ‘collector’s box of geological curiosities’ was produced for each partner based on locally available geological materials in their collections. This facilitated sessions with schools as well as self-led family and group activities.

Special cards were produced to provide details of fossil invertebrates commonly found in South East England, along with original illustrations, clues on how to tell one fossil from another and fascinating facts and stories associated with fossils.

Each partner was provided with a bespoke textile geological mat designed to communicate the geological structure of the area.  Pockets house examples of local rocks and fossils linked to stories based on the local geological history. These mats were particularly designed for blind and partially sighted people but were relevant to all visitors.

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Textile maps showing local geological features including (left) the figure of The Broomsquire, a character in Hampshire’s geological story. Danebury Iron Age Hill Fort is in the foreground and St Catherine’s Hill, Winchester next to the character. Photos Copyright and courtesy of Christine Taylor (HCCAMS).

A geology/chemistry kit includes resources and links to show how the stone samples relate to the real world of building and industries. This has enabled staff to show the connection between the natural landscape and building material.

This post is based on an article by Christine Taylor of Hampshire County Council published in Earth Heritage Magazine. Thank you also to Philip Hadland of Canterbury Museums and Galleries Service who pointed us towards this article.

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