Written by Isla Gladstone, Senior Curator for Natural Sciences at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The Curry Fund of the Geologists’ Association (GA) is a rare and special thing for those of us who work with geological collections. A pot of money entirely dedicated to geology! The fund aims to help more people enjoy geology by supporting conservation, publication and other initiatives that show innovation that might otherwise not happen.
A list of funded projects shows there is room for more museums to apply, so it’s an opportunity well worth remembering.
This month the team at Bristol Museums was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the GA for an exhibition the Curry Fund helped deliver: ‘Pliosaurus: face to face with a Jurassic beast’ 2017/18.
The Fund gave £3,000 towards the mounting of our 8-metre long fossil of Pliosaurus carpenteri. This meant we could commission specialist Nigel Larkin to present the fossil skeleton as a 3D mirror to its life-sized reconstruction – a crucial part of our exhibition’s visual, story-led approach.
The award was given to mark 30 years of the Curry Fund. After we had popped some fizz to celebrate, the Curry Fund’s Chairman, Dr Haydon Bailey, told us about its beginnings…
Apparently, the Fund’s name doesn’t allude to a balti, bhuna or rogan josh on a Friday night, but is named after its benefactor Professor Dennis Curry – of Curry’s electrical retail chain. Haydon told us how Dennis Curry had loved geology from a young age and studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge where he got a double first, but then had to work in the family business. However, he continued his passion alongside his work – publishing over 100 scientific papers, amassing a collection of tens of thousands of fossils now at the Natural History Museum London, and being awarded the Foulerton Medal by the GA amongst other accolades. This is the Association’s highest award. He was also President of the GA from 1964 – 1966.
In 1987 his donation of Curry’s shares to the GA allowed their Council to establish the investment which would go on to support the Curry Fund and so allow many others to share this passion.
Since the establishment of the Curry Fund 30 years ago it has been able to give grants and loans amounting to over £650,000 to all manner of geological projects. These tend to fall principally in the areas of geoconservation (e.g. site excavation and conservation, information boards) and geo-education, including our own project.
We are very proud to be a part of the Curry Fund’s history, and to continue Dennis Curry’s legacy by helping more people to enjoy geology. ‘Pliosaurus’ was the first palaeontological exhibition at Bristol Museums for several decades. It reached 76,000 visitors and increased our under-represented ‘striving families’ target audience by 125%. Children and families still share their memories of it with us – a magical experience and an introduction to scientific skills and geology.
If you have an idea for a project that could help conserve geology or share it with others, remember the Curry Fund as an opportunity that could help make it happen.
With thanks to Curry Fund Chairman Dr Haydon Bailey for checking and contributing information about Dennis Curry and the Fund for this blog.