Geological Specimens in the Care of Fife Cultural Trust at Bankhead House, Glenrothes, Fife

Written by Peder Aspen, National Museums Scotland

A study of geological material, formerly held in Fife Museums and now under the care of Fife Cultural Trust, is detailed below.

In 2017, Fife Cultural Trust (FCT) assembled all the disparate collections from various Fife museums into a new Collections Centre at Bankhead House in Glenrothes, Fife. Here, under carefully controlled atmospheric and security conditions all the material was re-grouped into major sections such as Art, Costume, Ethnography and Natural History.

A box of Sowerby minerals. © Fife Cultural Trust.

However, only the geological material at Bankhead House is described in this article and it does not describe other geological collections, such as those in the St. Andrews Museum of Fife Council and St. Andrews University Trust (Aspen in prep.) and in the other trust-run, Laing Museum at Newburgh, Fife (Bertie, 1986). All the geological specimens were found carefully packed in tissue paper and stored in medium sized boxes on a modern racking system. However, although a general description of the contents was noted on the outside of each box and in the on-line catalogue, no detailed study of the contents had been undertaken for many decades.

I spent one day per week for a year, working through the 205 geological boxes which contained over 5,000 specimens (26% rocks; 27% minerals; 47% fossils), identifying, listing, photographing and cataloguing this material, with the objective of producing a comprehensive list for FCT.

Variable handwriting on Wright specimens. © Fife Cultural Trust.


Subsidiary aims were to search for any specimens from local Fife collectors of note, such as the Rev. Dr. John Anderson (Andrews, 1982), Robert Dunlop (Ford, 1988) and James Wright (Begg, 1957). I also looked for any fossils collected from important Fife localities such as the classic Upper Old Red Sandstone fish and tetrapod quarry at Dura Den (Anderson, 1859) and also from the fossiliferous Lower Carboniferous Limestone sites at Inverteil, Roscobie and Pettycur (Geikie, 1900).

One result of this work showed that over a long period of time, many of the important fossil and mineral collections had been safely transferred to the National Museum of Scotland’s Natural Science Collections Centre at Granton, Edinburgh and that the residual specimens at FCT represent only a tiny part of the material from the above collectors. The locality and stratigraphical data for this residue was very poor and thus it has limited scientific value.

However, the author did note that some of the material (e.g. the James Wright Coll.) was of sufficient local interest and quality to be worth exhibiting in the newly constructed Dunfermline Museum, opened in 2018, and this suggestion was passed on to Fife Council’s Museum Services. It would be a great pity if the specimens at FCT remained unseen for further decades!

A large slab of yellow Dura Den sandstone with the fossil fish Bothriolepis and Holoptychius. © Fife Cultural Trust.



I wish to thank Gavin Grant and Nicola Wilson at FCT for making the collections available for study and also for their unfailing kindness and help over the year.

Many thanks to all my colleagues at the National Museums of Scotland for their continuing encouragement and help.



ANDERSON, J. 1859 Dura Den. A monograph of the yellow sandstone and its remarkable fossil remains. Constable, Edinburgh.

ANDREWS, S.M. 1982 The Discovery of Fossil Fish up to 1845. National Museums of Scotland,

BEGG, J.L. 1957 Obituary for James Wright Transactions of the Glasgow Geological Society 22, 187-191.

BERTIE, D.M. 1986 Geological Collections at North East Fife District Museums. Geological Curator 10,
(9), 567-570.

FORD, M. 1988 Robert Dunlop. Edinburgh Geologist 20, 15-22.

GEIKIE, A. 1900 in The Geology of Central and Western Fife and Kinross, Sheet 40. Memoirs of the
Geological Survey of Scotland.

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