As part of “Collecting the West”, an Australian Research Council funded research project that is looking at what’s been collected from Western Australia and what these collections tell us about who Western Australians were, researchers Tiffany Shellam (History, Deakin University) and Alistair Paterson (Archaeology, University of Western Australia) studied the NHM petrology collection. One of the project partners is the British Museum, whose relationship to these early collections and shared history with the NHM is reflected in the catalogue code ‘B.M.’ seen on the specimens in these drawers.
Among the old wooden cabinets, storing historical specimens from around the world, they have encountered various early collections from the period 1818-1860.
In the light of a DCMS funding been awarded to The Natural History Museum, to tackle the poor performance of the biggest of the western range roof of the Waterhouse building, the NHM Petrology Collection and museum scientists have come to the project’s aid to address one of the first hitches that occurred.
The Natural History Museum Building Stone collection contains over 17,000 specimens and is one of the largest documented collections of its kind in the UK. It is particularly useful for matching stone in historical buildings during conservation work, but not only for that!
Often this collection causes an unconscious burst of inventiveness, and it features amazing pieces of art like this black stone from Derbyshire or this spectacular limestone. This time around it has inspired artist Charles Richard to collect the ‘sonic’ languages extracted from geological materials, a continuation of his master project at the Royal College of Art with a mission to create a series of digital box sets.
Continue reading to learn more about the building stone collection and Charles’ project.
High-resolution SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) investigations, along with high-resolution CT imaging of a 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite have revealed “fossilised” ice, showing for the first time direct evidence that when early asteroids formed they incorporated frozen water into their matrix. This has allowed Dr Epifanio Vaccaro, Curator of Petrology at the Natural History Museum, along with colleagues in Japan, to create a model of how the asteroids grew and the planets formed, including our own planet Earth.
The Petrology collection at the Natural History Museum is home to about 189,000 specimens; from the rock collection to building stones, including ocean bottom deposits. The building stone collection is one of the largest documented collections of its kind in the UK, particularly useful for matching stone in historical buildings during conservation work. Beside rock samples, it features amazing pieces of art, like this paperweight in Derbyshire black marble executed by the skilled hands of one of the most prominent nineteenth-century marble makers of the time Thomas Woodruff.
Continue reading to learn more about the marble masons in Derbyshire, the stone itself, the techniques used to create the objects, and the many other works of art created out of this stone such as Samuel Birley’s table in the V&A collection.
Some rare treasures are hidden within the Petrology collection of the Natural History Museum, and this brunch of a bush, encrusted with sinter, which formed prior to 1886 around hot springs on the shores of the old Lake Rotomahana (warm lake) in New Zealand, is one of them.
A rare and special rock, a piece of the upper mantle was donated to the NHM by researchers of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. This specimen is one piece of a large collection of mantle xenoliths that is being donated to the NHM.
Following my last post in the Curator of Petrology blog The island that disappeared, we take a closer look at the type of volcanic eruption that created the ephemeral island, the rocks produced by this type of eruption, and meet Empedocles – the submarine volcano that gave birth to Graham Island.