Category Archives: Museum of Zoology

Cromhall Quarry material in the Dry Invertebrate Store

Cromhall Quarry material

Tom White, Collections Assistant at the Museum of Zoology, writes:

Amongst the collections in the Zoology museum lurk numerous enigmatic boxes containing rock and sediment samples, the contents of which were often collected decades ago.  As we continue to clear the Dry Invertebrate store in preparation for it to be moved, we came across several large and extremely heavy wooden crates labelled simply ‘Cromhall Quarry fissure material’.  These contained blocks of pale grey limestone, some wrapped in the remains of tatty plastic bags that were beginning to disintegrate with age.  It took some time to haul all of the material out of the store so that it could be examined.

Cromhall Quarry is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) located a few miles NE of Bristol.  The rocks in our store were collected from Triassic fissure fill deposits known as an abundant source of fossils, most notably very early Mesozoic mammal remains.  At first glance the Cromhall samples looked rather unpromising, but to the right palaeontologist – in this case Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol – even the most boring of rocks can provoke great excitement.  Professor Benton and his colleagues have taken away about two-thirds of the Cromhall samples and intend to extract the fossils as part of their research into Mesozoic mammals.  The material will be returned to the UMZC in due course, thankfully as a tiny fraction of the size and weight of the material we have just had to move!


Introduction to the Dry Invertebrate Store at the Museum of Zoology

Drawer of shells from the Dry Invertebrate store

Drawer of shells from the Dry Invertebrate store

Tom White, Collections Assistant at the Museum of Zoology, writes:

Here in the Museum of Zoology, the work of packing up the stores ahead of the redevelopment of the ARUP building has begun in earnest. The first task for our Dry Invertebrate Store is to sort out the considerable number of sediment samples that have accumulated over the years.  These samples are by-products of palaeontological research in the Museum – to find fossils, you have to collect and process material from a variety of deposits, ranging from relatively modern sands and gravels to ancient rocks.

Sediments from research at the Museum of Zoology

Sediments from research at the Museum of Zoology

Once the fossils of primary interest to the researcher have been extracted, examined and curated, the issue of what to do with the remaining residues can be problematic.  Should they be archived in case they can be of further use to future scientists?  Should they be sent to other specialists interested in different aspects of the material?  In some cases, we might decide that the samples have no further value and the residues can be thrown away.  Those still considered to be important will be moved to a storage facility at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour at Madingley, where a lot of important Pleistocene sediment samples are already kept.

There is a wealth of samples from important fossil localities to look through, and I will keep readers up to date with the latest (re)discoveries!

Store Stories Project Begins

© University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

Drawer of pea clams in the dry invertebrate store of the Museum of Zoology

The Store Stories project begins this week, with collections staff in the Museum of Zoology, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Whipple Museum of the History of Science working on parts of their huge collections kept in their stores and sharing stories found there. Regular posts will keep you up to date on their progress, and show some of the tales of objects and the work done behind the scenes.