Friends of the Sedgwick Museum Summer Placements 2022

We are four Earth Sciences undergraduate students from the University of Cambridge. We use samples from the Sedgwick Museum’s collections in our studies, so these placements were an exciting chance for us to work behind the scenes on current projects in the Museum. We each spent 1-4 weeks on a project during the summer of 2022, generously funded by the Friends of the Sedgwick Museum.

Building Stone Collection Conservation – Freddie

My placement concerned the conservation and cataloguing of the Watson Building Stones Collection, a comprehensive collection of building stones used extensively across the UK and its colonies in the 19th and early 20th century. 138 of the specimens were carefully removed from their cases and dry cleaned, using a brush and a museum vacuum, before being photographed and having their condition recorded.

This work has substantially improved the catalogue information available for this collection, which we hope will allow for novel research into this wealth of information, such as into the role of stone in the history of empire.

Collections Cataloguing and Gallery Re-display – Eloise

This project has been a vital step in creating more opportunities in the Museum for community exhibitions. These exhibitions give a voice to different groups within the community, share the Museum space with the public and explore wider societal themes.

I have been making inventories of uncatalogued objects out on display, labelling them, and recording them on the Museum’s database. I have also been packing away old displays and moving current ones to new homes.

“I also enjoyed being able to experience wider museum behind-the-scenes, such as spending a few days at the Museum’s Collections Research Centre in West Cambridge, and creating this mini exhibition.” 


Education Loan Boxes – Korina

I have been updating the Education Loan Boxes, which are boxes of rocks and fossils that the Museum lends to schools. The previous boxes were quite hard to carry, so my project involved organising specimens into new boxes and refreshing the assortment of items in some of them.

We also made a new box, the Mary Anning Box, so children can learn about the types of fossils that she found. The boxes are now much easier to carry and all have a broad range of specimens, ready to be used in schools for teaching.

Archive Documentation – Jessica

My placement focused on extracting data from the 1878-1983 accessions registers, which track items that enter the Museum’s collection. The aim was to give museum staff a better idea of where to look for items from this time period, in the accessible form of a spreadsheet. There have not always been procedures to catalogue and monitor the movements of specimens, so the accessions register is sometimes the only record of an item entering the collection – this is especially true for additions such as paintings and maps.

I also had the opportunity to repackage some of the equipment files from the Svalbard Exploration Collection, which included magazines, invoices, and correspondence.

This is a sample page of an accessions register that I transcribed, from November-December 1894. The last entry on the page reads “Thirty associated Vertebrae of Ichthyosaurus from the gault Brick Pit, Barton Bed, Cambridge. Purchased.” Most items are acquired through collection, purchase, or donation/presentation.

It has become apparent to us that the Museum’s past, present and future underpin its day-to-day activities. Interesting historical records can highlight the contributions of different people to the collection through time, whilst important work conserving specimens today ensures they will be available for future generations. Engaging with the wider community, notably through education and temporary displays, hopes to inspire a new generation of Earth Scientists. We are grateful to both the Museum and the Friends for this opportunity.

“It has been a real pleasure having the four students working with the Museum team over the summer.  They’ve brought enthusiasm, energy and new ideas, and they have each played a key role in moving important projects forward.  They’ve each been able to gain insights into the work of the Museum, and we hope this will support them in their future careers.  We’re really grateful for the support of the Friends of the Sedgwick in enabling these placements to take place.”

Liz Hide, Museum Director 

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