Collectors and collecting

The study of geology is not just the preserve of highly qualified geologists but is something that can be enjoyed by amateur enthusiasts of all ages.  In fact, the geology collections in our local Black Country museums are founded on specimens collected by a number of keen amateur collectors.

Portrait of Dr Fraser

Photograph of Dr John Fraser

Take for example Dr John Fraser, a medical doctor who who lived and worked in Wolverhampton in the second half of the 19th century.  Like many educated men of that time he was a competent scientist in other fields and as well as being one of Staffordshire’s foremost botanists, he was also an amateur geologist with a passion for fossils and was at one time president of the Dudley and West Midlands Geological Society.  On his death in 1909, he bequeathed his fossil collection to the people of Wolverhampton for educational purposes and it now forms the largest part of the geology collection cared for by Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Services.  A small number of the 9,000 specimens from Dr Fraser’s collection can be seen on this website.

Other Victorian amateur collectors who bequeathed their collections to our local museums include Colonel George Robbins of the Seaforth Highlanders and James Holcroft, a locally important iron manufacturer, both left their collections to Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery, a selection of specimens from their collections can be seen on this website.

This passion for collecting by local amateur geologists continues today.  Recently Dudley Museums Service was delighted to receive a donation from Stephen Birch, a significantly important collection of fossils from Wrens Nest, including specimens believed to be new species finds for the area.  What distinguishes Stephen’s collection from that of some amateur collectors is the extremely detailed information he records about each specimen, including exactly where the specimen was collected.

Of course our collections are not just the result of amateur collectors, professional geologists have also made important contributions.

Sir Roderick Murchison

In 1839, after visiting Dudley, the famous Scottish geologist Sir Roderick Murchison published an illustrated catalogue of Silurian fossils, of which 65% were from the Wrens Nest limestone quarries in Dudley. These historically important fossils, which include trilobites and crinoids, can still be seen on display in Dudley Museum and Art Gallery.

Graham Worton, currently keeper of geology at Dudley Museum and Art Gallery, has donated many petrological and palaeontological specimens collected during his 17 years as a consulting environmental geologist at temporary excavations and site investigations all around the Black Country and also the UK and overseas to Dudley Museums Service.

A list of links to local and national societies and further information on all things geology which we hope all geologists both expert and amateur will find useful is given on our Useful Links page.

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