Sunday, 3 November 2013

Fascinated by Fairlynch’s old fossils



You might think that this is a rather fine photo I’ve taken but just wait until March next year when fossils like this from Fairlynch’s collection will be viewable in the sort of truly amazing detail that makes my efforts look rather amateurish.


This particular one, which caught the eye of Jurassic Coast Earth Science Manager Richard Edmonds, seen above, will even be rotatable in 3D and seen by audiences around the world thanks to the technological marvels of digital photography. It’s a fossilised bivalve like a clam or an oyster of the type Myophorella and was found in the cliffs at Osmington Mills on the coast near Weymouth. It will be just one of the 1,500 fossils which will be showcased by an online database hosted by the Jurassic Coast website.

The database will include some 1,500 fossils, largely from Dorset County Museum, Lyme Regis Museum and Bridport Museum. But there will also be items from the smaller museums along the Dorset and East Devon coast and these include Budleigh’s own museum of Fairlynch.

Cathy Lewis, a writer for the project specialising in museum and heritage matters, says: “This will be a fantastic resource, not just locally but globally. The Jurassic Coast has a wealth of fossils, but most can't be displayed because there isn't enough space in the museums. The database will allow us to show the fossils in all their glory for everyone to see. And of course, the child-friendly sections will hopefully encourage a whole new generation of geologists!”

Above: Part of Fairlynch Museum's fossil collection
The Museum’s Environment Room  has much to interest the geologist, and that’s not including the strange radioactive nodules found in Budleigh’s Triassic sandstone cliffs which have their own story to tell.


On Friday 25 October Jurassic Coast Partnership team members photographer Paul Carter, Richard and Cathy, seen above left to right, all of whom are involved with the database project came to the Museum with some highly sophisticated equipment to set about the laborious task of creating detailed images of 35 fossils from the Fairlynch collection.  A total of ten museums including other East Devon museums like Sidmouth and Honiton are taking part in the project, which is funded by Arts Council England and supported by Dorset County Council.


The detail will impress professional geologists both in Britain and abroad, but the way in which the project is being presented will ensure that it is accessible to the general public, which is how Cathy Lewis is involved. “The team has a phenomenal amount of knowledge between them, and will be telling stories way beyond the dry geological facts,” she says. “The geologists have already wowed me with everything from exquisite starfish and elegant ammonites, to dinosaur teeth marks, perfectly-preserved crocodile jaws, and even pre-historic poo! I can't wait to see what else is revealed.”

Each of the 1,500 fossils on the database will be classified according to the geographical area in which it was found and the geological period to which it belongs, allowing users to make a sophisticated search for a particular item.

Yet in spite of all that sophisticated equipment that Cathy and her fellow team- 
members have been using they were amused to find that some fairly basic items were essential to achieve perfect results, namely bluetack and lego! 

And they’re still thinking of a title for the project. Any ideas? They’d be delighted to hear from you. Send your suggestion to

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