Explorations in Geology – fossils that made me cry

The Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge

It has been some weeks since I completed my ambition to publish Thomas Ruddy’s account of Queen Victoria’s visit to Palé in 1889.  It was a great pleasure to make it happen and I was very pleased with the feedback and increased readership the posts attracted.

Regular readers will have noticed that it has been rather quiet on this site since the Victoria posts, but much has been happening away from the blog.  Once again one of those happy coincidences which have kept me going in this work of transcription, research, and more recently blogging has spurred me on.

The most persistent theme in Thomas’ journals has been not the gardening which was his (very successful) career, but his hobby as an amateur geologist, and his increasing value as a researcher and fossil hunter, under the mentoring of Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor at Cambridge, and successor to Adam Sedgwick, after whom Cambridge’s geological museum is named.  One of my greatest friends, a retired geography teacher, realised that a former pupil is now a member of staff at that very museum.

Links were made, plans put in place, and so in October my friend and I met up with her friend on the Sedgwick museum staff and two more of her colleagues.  We were treated to a tour of the museum (well worth a visit if you are in Cambridge) and spent a happy hour talking about Thomas and his geology.  I was delighted to know how much he is respected as a contributor to the collection, and that the journals have a potential place in their archive.

Finally, I was able to see some of the collection of fossils donated by Thomas.  These come from some of the oldest rocks in the geological series, so are sometimes quite small or fragmentary.  Expect to be impressed by their age, rarity and significance in the history of the dating and description of geological time rather than their glamour!

Having worked on transcribing, researching and recently publishing the journals for about 12 years, these little pieces of ancient rock affected me greatly – I found myself hovering between joy and tears.

Now I await a formal decision from the Museum’s archivist about whether they will accept the journals into the collection.  The wear and tear (actually I have managed not to tear anything) on the journals as I transcribe them is causing some deterioration, so I need to place them somewhere where they can be properly stored quite soon.  I’m waiting in hope for a positive response from the Sedgwick; I can’t think of anywhere better than the Museum planned and worked for by Thomas McKenny Hughes, Thomas Ruddy’s friend and mentor.


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