It gives me great pleasure to be able to congratulate Roy Starkey, a past President of the Russell Society (2009-2013), for being awarded the British Empire Medal for services to mineralogy. The award was presented on 20th October at the Guildhall in Worcester by the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Mrs Beatrice Grant. The ceremony was watched by family, friends, and members of the mineralogy community, including Robin Hansen, Curator, Minerals at the Natural History Museum London and Tom Cotterell, Senior Curator: Mineralogy and Petrology at Amgueddfa Cymru, National Museum Wales.
Roy is well known to most of us and it is wonderful that his invaluable contribution to mineralogy and the mineralogical community has been recognised by the Crown. The award celebrates Roy’s essential role in sustaining the mineralogical community and helping to preserve Britain’s mineral heritage for future generations. His contributions to the Russell Society have been enormous, and I think it no exaggeration to say that if it wasn’t for Roy, the Society would be in a far poorer state than it is today.
Roy was delighted to be given the award, commenting: “I was very surprised, to say the least, when I received the letter notifying me of the award. The study of minerals has been a lifelong passion for me, through which I’ve met many wonderful people. It has been a huge privilege to work with curators and collections in our national museums. I see the award as being good for mineralogy in general and it was great to be able to celebrate this honour with family and friends in Worcester.”
This is not the first time that Roy’s achievements have been recognised. In 2016, Roy was the first recipient of The Marsh Award for Mineralogy, which recognises ‘unsung heroes’ who have made a major contribution to the promotion of palaeontology or mineralogy in the UK and abroad.
Dr David Aubrey-Jones, Honorary President of the Russell Society
Our zoom talk on Wednesday 8th November will be Dr Michael J. Simms, Senior Curator of Geology, National Museums Northern Ireland, who will talking to us about “Mineralisation in Triassic caves of southern Britain”
Our previously advertised talk by Jamie Lund of The National Trust on the topic of “The archaeology of the Lake District extractive industries – its legacy, significance and future”, has been rescheduled for the 13th December.
Following on from our highly successful panel discussion about ‘What should we do with our collections’ in April of this year, the Geological Curators Group has picked-up on this theme for their Winter Seminar and AGM ‘Building bridges between collectors and museums’.
Good relationships between collectors and museums are critical for us to curate ethical collections, not just for individual museums but also to the wider geoscience community. These relationships have not always been fully harmonious in the past, so the theme this year is to address current and potential issues through a series of talks and discussions, from both sides. While ‘happy ending’ tales of scientifically important specimens being offered to museums are our desired pathway, these are balanced by other stories of collections being hidden away by disgruntled collectors, discarded by disinterested families, or lost due to lack of knowledge.
There are still a few slots available for talks or presentations Events – The Geological Curators Group (geocurator.org)
If you are interested in contributing in any way, please do get in touch as soon as possible so that the organisers can add you to the programme for the day. We are welcoming talks from all sectors, whether private collectors or curators.
We are really keen to explore this subject and work out how best to go forward to enable museums to work better with collectors.
Do collectors need more advice about how to ensure their collections are protected in perpetuity? What details are needed by museums if they are offered specimens, and why? What will ultimately happen to private collections if museums are unable to take them?
All these questions, and more, are waiting to be answered.
If you know of anyone who could contribute to this discussion then please do spread the word. We are looking for a range of non-confrontational talks and discussions to try to work through these sorts of issues:
- Many important specimens are held in private collections. How can museums gain an understanding of the scope of these collections and the needs of collectors?
- How can museums gain the trust of collectors and start to find ways to work around the sometimes strict conditions imposed upon them?
- How do collectors feel that museums can improve the way that they deal with such donations?
- Lack of ‘proof of legal ownership’ or ‘documentation of permission to collect’ can be major sticking points for museums; however, such provenance was rarely required or given historically (or even more recently). How can we ensure that important historic specimens can be integrated into museum collections? Do we need a more flexible approach to the ‘ownership’ of geological specimens collected from casual sites that are not SSSI’s or other protected statuses?
- What can we learn from previous experiences?
- Can museums produce advice to help private collectors to document their collections and highlight or label specimens that might ideally end up in a museum in the future?
Talks should be 15 minutes, including time for questions. They can be pre-recorded if needed, but would ideally be given live to enable Q&A. There is also the possibility of giving a five minute ‘lightning talk’ if that interests you. If you would like to speak at the conference, or discuss an idea with us, please get in touch ASAP at [email protected]
We are pleased to confirm that Jo Battersill of Anglesey Mining will be talking about the mining operations on Parys Mountain. The waiting room will open at 19.45. Log in details are on the member’s page.
The National Museum Cardiff is holding the 13th Unknown Wales conference in the Reardon Smith lecture theatre in the Museum between 10am and 1pm on Saturday 7th October. You can join live or register to watch virtually. It is free to attend but donations are welcome.
During the conference, Senior Curator Tom Cotterell, will be giving a talk on the subject of “Welsh Diamonds”. It will be 20 minutes featuring not just “Merthyr Diamonds”, but others too – but you will have to attend to find out more.
Registration details and the full programme of speakers can be found on this link:
The Scottish Geology Trust has arranged a very extensive program of events across Scotland for their annual festival. This includes guided walks, boat trips, lectures and geological exhibitions. There are also on-line talks. The events are open to everyone, although some may need to be prebooked. To see the program and find out more about each event visit https://www.scottishgeologytrust.org/festival/
John Chapman has produced a fresh set of fantastic 3D anaglyph images based on specimens figured in The Russell Society Journal Vol 25. These can be found on the Gallery page.
The Open Day for Whatley Quarry, Frome was an outstanding success for the quarry and for everyone participating. The weather was better than forecast and the sun shone for most of the day.
The event opened to the public at 10.30am. We, myself and Alistair Napier, had arrived 2 hours beforehand to set up the display and sort out the minerals to give away. We thought we had brought too many giveaways and I could not have got any more in to the car. We were determined that our surplus material was not coming back with us.
The quarry management team had organised a wide range of displays and activities while the highlight for many people was a visit in to the working quarry at Level 9 to see loading operations in practice. Access to the quarry was by three full size coaches going all the way down to Level 9 – I spoke to one of the drivers after the event closed and he said they had not stopped transporting people in and out since the first coach just after 10.30.
The displays included historical quarrying equipment such as steam driven crushers – very manpower intensive, the full range of modern transport, excavation and drilling equipment, radio controlled toy dumpers on a muck pile, mapping drones, explosive planning, the uses of the quarry products, quarry restoration and of course: a mineral display. Plus a wide range of food stalls catering for all tastes.
The management team had promoted the event widely and anticipated between one and two thousand people attending. In fact over five thousand people turned up on the day. This did cause problems in the local area with queues for several miles and waiting times of well over an hour. However, everyone we spoke to, which seemed like many thousands, were really impressed with the whole event and were full of praise. I spoke to people who had come from Poole but apparently some people had come from as far as Kent.
The mineral display proved popular with many youngsters and adults who were suitably impressed with the wide range of minerals found at Whatley Quarry. Many (both adults and children) were very happy to have a free mineral specimen and, as we have done at previous events, we encouraged the youngsters to write out their own label. It was surprising how many already had small mineral collections.
We had brought around 300 specimens to give away. These had been cleaned and trimmed and the vast majority originated from Whatley – they all went. Indeed we had to hold back on the giving, as we were aware that some cars had been turned away in the morning and asked to come back in the afternoon so we felt it was only fair to try and spread out the supply of free minerals. To top it all, for some of the larger specimens we offered a “collect later service” – we were concerned that the people might not come back for them but they did!
Some people did say they would join The Society and although that would be a bonus, the main purpose of the display was to support the team at the quarry in their public interactions as a way of repaying the support they have provided to The Society over the years.
As I write this short note on the day after the event, it has been announced on the quarry community website that, due to the overwhelming success and wide interest it created, Whatley Quarry is considering holding another such event in the future, but could well implement a ticketing system to even out the flow of attendees over the day.
Chris Finch, 24th April 2023
A few pictures of the event.
This zoom meeting was oversubscribed so apologies if you could not log into it. The event was recorded and is available on Youtube
A short summary article has also been posted on Mindat
Please do join the debate and spread the word to friends and colleagues who might be interested- and MAKE A PLAN