Volunteer archivist Ian Gregory poses another meditative inquiry:
I have, whilst working at Buxton Museum, catalogued a map of a continent that no longer exists. The geologists call it Gondwana or Gondwanaland, and most of the present day southern landmasses were once part of it. It broke up gradually but the process began about 200 million years ago.
Seeing this map on a plate for a slide reminded me of how hard it can be for new ideas to be accepted. The theory of continental drift, of which Gondwanaland is a crucial part, was first proposed in 1912 by Alfred Wegener but few people took it seriously. In 1957, Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen published a map of the sea floor of the Atlantic Ocean and it showed the sea floor gradually spreading out from underwater volcanoes in the middle of said ocean. For the first time, scientists knew of a mechanism that could power continental drift and it is known as plate tectonics.
Not everyone who rejected Wegener’s theory was a mindless conservative; since he hadn’t explained what could power continental drift. Tharp and Heezen’s discovery came after Wegener’s death. Still, when thinking about their stories, I wonder what other ideas that are currently out of favour might be one day accepted as facts?
Museums and art galleries are always aiming to improve access to their collections. It is an unending cycle of analysis and development. Access covers many issues; opening times, admission charges, presenting information for different requirements, online content and so on. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of visitors being able to see the displays! The Boyd Dawkins Study at Buxton Museum is a popular exhibit. It presents the room of the pioneering archaeologist and geologist as it once was.
The problem is that the big chunky wooden cases at the front of the room prevent anyone under a metre tall from seeing the rest of the display, an oversight from when it was installed in the early 1980s.
Never happy with exclusion of any kind, Buxton Museum is pleased to announce that the old cases have now been replaced by contemporary British Museum standard versions from Armour Systems to a design developed by the museum. We have really had an interesting experience watching the cases come in as flat packs and then be built in the gallery. They have state of the art lighting and locking systems.
For the first time ever, everyone will be able to see the Professor’s fascinating bounty of books and artefacts. Once the digital interpretation which we commissioned last year is fitted into the cabinets, we will bring 21st century technology to help you understand this Victorian scientist in his own room. Come along and see what you think!