Hull’s Lost Fossils

One way or another, 1988 was a momentous year for geology collections in the city of Hull. In March of that year, it was announced that – after a contentious government review – the Geology degree programmes at the University of Hull would cease. Most of the university’s rock and fossil specimens would move to other universities.

Based on this map from the UGC Earth Sciences Review, it’s easy to see how the Hull fossils ended up lost.

Then, in October 1988, workmen digging a drain in a central Hull car park stumbled upon some mysterious artefacts, including dinosaur bones. These turned out to be the remains of the basement of the city’s old Municipal Museum, destroyed in a World War Two air raid some 45 years earlier, and a project to reclaim the specimens took place the following year.

Thirty years on, now that geology degrees are back on the menu at the University of Hull, I have helped us reacquire thousands of our old specimens from the University of Oxford Natural History Museum. Now, my project “Back From The Dead: Uncovering the Hidden Histories of Hull’s Lost Fossils“, funded by the Ferens Education Trust, aims to begin telling the stories of the specimens, their collectors, and the places they came from. Something rather similar happened at the Museum of Somerset a few years ago.

I’m also hopeful that we might use our university collections work to help find out more about the old Hull Municipal Museum collections too. So, watch this space, or this one, or this one, to see how we get on…