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Cornwall Museums Partnership

A tale of two granites: Geology exhibition and digitisation project

In this latest blog series, we will be hearing from our 2022 cohort of Trainee Curators on the projects and exhibitions they have been leading on, across the five partner museums where they each have taken up roles. Next up in this series, we hear from Penny Bulkeley, Trainee Curator at Wheal Martyn Clay Works.

As a Trainee Curator at Wheal Martyn clay works I have the opportunity to manage and deliver my own collections-based project. I have a background in geography and with five out of twelve minerals from our handling collection in our linhay building being stolen this year, and the rest subsequently put into store for their safety, it was decided that I should focus on our geology collection.

The primary aim of my project is to create a geology exhibit for the atrium (museum entrance space) that will showcase the unique geology of St. Austell that will also tie in with our World Heritage display already in situ. Wheal Martyn is situated in the middle of the Luxulyan and St. Austell granite mass, which is actually two very different granites formed 10 million years apart, over 270 million years ago.

This landmass is literally the bedrock of the china clay industry and metalliferous mining in Cornwall and this, therefore, forms the basis for our exhibition. Alongside the physical exhibition, our mineral collection will be digitised and a geology page created on our website in order to make our collection more accessible to the wider public. This page will follow the National Gallery’s ‘Skim, Swim and Dive’ digital media framework and will include information tailored to different levels of knowledge and expertise to appeal to all our users including content to help with our school and university visitors.

The pages will also include associated archive documents, maps, photographs, oral histories, and videos along with the capability for visitors to actively engage and add to these pages. Accessibility will be forefront in the creation of the webpage and will also include audio descriptions.

This project is very much a work in progress at the moment and also very much a collaborative team effort. I have been expertly guided by China Clay History Society volunteers Colin Bristow (retired chief Geologist at ECLP) and Mike Harris (retired mine manager at Goonvean and Restowrack Ltd) who have been instrumental in helping me to shape the project. They have patiently shared their geological knowledge with me, advised on content, and have also added some new quality specimens to our collections with the help of Imerys and British Lithium.

Ellie and Phil from Cornwall Museums Partnership Innovation team have been a great help supporting the digitising of our mineral collections and giving invaluable technological help. A team of volunteers including two young people under 21 years old have been 3D scanning and editing the minerals for our web pages. The marketing department at South West Lakes Trust are helping me to design and develop the webpage.

The exhibition and collections page should be ready in March 2023. I hope that the final result will reflect the hard work and dedication of all involved.

-Penny Bulkeley

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