The Lapworth Museum of Geology holds the finest and most extensive collections of fossils, minerals and rocks in the Midlands. Dating back to 1880, it is one of the oldest specialist geological museums in the UK.
The Museum is now open following a £2.7m redevelopment, made possible thanks to a transformative Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £1.5m and the generous support of University of Birmingham alumni, as well as a number of grant awarding bodies, trusts and foundations.
Throughout its long history the Lapworth Museum has provided a valuable resource for students, schools and colleges, research workers, enthusiasts and anyone with an interest in, or desire to learn, about geology. The museum supports teaching and research in the Earth Sciences and natural history within the University and the West Midlands region.
The Museum is named after Charles Lapworth, the first Professor of Geology at Mason College, the forerunner of the University of Birmingham. Lapworth was one of the most important and influential geologists in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Located in the University’s Grade II listed, Aston Webb Building, the museum retains its original Edwardian setting and interior.
The collections contain in excess of 250,000 specimens. In addition to rocks, fossils and minerals, there are large collections of early geological maps, equipment, models, photographic material, and also zoological specimens and stone axes. The Lapworth Archive contains one of the most complete records of the work of a scientist of that period.
The fossil collections are important both scientifically and historically, with exceptionally well-preserved specimens from the Midlands and many other famous fossil localities in the UK, and throughout the world.
The museum has some of the finest collections from the Wenlock Limestone of Dudley, famous for its fossils that lived 420 million years ago when the area was covered by a shallow, warm, tropical sea that enabled a highly diverse ecosystem to develop. From the rocks of the old Midlands Coalfields are important collections of fossil plants, fish, insects, arachnids, fossil footprints and animal tracks.
There are beautifully preserved fish, dragonflies, crabs, lobsters and pterosaurs from the Solnholfen Limestone in Germany; outstanding fish collections from Brazil, Italy, Lebanon and USA; 510 million year old animals unique to the world famous Burgess Shale of British Columbia.
The mineral collection contains around 15,000 specimens, many of them rare, and displaying stunning colours and crystal shapes. The specimens come from all over the world, but particularly from the old mining areas of the UK.
Of historical interest is the mineral collection of William Murdoch, engineer and inventor, who worked with James Watt and Matthew Boulton at Soho House in Birmingham.
A visit to the Lapworth Museum provides an insight into how the Earth formed and changed through time, and how life on earth developed and evolved.