Changes in public understanding, learning and education in Earth Sciences


The Lapworth Museum is a great example of how research is being used to inspire the next generation of scientists, and change public understanding of Earth Sciences.

The co-production by researchers and museum professionals led to a transformative redevelopment of the Lapworth Museum of Geology in 2016. The collaboration has improved interpretation of heritage, and this is reflected in positive visitor feedback, significantly increased visitor numbers, professional evaluations, greater media reach, and also influence on wider museum practice.

Lapworth Museum was an Art Fund Museum of the Year finalist in 2017.

Video: Professor Richard Butler - Award for Academic Advancement

Founders’ Awards 2019: Professor Richard Butler – Award for Academic Advancement

Richard Butler, Professor of Palaeobiology, was presented with the Joseph Chamberlain award for Academic Advancement at the annual Founders' Awards held at the University of Birmingham.

Key researchers

reston_tim1Professor Tim Reston

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Professor of Geology

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About the Project

The University of Birmingham set out to change public understanding of Earth Sciences through a co-production by researchers and museum professionals. This led to a transformative redevelopment of the Lapworth Museum of Geology in 2016. 

The redevelopment has created a significant increase in visitor numbers and enhanced educational provision, including delivery of onsite educational sessions. 

The museum receives exceptional audience and visitor feedback, as demonstrated by surveys and focus groups, and positive professional evaluations and evaluative reviews in the media, most notably a shortlisting by Art Fund for Museum of the Year 2017, the largest museum prize in the world. 

Birmingham researchers have stimulated public interest in research, through activity including research-led temporary exhibitions hosted by the Lapworth Museum of Geology. In 2018, Professor Richard Butler co-curated ‘Drawing out the Dinosaurs’, an interdisciplinary temporary exhibition initially hosted by the Lapworth that explored changes in scientific, artistic and cultural understanding of dinosaurs over the last two centuries. Feedback indicates that ‘Drawing out the Dinosaurs’ changed the way visitors viewed dinosaurs, increased their understanding of the scientific process, and allowed them to realise a connection between dinosaurs and the local region. Subsequently, the exhibition was hosted in 2019 by Dudley Museum and the Erasmus Darwin Museum (Lichfield).

The broad programme of public education led by Earth Sciences researchers has also included involvement in the ‘Teacher at Sea’ programme. This led to changes in syllabi at both GCSE (geophysical and seismic techniques used during the cruise) and A level (concepts of oceanic detachment faulting and oceanic core complex development developed by Birmingham researchers. 


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Lapworth Museum Lectures

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