"A curiosity for fabulous things": Multimillion pound Jurassic museum set for Kimmeridge

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 18 February 2014

A spectacular new fossil museum is on the horizon in Dorset after six years of planning

A photo of an ancient fossil of a lobster
An Eryma - the oldest true lobster - is among the collection held by the Kimmeridge Trust, which will create a new Jurassic museum© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
For the past 30 years, Steve Etches has investigated life and death under the seas off Kimmeridge, a Dorset village whose coastal clay fossils tell tales of marine life 150 million years ago.

New scientific specimens, including chelonians, pterosaurs and ichthyosaurs, are among his collection of more than 2,000 late Jurassic examples from a place whose outcrops have surfaced across Europe. When a new museum opens in 2016, funded by a £2.7 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant, Etches’ workshop will be built into the site.

“He is a collector par excellence,” points out Professor Simon Conway Morris, an evolutionary palaeobiology explorer at the University of Cambridge, admitting that there is “no limit” to his admiration for one of Britain’s greatest marine archaeologists.

“But rather than pursuing commercial return he is always open and generous to all who wish to see his collection, from schoolchildren to people like myself.

“His modesty is no reflection of his talents. His collection is a gem for the country and he is a national treasure.”

Kimmeridgian remnants have been found to form oil off the bed of the North Sea. Modern displays will underline its importance at the museum, which will also provide facilities the local community is currently lacking.

“Steve Etches is a marvel,” suggests Oliver Ellis, a teacher from Steyning School.

“His passion and enthusiasm are infectious. He is not just a collector, his collection is not a mere cabinet of curiosities – he wants to know how things lived, interacted and died in the Kimmeridgian Sea.

“He is able and willing to share his knowledge and collection with anyone, to be able to tell his stories to academics, students, Joe Bloggs, the old and young – so long as they have a curiosity for fabulous things.”

The full collection will also be recorded online under the plans.


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A photo of a man standing on a cliff overlooking a sea shore
Steve Etches takes a look at Kimmeridge Bay© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
A photo of a crocodile fossil
An Ichthyosaur© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
A close up photo of a reptillian fossil
The stomach of the Ichthyosaur reveals the remains of fish and other creatures© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
A photo of a fossil made up of circular gold stones
The flipper of the Ichthyosaur© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
A photo of a dark grey reptile fossil
The Gyrodus is an extinct genus of pycnodontiform bone fish that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
A photo of a circular multicoloured reptile fossil
Ammonite© Courtesy Kimmeridge Trust
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