Editing Geological dioramas at the Museum of Practical Geology, South Kensington, from 1932 - rescuing "a dull, even repellent, subject"

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'''By Jane Insley'''
 
'''By Jane Insley'''
 
'''Lantern slide diorama images supplied by Christina Walsh'''
 
  
 
[[File:P505873.jpg|thumbnail|The new Museum of Practical geology, South Kensington. The diroamas are the cases between the pillars on the ground floor.]]
 
[[File:P505873.jpg|thumbnail|The new Museum of Practical geology, South Kensington. The diroamas are the cases between the pillars on the ground floor.]]
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=== 1. Early man in Thames Valley - Vernon Edwards ===
 
=== 1. Early man in Thames Valley - Vernon Edwards ===
  
''Reconstruction of scenery and conditions of the past''
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Reconstruction of scenery and conditions of the past. This did not appear in the list of October 1932, but was ready for titling in April 1934. (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
 
This did not appear in the list of October 1932, but was ready for titling in April 1934. (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
  
 
The first diorama in the list confusingly appears in two forms – once in the half-tone reproduction of the ''Museums Journal ''of 1936, accompanying McLintock’s article, and once in rather more spectacular colour and entitled [https://www.nhmimages.com/?service=asset&action=show_zoom_window_popup&language=en&asset=8671 Pleistocene Britain: Swanscombe Waterhole]'' ''in the Picture Library of the Natural History Museum. Originally it was intended to show elephant, fallow deer, rhinoceros, bear, bison and man living in open grassland. However, comparison of the two images show some subtle differences – in the Natural History Museum scene the tree on the left has lost its foliage, the human figure in the foreground is rather hunched in the earlier image and more upright in the second; he has apparently mislaid some of his clothing but is still facing tastefully away from the viewer although his left arm is in the same configuration, and the elephants in the background are quite docile in the first image but rather more lively in the second. This leads one to suspect that the first diorama may have been either refreshed or replaced. Because this showed an early version of the London area, it was one of the most popular dioramas in the Museum.<ref>Dr W F P McLintock, DSc, FRSE, FRGS, "Geological dioramas in the Museum of Practical Geology", ''Museums Journal '',1936, June 1936, pl VII, (facing page 92)</ref>
 
The first diorama in the list confusingly appears in two forms – once in the half-tone reproduction of the ''Museums Journal ''of 1936, accompanying McLintock’s article, and once in rather more spectacular colour and entitled [https://www.nhmimages.com/?service=asset&action=show_zoom_window_popup&language=en&asset=8671 Pleistocene Britain: Swanscombe Waterhole]'' ''in the Picture Library of the Natural History Museum. Originally it was intended to show elephant, fallow deer, rhinoceros, bear, bison and man living in open grassland. However, comparison of the two images show some subtle differences – in the Natural History Museum scene the tree on the left has lost its foliage, the human figure in the foreground is rather hunched in the earlier image and more upright in the second; he has apparently mislaid some of his clothing but is still facing tastefully away from the viewer although his left arm is in the same configuration, and the elephants in the background are quite docile in the first image but rather more lively in the second. This leads one to suspect that the first diorama may have been either refreshed or replaced. Because this showed an early version of the London area, it was one of the most popular dioramas in the Museum.<ref>Dr W F P McLintock, DSc, FRSE, FRGS, "Geological dioramas in the Museum of Practical Geology", ''Museums Journal '',1936, June 1936, pl VII, (facing page 92)</ref>
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[[File:MN2773.jpg|thumbnail|The oilfield of Masjid l Sulaiman, SW Iran - Montague B Black. Diorama, Museum of Practical geology. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
[[File:MN2773.jpg|thumbnail|The oilfield of Masjid l Sulaiman, SW Iran - Montague B Black. Diorama, Museum of Practical geology. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
  
''Economic geology''
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Economic geology. This was far-enough advanced for questions about its funding to be settled by September 1932. This would have been close to McLintock's experience as he worked there in the field in 1926. ( BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
 
This was far-enough advanced for questions about its funding to be settled by September 1932. This would have been close to McLintock's experience as he worked there in the field in 1926. ( BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
  
 
This diorama may have been transferred to the National Museums Scotland, where it was described as an ''Iranian Oil field ''by Montague Black, inventory number T1938.179, and de-accessioned in 2005.
 
This diorama may have been transferred to the National Museums Scotland, where it was described as an ''Iranian Oil field ''by Montague Black, inventory number T1938.179, and de-accessioned in 2005.
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=== 3. Chalk and clay for Portland cement - R T Roussel ===
 
=== 3. Chalk and clay for Portland cement - R T Roussel ===
  
[[File:MN2769.jpg|thumbnail|Chalk and clay for Portland cement - R T Roussel. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. Credit: Christina Walsh]]
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Economic geology. On the list proposed in October 1932, and completed by March 1933; (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
 
''Economic geology''
 
 
 
On the list proposed in October 1932, and completed by March 1933; (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
  
 
Postcard "Chalk and Clay for Portland Cement - R T Roussel ", MN 2769.<ref>My thanks go to Roussel family members for sending me photocopies of some of his diorama postcards.</ref>
 
Postcard "Chalk and Clay for Portland Cement - R T Roussel ", MN 2769.<ref>My thanks go to Roussel family members for sending me photocopies of some of his diorama postcards.</ref>
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=== 4. A Cornish China Clay Quarry - Herbert H Cawood ===
 
=== 4. A Cornish China Clay Quarry - Herbert H Cawood ===
 
[[File:MN2770.jpg|thumbnail|A Cornish China Clay Quarry - Herbert H Cawood. Credit: Christina Walsh]]
 
  
 
Economic geology. Another of the earliest dioramas to be done, in November 1932 McLintock and Cawood were in Cornwall to make a site visit to the China Clay pit and works. (BGS Archives GSM/MG/E 12-18 Building the new Geological Institute)
 
Economic geology. Another of the earliest dioramas to be done, in November 1932 McLintock and Cawood were in Cornwall to make a site visit to the China Clay pit and works. (BGS Archives GSM/MG/E 12-18 Building the new Geological Institute)
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=== 5. Ironstone Quarry, Corby, Northants - Herbert H Cawood ===
 
=== 5. Ironstone Quarry, Corby, Northants - Herbert H Cawood ===
  
[[File:MN2767.jpg|thumbnail|Ironstone Quarry, Corby, Northants - Herbert H Cawood. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
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Economic geology. Proposed by October 1932 (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
 
''Economic geology''
 
 
 
Proposed by October 1932 (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15)
 
  
 
Natural History Museum Photographic Library. Image ID 002747(below)
 
Natural History Museum Photographic Library. Image ID 002747(below)
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=== 6. Penrhyn Slate Quarry, North Wales - Montague B Black ===
 
=== 6. Penrhyn Slate Quarry, North Wales - Montague B Black ===
  
[[File:MN2766.jpg|thumbnail|Penrhyn Slate Quarry, North Wales - Montague B Black. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
+
Economic geology. (BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15 1952/956; 23 June 1932)
 
 
''Economic geology''
 
 
 
(BGS Archives, GSM/MG/C/15 1952/956; 23 June 1932)
 
  
 
Standardisation of showcase sizes led to a certain amount of streamlining of manufacture of dioramas also, with the chance of getting a reduced rate for bulk buying - by June 1932, it had been noted that both Black and Cawood had both done similar work at the Imperial Institute, so there was a suggestion that “ ''4 industrial exhibits 'of the Penrhyn type' could have a quote of reduced price if put in hand together ''“; the Penrhyn diorama appeared on the list proposed in October 1932.
 
Standardisation of showcase sizes led to a certain amount of streamlining of manufacture of dioramas also, with the chance of getting a reduced rate for bulk buying - by June 1932, it had been noted that both Black and Cawood had both done similar work at the Imperial Institute, so there was a suggestion that “ ''4 industrial exhibits 'of the Penrhyn type' could have a quote of reduced price if put in hand together ''“; the Penrhyn diorama appeared on the list proposed in October 1932.
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=== 7. Portland Stone Quarry - R T Roussel ===
 
=== 7. Portland Stone Quarry - R T Roussel ===
  
''Economic geology''
+
Economic geology. Roussel and McLintock visited Portland in May 1933 to select a site for the model of a stone quarry.
 
 
Roussel and McLintock visited Portland in May 1933 to select a site for the model of a stone quarry.
 
  
 
Permission was granted "''to wander over any of our quarries''". The Dorset office had a small model they offered to the museum for exhibition. Following the trip, on 8th May, Cottonfields Quarry was selected as most suitable and delivery was promised by Nov 1st 1933, ''"either to this museum or to the new Geological Museum South Kensington”''. In addition, a copy of the book "Portland Stone" was supplied by S Western Stone Co Ltd., and lodged in the Library by W F P McLintock, on 11 May.
 
Permission was granted "''to wander over any of our quarries''". The Dorset office had a small model they offered to the museum for exhibition. Following the trip, on 8th May, Cottonfields Quarry was selected as most suitable and delivery was promised by Nov 1st 1933, ''"either to this museum or to the new Geological Museum South Kensington”''. In addition, a copy of the book "Portland Stone" was supplied by S Western Stone Co Ltd., and lodged in the Library by W F P McLintock, on 11 May.
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=== 8. Edinburgh from the Braid Hills - Herbert H Cawood ===
 
=== 8. Edinburgh from the Braid Hills - Herbert H Cawood ===
  
[[File:MN2768.jpg|thumbnail|Edinburgh from the Braid Hills - Herbert H Cawood. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
+
Purely geological and scenic. Chosen to show the geological features of unconformity, earth-movement and thrusting, ancient volcanicity and the effects of long-continued erosion and glaciation. Not on the original list, but added later.
 
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
 
 
 
Chosen to show the geological features of unconformity, earth-movement and thrusting, ancient volcanicity and the effects of long-continued erosion and glaciation. Not on the original list, but added later.
 
  
 
This diorama is now in the National Museums of Scotland, Inventory number G 1989.18.1
 
This diorama is now in the National Museums of Scotland, Inventory number G 1989.18.1
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=== 9. Vesuvius in Eruption - Montague B Black ===
 
=== 9. Vesuvius in Eruption - Montague B Black ===
  
[[File:MN2771.jpg|thumbnail|Vesuvius in Eruption - Montague B Black. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
+
Geological processes. A panorama version of volcanic activity was proposed in October 1932, and after some discussion over the rate for the work, delivered in time. As stated above, it required a non-standard case to show height of explosion cloud, and had a transparent background in places and suitable lighting devices to convey sense of movement and activity associated with volcanic action.<ref>My thanks go to Andy King of Bristol Museums for his gymnastic skills in providing me with a photograph of a truly inaccessibly stored diorama.</ref>
 
 
''Geological processes''
 
 
 
A panorama version of volcanic activity was proposed in October 1932, and after some discussion over the rate for the work, delivered in time. As stated above, it required a non-standard case to show height of explosion cloud, and had a transparent background in places and suitable lighting devices to convey sense of movement and activity associated with volcanic action.<ref>My thanks go to Andy King of Bristol Museums for his gymnastic skills in providing me with a photograph of a truly inaccessibly stored diorama.</ref>
 
  
 
BGS Archives GSM/MG/E/15 1932-1936 Papers related to construction of exhibits. Included photographs of some of the models, including this one. (Montague Black, Vesuvius. 2502). Illustrated in ''Museums Journal ''Vol XXXVI Plate V facing p 81. Now at M Shed, Bristol (photo on right, taken sideways – diorama inaccessible)
 
BGS Archives GSM/MG/E/15 1932-1936 Papers related to construction of exhibits. Included photographs of some of the models, including this one. (Montague Black, Vesuvius. 2502). Illustrated in ''Museums Journal ''Vol XXXVI Plate V facing p 81. Now at M Shed, Bristol (photo on right, taken sideways – diorama inaccessible)
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=== 10. Cheddar Caves, Somerset - Montague B Black ===
 
=== 10. Cheddar Caves, Somerset - Montague B Black ===
  
[[File:MN2764.jpg|thumbnail|Cheddar Caves, Somerset - Montague B Black. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
+
Geological processes.
 
 
''Geological processes''
 
  
 
Proposed October 1932.
 
Proposed October 1932.
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=== 11. North West Highlands of Scotland - Herbert H Cawood ===
 
=== 11. North West Highlands of Scotland - Herbert H Cawood ===
  
[[File:MN2781.jpg|thumbnail|North West Highlands of Scotland - Herbert H Cawood. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
+
Purely geological and scenic.
 
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
 
  
 
Proposed view on list of October 1932.
 
Proposed view on list of October 1932.
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=== 12. Avon Gorge - R T Roussel ===
 
=== 12. Avon Gorge - R T Roussel ===
  
[[File:MN2612.jpg|thumbnail|Avon Gorge - R T Roussel. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
+
Purely geological and scenic.
 
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
 
  
 
BGS Archives GSM/MG/E 12-18 Building the new Geological Institute.
 
BGS Archives GSM/MG/E 12-18 Building the new Geological Institute.
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=== 13. The Needles and Alum Bay - Herbert K Rooke ===
 
=== 13. The Needles and Alum Bay - Herbert K Rooke ===
 
[[File:MN3774.jpg|thumbnail|The Needles and Alum Bay - Herbert K Rooke. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
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BGS negative MN3774, dated Feb 1939
 
BGS negative MN3774, dated Feb 1939
  
MNL 501/11614.
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MNL 501/11614. Postcard on ebay.
 
 
Postcard on ebay.
 
  
 
=== 14. Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole - Herbert K Rooke ===
 
=== 14. Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole - Herbert K Rooke ===
[[File:MN2765.jpg|thumbnail|Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole - Herbert K Rooke. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
 
''Purely geological and scenic''
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=== 16. An Ancient English Desert - E M Wilson ===
 
=== 16. An Ancient English Desert - E M Wilson ===
  
''Reconstruction of scenery and conditions of the past''
+
Reconstruction of scenery and conditions of the past.
  
 
Triassic - processes and results of erosion and deposition during a prolonged period of dessication. On the proposed list of October 1932, and ready for titling in April 1934.
 
Triassic - processes and results of erosion and deposition during a prolonged period of dessication. On the proposed list of October 1932, and ready for titling in April 1934.
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=== 17. Lakeland Scenery - R T Roussel MNL525/11628 ===
 
=== 17. Lakeland Scenery - R T Roussel MNL525/11628 ===
 
[[File:MN3346.jpg|thumbnail|Lakeland Scenery - R T Roussel. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
MN525 [1937]
 
MN525 [1937]
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=== 18. The Island of Staffa - R T Roussel ===
 
=== 18. The Island of Staffa - R T Roussel ===
 
[[File:MN2990.jpg|thumbnail|The Island of Staffa - R T Roussel. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
MN 522 [no date found]
 
MN 522 [no date found]
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=== 19. The formation of coal - R T Roussel ===
 
=== 19. The formation of coal - R T Roussel ===
 
[[File:MN2966.jpg|thumbnail|The formation of coal - R T Roussel. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
MN519 - [Oct 1931]
 
MN519 - [Oct 1931]
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=== 20. Idealised landscape of the Wealden period – MNL460 ===
 
=== 20. Idealised landscape of the Wealden period – MNL460 ===
[[File:WealdenDiorama.jpg|thumbnail|Idealized landscape on the shores of the Wealden Lake. Dinosaurian reptiles were the dominent vertebrates whilst conifers, cycads, ferns and rushes made up most of the plant life. Plate IV. British Wealden Geology. The Wealden district (Fourth edition). London. HMSO, 1965.]]
 
  
 
[https://www.ebay.ie/itm/R176909-Idealized-Landscape-of-the-Wealden-Period-Geological-Survey-and-Museum/254383358930?hash=item3b3a6e03d2:g:MFQAAOSwKqxdnOMk Known through a postcard on ebay June 2020]; the MNL number suggests it might have been photographed at the same time but slightly earlier than items with MNL numbers from 500 to 533 , which were dated 1948.
 
[https://www.ebay.ie/itm/R176909-Idealized-Landscape-of-the-Wealden-Period-Geological-Survey-and-Museum/254383358930?hash=item3b3a6e03d2:g:MFQAAOSwKqxdnOMk Known through a postcard on ebay June 2020]; the MNL number suggests it might have been photographed at the same time but slightly earlier than items with MNL numbers from 500 to 533 , which were dated 1948.
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=== 22. Lake Store gold mine BGS negative MN3076, dated 19 Jan 1937 ===
 
=== 22. Lake Store gold mine BGS negative MN3076, dated 19 Jan 1937 ===
 
[[File:MN3076.jpg|thumbnail|Lake Store gold mine BGS negative MN3076, dated 19 Jan 1937. Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
Surface gold mine diorama (no 2) BGS negative MN3114, dated 11 Mar 1937
 
Surface gold mine diorama (no 2) BGS negative MN3114, dated 11 Mar 1937
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=== 24. Diorama of Haig Pit by (Montague Black?) ===
 
=== 24. Diorama of Haig Pit by (Montague Black?) ===
 
[[File:MN6874.jpg|thumbnail|Diorama of Haig Pit by (Montague Black?). Diorama from the Museum of Practical Geology. From a Lantern slide. Credit: Christina Walsh.]]
 
  
 
[https://haigpit.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/img_3257.jpg Diorama of Haig Pit]
 
[https://haigpit.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/img_3257.jpg Diorama of Haig Pit]
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Also shown are sections of the strata in which the coal seams lie. It can be seen how they are interrupted by faults, often of considerable vertical displacement. This was the greatest problem in the Cumberland pits, much unproductive time being spent in locating and regaining the coal on the other side of the dislocation. Despite the high quality of the coal, and the skill and efforts of the Cumberland miners, the adverse geological conditions meant that the local pits were almost always less productive than those in other coalfields.
 
Also shown are sections of the strata in which the coal seams lie. It can be seen how they are interrupted by faults, often of considerable vertical displacement. This was the greatest problem in the Cumberland pits, much unproductive time being spent in locating and regaining the coal on the other side of the dislocation. Despite the high quality of the coal, and the skill and efforts of the Cumberland miners, the adverse geological conditions meant that the local pits were almost always less productive than those in other coalfields.
 
=== 25. Ideal landscape of the London Clay Period ===
 
[[File:PaintingLondonClay.jpg|thumbnail|Ideal landscape of the London Clay Period, photograph of a large oil painting by Mr. E. Marsden Wilson]]
 
 
''Reconstruction of scenery and conditions of the past''
 
 
Not a diorama but a large oil painting by Mr. E. Marsden Wilson, it is included for completeness as it is a reconstruction of a past scenery. It depicts an imaginary scene in the south-east of England at a date something like fifty million years ago, when the London Clay was being deposited as sediment.
 
 
Published as Plate II. London and the Thames Valley. British Regional Geology. By R.L. Sherlock. 3rd edition with some additions by R. Casey, S.C.A. Holmes and V. Wilson. p. 34-35 for a full description.
 
  
 
== List of dioramas published as postcards by the Museum of Practical Geology ==
 
== List of dioramas published as postcards by the Museum of Practical Geology ==
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<references />
 
<references />
 
[[Category:Geological Museum]]
 

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