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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Historic boat on display at the Museum

One of the two remaining seaworthy "Lerret" fishing boats is currently on display on the sea terrace outside Lyme Regis Museum (see picture). This is Vera, which was built in 1923 and on which Gail McGarva's new Lerret Littlesea was modelled. If you haven't seen a Lerret before, and you're in the vicinity of Lyme, now's your chance!

Earlier posts about Lerrets:
A historic Dorset fishing vessel - the Lerret
The lerret - purpose built for fishing in Dorset
Lerrets and lucky stones

Friday, 23 September 2011

James McNeill Whistler: Playing with Fire

The small ground floor gallery at Lyme Regis Museum was once again packed yesterday afternoon for one of the Museum's ever-popular talks! This one saw Sandra Lello (left) give a fascinating talk on the subject of James McNeill Whistler: Playing with Fire.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Whistler came to Lyme Regis in 1895 at the age of 61, by which time he was one of the country's best known artists. His arrival in Lyme caused quite a stir — partly due to his flamboyant appearance and larger than-life personality, and partly because of his by-then notorious reputation. He had been involved in a number of high-profile libel cases and as a result had lost most of his money!

The reason for Whistler's visit was rather sad — his young wife had a serious illness and it was believed the sea air would aid her recovery. Unfortunately this was not the case, and she died soon after. One thing that did recover, however, was Whistler's artistic reputation. While in Lyme he painted a couple of late masterpieces, including "Little Rose" (below left) as well as producing a number of engravings of the town (below right).
The model for "Little Rose" was a local girl named Rosie Rendall, who was about eight years old at the time. The distinctly sullen expression on her face may be due to the fact that it always took Whistler an inordinately long time to paint his pictures. This was partly due to his use of a scumbling technique, adding layer upon layer of very thin colour to produce a transparent effect, and partly to his habit of adding just a tiny dab of paint at a time, and then standing back to admire his work from a distance!

For further information on Lyme's artistic heritage, see the Writers and Artists page of the main website. If you're interested in attending one of the many excellent talks held at the Museum, see the Events page.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Mary Anning Day blog on Discovery News

Hard on the heels of this morning's mention on Scientific American's Tetrapod Zoology blog, Lyme Regis Museum has featured on another big US site — Discovery News. Sarah Simpson's blog post Happy Discovery Day Ichthyosaur: 200 Years Later talks about Mary Anning and her great ichthyosaur find two hundred years ago... and mentions the same fossil skull currently in Lyme Regis Museum that was pictured on the Scientific American blog this morning.

In another post last week, Sarah described a Family Fossil Hunt on the Jurassic Coast, in which her eight-year old son made a fossil discovery of his own (pictured below)!

Marine reptile research discussed in Lyme Regis

Over on Scientific American's Tetrapoid Zoology blog, Darren Naish has just posted the second installment of his report on the SVPCA symposium held in Lyme Regis last week: Dinosaurs at SVPCA – no Mesozoic non-avialan theropods, thank you very much – and what about those marine reptiles? From a Dorset point of view, this is perhaps even more interesting than the first installment a couple of days ago.

One of the images from the article (left) shows Dr Naish inside Lyme Regis Museum, posing with the ichthyosaur skull found by Mary Anning. He describes three "vaguely linked" talks about recent ichthyosaur research, as well as several on the subject of plesiosaurs. Also mentioned is Scelidosaurus: the Dorset Dinosaur.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tetrapod Zoology in Lyme Regis

The latest article on Scientific American's Tetrapod Zoology blog is called Vertebrate palaeontology at Lyme Regis: of ‘All Yesterdays’, the ‘Leathery Winged Revolution’, and Planet Dinosaur -- which is a bit of a mouthful, but well worth a look. Despite its eponymously American host, "Tet Zoo" is written by Darren Naish, who lives just along the coast in Portsmouth. Darren visited Lyme for the 59th Symposium on Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, and his article ranges over several of the subjects covered by the symposium... with the promise of more to come!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Curator’s Newsletter September 2011

From Mary Godwin, Curator of Lyme Regis Museum:

It’s been our busiest August ever, with over 8,091 visitors
(5,552 in 2010)!

And so far it’s also been our busiest year ever overall, with
23,462 visitors to the end of August compared to 18,681
last year. The August numbers were boosted by our fossil
fun days, which attracted up to 900 people to experience
Chris, Paddy and Brandon Lennon doing exciting things
with fossils. These days have been massively successful
with the star attraction being the cutting and polishing of
ammonites which had people queuing up all day. We hope
to be able to do more of these days in future.
Local fossil expert Brandon Lennon with visitors during one of the
museum’s Family Fossil Days

Let there be Lights!
The museum will be closed from the 14th to 27th
November for the installation of new lighting, general
decorating and end-of-season repairs. Closing the
museum is a radical move but the electrical work isn’t
compatible with having visitor in the building and as this
is one of the quietest times of year hopefully not too many
people will turn up and be disappointed. Please do spread
the word as far as possible.

The Friends and I are still actively fundraising for the
lights and we still need £5,000 in order to be able to do
the whole museum. If anyone would like to assist us by
grateful! Each LED museum spotlight fitting costs £200
and we can have multiple sponsors for each light, so all
donations of whatever size will be very, very welcome!

History of Sport Researcher Still Needed
I’m still keen that we mount a History of Sport in Lyme Regis
exhibition in 2012 but so far we don’t have anyone who
has offered to do the research. If anyone might be
interested in taking this on please do get in touch.

Mary Anning Day Tickets Still available
Tickets are still available for Mary Anning Day on 24th
September. Our theme this year is ‘200 Years of
Discovery’ to tie in with the Anning’s discovery of the
great ichthyosaur skull in 1811. Once again we have a full
programme of talks and activities for all the family. Come
and get your tickets from the museum.

The Lymiad Published
We have just published a fascinating book entitled The
Lymiad, the original manuscript of which we have on
display in the museum. Written anonymously during the
autumn of 1818, The Lymiad describes social life in Lyme
Regis in the time of Jane Austen and Mary Anning. It is
composed in the form of letters from a young lady visiting
Lyme to her cousin in Bath and casts a gentle but satirical
eye on the inhabitants of the town, Lyme’s bloody history
and the troubled political times of the early 1800s.
During the 1980s John Fowles made a transcript of the
poem and he always hoped that it could be published.
Now, after many
years, this has
finally happened
and it is dedicated
to his memory.
The publication
has been made
possible by the
dedicated work of
John Constable
and grants from
the John Paul
Getty Junior
Charitable Trust,
the Marc Fitch
Fund and many
subscriptions from museum Friends and volunteers and
people from as far afield as the USA and Australia.
Copies are now available from the museum.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Bloody Assizes

Three hundred and twenty-six years ago today, on September 11th 1685, the Bloody Assizes opened at Lyme Regis. The infamous Judge Jeffreys presided over the trial of hundreds of men accused of assisting the Duke of Monmouth in his rebellion against King James II. The following day twelve men were executed on the beach west of the Cobb and their body parts were spiked on the railings around Lyme Regis church.

For more information, see On this day 11th September 1685, The Bloody Assizes were opened at Lyme Regis over at the Dark Dorset blog -- many thanks to them for pointing out this fascinating anniversary!

The main museum website has a short article about Lyme's role in the English Civil War and the Monmouth Rebellion, from which the following minuscule picture of the twelve "martyrs" is taken (apologies for the poor resolution!).

Friday, 9 September 2011

An academic symposium comes to Lyme Regis

The Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy (SVPCA) is a prestigious international academic conference that is held once a year. This year the conference will be based in Lyme Regis to celebrate the bicentenary of the discovery by Joseph and Mary Anning of the first ichthyosaur to come to the attention of science. There will be 115 delegates from 18 different countries attending, many of whom are leading experts in their specialist fields whether that be marine reptiles, flying reptiles, dinosaurs, fish or mammals.

The conference will take place adjacent to Lyme Regis Museum at the Marine Theatre next week, 12th to 17th September 2011, and full details can be found at the SVCPA website.

While the main conference programme is aimed at professional academics, there will be free evening lectures as follows:

Tuesday 13th September, 6 pm: The end-Triassic mass extinction and its role in resetting ichthyosaur and dinosaur evolution, by Michael Benton (you can read an earlier blog post on this subject).

Wednesday 14th September, 6 pm: Scelidosaurus from Lyme Bay, the world's first complete dinosaur, by David Norman (you can read an earlier blog post on this subject).

Friday 16th September, 6 pm: Pterosaurs: the Leathery Winged Revolution, by Mark Witton.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Yet another Ichthyosaur emerges from the cliffs...

On his blog yesterday, Ben Brooks described A rare summer find in Lyme Regis:

About two weeks ago, after the Lyme Regis Museum‘s fossil walk on the 27th August, there was an interesting find on the Church Cliffs landslip east of Lyme Regis. Paddy Howe, fossil walk leader and the museum’s resident geologist was walking back from the end of the walk with myself and Chris Andrew (the museum’s education officer) when he spotted something in the shales of the landslip...
Visit Ben's blog to read the full story!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Museum Events in September

Fossil hunters Paddy Howe and Chris Andrew give talks about fossils. Amazing fossils to see and handle. Ask questions and bring your finds for identification.

MONDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 2.30pm meet at museum
Take a walk with Daphne Baker through the Lyme Regis that Mary Anning would have known. Takes about 1½ hours. Limited numbers so please book.

TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2.30pm meet at Lifeboat Station
A walk around the Lyme Regis of Jane Austen’s time, with Fred Humphrey in the guise
of Admiral Croft. Takes about 1½ hours. Limited numbers so please book.

THURSDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 11am meet at Boat Building Academy
A stroll to visit boats at the Boat Building Academy, the gig shed and the harbour, with boatbuilder Gail McGarva. Takes about 1½ hours. Limited numbers so please book.

SATURDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2.00pm meet at Lifeboat Station
From the Cobb, Richard Bull shows how and where stone was quarried from Lyme’s
beaches and cliffs, to be traded around the world. Limited numbers so please book.

FRIDAY 16 SEPTEMBER from 6pm – everyone welcome
A celebration of the opening of the museum’s Artsfest exhibition ‘Maritime
Photographs’ by the Heritage Coast U3A photographic group.

A talk by Sandra Lello about this influential American-born artist – a wit, dandy and shameless self-promoter who worked in Lyme in the late 1800s.

SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 10.00am to 5pm FREE admission
A celebration of 200 years of discovery. Historic and contemporary fossil collecting explored in family activities and talks, including celebrity author Tracy Chevalier and renowned botanist Sir Ghillean Prance. See museum website or telephone 01297 443370 for full details.

Sandra Lello talks about John Fowles, the author who created French Lieutenant’s Woman, his life, work and contribution to Lyme.