£250,000 Shropshire fossil project launched after grant
A £250,000 project to review the county's entire collection of fossils and geological samples has started.
The Fossils In Shropshire (FISh) project is a government-funded scheme to digitally catalogue what is recognised as an internationally important collection – and then make the entire contents available online.
The project is being paid for by a grant from the Treasury's Libor fund and will be carried out at Ludlow Museum Resource Centre on Parkway.
It has proved a boost for the venue, and for Shropshire Museum's Service, as the future of both remains in turmoil as talks continue over whether a new museum's trust or a private firm could take over venues currently run by Shropshire Council.
The authority has announced its own museums budget will be cut to zero in 2017, though that will not affect the Libor fund grant.
Lottie James, chair of Friends of Ludlow Museum, said she was delighted work had finally begun on the project, which was first announced last year.
She said: "A small team, contracted by The Friends of Ludlow Museum, have now started work on the 41,000 strong collections of fossils, rocks and minerals. Volunteers are also joining the project team.
"The team have started with a specimen by specimen check of the collection. They are also testing out photographic techniques and rapid data collection methods.
"The aim is that information and images will be available on the Discovering Shropshire History website."
"Digital mentor, John Sear, has helped the team to try out a range of scanning, photography software equipment and techniques. This has included a sensor usually used in Xbox video games and a cutting-edge laser scanner used by researchers at Birmingham University.
"Software manipulation will allow many images to be created in 3D and really bring the fossils, some as much as 540 million years old to life."
The national significance of the collection was key to securing Libor funding for this project, she said, and digital mentoring support has come through the West Midlands Museums Development Scheme.
The project is expected to take about three years to complete and the resulting digital catalogue will be accessible from both the British Geological Survey website and Shropshire Council website.
Friends of Ludlow Museum are among those backing the possibility of setting up county-wide museums trust to take over the management and funding of many of Shropshire's museums, as Shropshire Council looks to offload them.
However, Clive Wright, the authority's chief executive has said that is only one option being explored as it is also in talks with a private firm and individual town and parish councils about stepping in to help.
Museums currently receiving funding from Shropshire Council include Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, Coleham Pumping Station, Ludlow Museum, Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, Much Wenlock Museum and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.
More information about the FISh project, including blogs and images, will be posted on the project website as cataloguing progresses. The website can be found at fishproject2020.wix.com.
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