Natural history displays – which will share the story of Stoke-on-Trent 300 million years ago – are to be developed at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery were successful in a bid to the Arts Council England Designation Development Fund and have secured funding of £72,500 to catalogue and display its nationally significant geology collections.

The collections at The Potteries Museum were awarded ‘Designated’ status in 1997 – a scheme which recognises and champions significant collections of national and international importance. The Designation Development Fund provides funding for projects which ensures long-term care of Designated collections and maximises their public value.

The project, ‘Accessing Staffordshire Geology’ – planned to start in June 2020 –  will recruit an Assistant Curator to document and display fossils collected by Edward ‘Ted’ Watkin – a notable member of the North Staffordshire Field Club and the North Staffordshire Group of the Geologists’ Association. The collection was bequeathed to the museum in 2017 and contains many spectacular fossils from the local area. Along with others in the museum’s collection, they tell the story of Stoke-on-Trent as it was 300 million years ago, when the land was under a warm tropical swamp and the coal deposits so important to the industry of the area were being formed. In addition to ensuring that the collection is documented, photographed and made available through the museum’s website, the project will aim to develop engaging new displays which use these fossils to bring the ancient past of The Potteries to life.

Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England, said: “We want to support all Designated collections so that everyone can experience, enjoy, discover and learn from them.  Through their collections and knowledge, museums open our eyes to the wonders and challenges of the world and can help us find our place in it. We’re proud to champion the significant collections held in our museums, libraries and archives and hope this project will open up the Potteries Museum’s unique collection and help tell the story of Stoke-on-Trent with a perspective from an eye-watering 300 million years ago.”

Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said: “The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery provides such an amazing insight into our local history – so being able to tell the fascinating story of Stoke-on-Trent as it was 300 million years ago is really exciting. We’d like to thank Arts Council England for seeing the great potential in our successful bid and for awarding the funding. It’s incredible that we can now help visitors to look back on a time here when the first reptiles evolved and coal was being formed underground. These are exciting times for the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery as we also look forward to the Spitfire taking pride of place in a newly-built extension. These additions to an already fantastic site are something that will bring more visitors to the area and provide wonderful attractions for local families to enjoy.”