Jurassic Coast fossil museum hosts Mary Anning conference

An event to honour the legacy of Dorset fossil collector, Mary Anning has been organised by The Etches Collection, the museum in Kimmeridge near Swanage, that exhibits rare marine fossils from the Jurassic age.

The Mary Anning Conference of Curiosities will feature a range of speakers including Steve Etches whose collection is housed at the museum. The day will cover various topics including fossil hunting, the future of the Jurassic Coast and the legacy of Mary Anning herself.

Funds raised from the event will go to breast cancer charity, The Pink Ribbon Foundation and towards support of the Etches Collection itself.

Some of the money will also go to a campaign called Mary Anning Rocks, which aims to erect a statue of Mary Anning constructed in her home town of Lyme Regis.

The event will be held online via a special Facebook group on Monday 12th April 2021. It will run between 9 am and 5 pm.

Mary Anning by B. J. Donne
Mary Anning by B. J. Donne

About Mary Anning

Mary Anning was a Dorset based fossil hunter and palaeontologist working in the early 19th century, who made groundbreaking discoveries about various prehistoric creatures including the Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs.

However, as a woman from a poor background, her work has in the past, gone unappreciated because in the Victorian era, women were not allowed to join the Geological Society of London or attend its events.

A spokesperson for the Etches Collection explained:

“The significance of this and linking it to Mary is that due to the social-economic constraints of the time, she was not afforded the level of respect or accreditation that her male counterparts were for less work – even though she was eventually highly thought of in the end. 

“It still didn’t reach far enough and without her mind, and contribution to science, the world would be poorer for it. For example, we wouldn’t have had evolution theory as we know it – her work sparked Darwin’s own research and study.”

Outside the Etches Collection in Kimmeridge

She must be “never again lost in history”

Anya Pearson, chair of the Mary Anning Rocks campaign said:

“We are so thrilled to be involved with this event in honour of Mary Anning. It’s so important that we keep talking about her and her remarkable life. For far too long she’s been left out of the conversations, so it’s events like these at The Etches Collection that will make sure she’s never again lost in history.

“Mary died far too young at the age of 47, from breast cancer, can you imagine what else she would have achieved if she had lived a longer life? If you have any spare cash then we encourage you to support The Pink Ribbon Foundation and their ongoing research in finding a cure for this horrific, robbing, bloody awful disease. We hit our target in February, so Mary’s statue will be raised but this disease is still robbing us of loved ones everyday and we all need to help to stop that.”

Mary Anning conference
The Etches Collection

Conference of Curiosities

The online event will be split into four sections touching on several different topics throughout the day.

Firstly, there will be a discussion titled ‘Who was Mary Anning? The Facts and the Fiction’ with experts including Professor Mike Simmons, Professor Andy Gale, Tom Sharpe and Dr Dean Lomax.

This will be followed by a look at Anning’s legacy and the empowerment of women in the earth sciences with Dr Aubrey Jane Roberts, Dr Sam Giles and Professor Annalisa Berta.

After an intermission, Steve Etches himself will give a talk about his own adventures in palaeontology, following which the day will be rounded up with a discussion on the future of the Jurassic Coast featuring Richard Edmonds and Dr Anjana Khatwa.

Steve Etches said:

“Our Mary Anning event is a day in the appreciation of her life, work, legacy, celebrating the scientific achievements of women. Empowering everyone to not only get into careers in science but importantly to future proof our collective history and heritage for younger generations to experience.”

Steve Etches at the Etches Collection in Kimmeridge
Etches Collection

Steve Etches

“Mary was a pioneer”

Lisa Allen from the Pink Ribbon Foundation said:

“The Pink Ribbon Foundation is delighted to be the beneficiary charity of the Mary Anning event.  Mary was a pioneer in her field and should she have lived in present times; we are sure that she would have used her voice and platform to raise awareness of breast cancer. People are surviving longer thanks to advances in research, new treatments, earlier diagnosis, breast screening and breast cancer awareness and this is good news!  

“This is possible due to the support of many individuals, companies and events such as this which allow us to be much more hopeful for the future. Donations will help us to continue our vital work and support those women (and a smaller percentage of men) affected by breast cancer.”

Further information

Tickets to the event cost £30, and anyone who wants to buy them can do so on The Etches Collection website.

Ticket holders who cannot make the event on the day will still get access to the talks until Wednesday 12th May 2021.

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