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The Treasures of the Earth museum in Fort William


I have been meaning to write this post for ages, but I didn't get round to doing it at the time. It happened on the way back from my holiday on the Isle of Skye last year where there was a place I really wanted to go to at Fort William called Treasures of The Earth.

The reason I really loved going there was it was completely different from usual museums. It wasn't huge, it didn't have a huge amount of exhibits, but it was really great for kids.

There was another thing I really liked about it. This was the last place we went to on that holiday, and we'd been to loads of other places (including a museum that was in a man's living room). But everywhere else we went this is what we saw:

That one was from the Skye Serpentarium which I really wanted to visit and write about, but photos weren't allowed ! I asked why and they said some people either used flash (which disturbs the animals) or setup tripods (which got in the way). They should have just banned flash and tripods, not other photography.

Then guess what was at Dunvegan Castle:

...but it wasn't that great anyway. Then on the way back we stopped at Eilean Donan castle (which is in some James Bond films) and guess what was there too ! (I even got told off for taking this picture)

STOP THIS STUPIDITY. Let visitors take photographs ! 

Anyway, the first thing you see at Treasures of The Earth is this:

HURRAH ! And the second thing you see is this:

Which is pretty cool. When you walk in it is dark with spotlight of light, different from almost every other museum I have ever been to. It is a huge old hall or church with two levels and a huge dinosaur display at the far end. 

Crystals, rocks and minerals

On the ground floor, most of the exhibits are crystals, rocks or minerals, and they are displayed in glass window displays with lights on top like this one for gold:

This display of bismuth was amazing and really well lit to show it off. Bismuth is a type of metal that forms in intricate shapes with straight lines. Here's more about it on Paolo's site.

A lot of the exhibits had close up magnifying glasses to show details.

The meteorites were quite interesting as well:

In a dark room in the corner was this display of rocks where the lights went off every now and again to show that the rocks glowed in the dark. That was really cool:

This is obsidian which is one of my favourite rocks. It is lava which has cooled quickly forming a kind of volcanic glass:

The skulls

Even though it was based on rocks and minerals, there were a lot of skulls as well. This cave bear skeleton (Ursus spelaeus) was at the far end of the hall:

This wasn't the best replica skull in the world but it was still good to see:

This replica sabre-tooth tiger (Smilodon fatalis) skull was pretty good too, although it was missing the front cheek tooth on the lower jaws.

The next two skulls were casts of an early horse skull

The Merycoidodontinae Oreodont was a pig-like herbivore animal which was on earth for 21.7 million years. It has a scent gland indentation infront of the eye socket like modern deer, but I don't think it is related.


There were lots and lots of great fossils, a lot of which came from nearby Skye:

The age of some of the fossils, like this Asaphis kowalewskii trilobite was incredible with its eyes on stalks.

Here's another way in which magnifying glasses were used to show detail:

This big Ichthyosaurus communis was found in Dorset in south England. They look like dolphins (which are mammals)  or fish but they were actually reptiles that were up to six feet long:

There were two fossil fish which had lots and lots of details:

This made me think a lot about what museums are like. It wasn't like a normal museum, and some of the exhibits (like the replica skulls) wren't museum quality but I think it was put together by someone who really cares about the subject and put in a lot of effort into it. I was there with my two younger brothers and they loved it too. Having a dark hall with hidden corners made it a big adventure to explore everything, and we spent a lot of time there.

The exhibits make you think about how old the earth is too. Homo sapiens (modern humans) have been around for about 200,000 years, but the pig-like Merycoidodontinae oreodont lived on earth for 100x longer and still died out ! That makes humans see very insignificant in the scheme of things.

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Linda Knowles said...

One reason museums and stately houses don't allow photography is because thieves can use photos to work out what to steal and how to steal it. It's not always just to be a killjoy. It's great that there is a museum that can be so welcoming, especially to kids.

Jake said...

If thieves are prepared to illegally break into a building, maybe hurt a security guard and steal something valuable, then it doesn't seem likely that they will be detered by a "don't take photographs" sign. Also it seems a shame to stop hundred or thousands of tourists taking photographs to stop one robbery that might not happen anyway.

Tara Coia said...

Just added to my list of places to visit. trilobites are cool

Reddy said...

OK. I'm going to clear this up right now. Museums invariably do not allow photography because they do not own the copyright to all of the objects. You will see this at places like the National Galleries in Edinburgh, where some paintings have a logo next to them to show that they must not be photographed. Obviously not everywhere has the time or budget to do that and the easiest thing to do is ban photography. This could only be pertinent to a few exhibits, or maybe the whole place! It has NOTHING to do with damage, it has NOTHING to do with light (except in a very few circumstances), it is ONLY to do with copyright.

Don't ask the day staff these questions, they don't know. This will be something which is factored in from the planning stages of the museum/exhibit.

I'm a qualified interpretive planner so this is something I do know.

Reddy said...

Nope, this is not a reason. Never have I encountered this as a reason. Sure, its an added security measure, but this is never the reason photography is disallowed. It is only ever because of copyright issues.

Reddy said...


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