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Archives of the Department of Geology and the Woodwardian and Sedgwick Museums, 1731 - 1987

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/GEOL

Scope and Contents

The earliest records relate to Woodward's will, estates and the administration of his fossil collection. From the 1880s, administrative records of the burgeoning Department of Geology, its teaching, examining, and students, survive alongside papers for the lengthy project to build the Sedgwick Museum. The archives also include the papers of Professor T. McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor 1873-1917.


  • Creation: 1731 - 1987


Conditions Governing Access

Personal records are closed to scholars for 80 years under data protection legislation. Restrictions are clearly indicated in catalogue entries.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests to publish text should be addressed to the Keeper of University Archives, photographs to the Head of Digital Content Unit. Both at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR.

Biographical / Historical

The Professorship of Geology was established in 1728 with a bequest from Dr John Woodward of Pembroke College, who also left his collection of fossils to the University and its care to successive professors. Adam Sedgwick's professorship, 1818-73, greatly encouraged the study of geology among undergraduates in the years before the establishment of the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1851. The Department of Geology was established in 1882 with the institution of a specialised Part II to the Tripos and consequent increase in the number of teaching posts. It became part of the Department of Earth Sciences in 1980. Woodward's fossils formed the core of the University's geological collections, subsequently augmented by gift and purchase. From 1734, the collections were housed in the Novel Room of the University Library. In 1840, they were moved into the Woodwardian Museum, on the ground floor of the Cockerell Building. At the death of Professor Sedgwick in 1873, it was decided to build a new geological museum, named the Sedgwick Museum as a memorial to him, on the New Museums site, on Downing Street. This museum opened in 1904. It continues to accommodate the University's geological collections, academic staff and lecture rooms. For further background information, see David Price 'John Woodward and a surviving British geological collection from the early eighteenth century' in Journal of the History of Collections I, no. 1 (1989) pp. 79-95.


17 linear metre(s) : paper and vellum

Language of Materials



In addition to sorting his own papers, Professor T. McKenny Hughes was instrumental in arranging much of the museum and departmental archive up to his death; this order has been retained.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The archives are in generally good condition throughout.

Other Finding Aids

The original hard copy catalogue was completed on 8 Nov. 1974. It was revised to incorporate the 1980 transfer in Nov. 1986. Full catalogue conversion to digital format was completed in Apr. 2001. A hard copy catalogue is available in the Reading Room of the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives (reference: UA In.18).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The archives were transferred to the University Archives on 11 and 13 Oct. 1972 and 13 Aug. 1980. The archives are a permanent transfer to the University Archives.

Related Materials

See also among the University Archives: significant quantities of material relating to the museums form part of the series of Registry files, classified as UA CUR.

Related Materials

The personal papers of Adam Sedgwick are available for consultation in the Manuscripts section of the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives under the reference Add.Ms.7652 and 7670..


The online catalogue was completed in 2002 and emended in 2004, April 2005 and April and December 2007.


Department of Geology

Finding aid date

1998-03-19 17:53:14+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom