Designated Status for Ipswich Museums’ Post-Cretaceous Geology Collection.

Written by Dr Simon Jackson, Collections and Learning Curator (Natural Sciences), Colchester + Ipswich Museums.

Ipswich Museums’ Post-Cretaceous Geology Collection, which includes our outstanding ice age collection, has been awarded Designated status by Arts Council England. The team here are delighted!

“OK, what exactly is Designation?” some of you may be thinking… Well, the scheme is administered by Arts Council England and identifies the pre-eminent collections of national importance held in England’s non-national museums, libraries and archives, based on their quality and significance. So, this award is a mark of distinction which is useful, for instance, in securing funding. If this has piqued your interest, and, for instance, you may be thinking “perhaps my collection is eligible for the scheme?” you can read more about Designation here: Designation Scheme | Arts Council England or my 2020 paper about the Tullie House bid I led on then, here .

So, what’s been Designated at Ipswich? The Ipswich Post-Cretaceous Geology Collection includes c.30,000 specimens. The greatest strength of the collection includes Suffolk Plio-Pleistocene fossils, the remains of animals which lived during the Pleistocene ice age, and the warmer Pliocene before it. Suffolk has an outstanding Plio-Pleistocene record, with the only exposures of the Coralline Crag (Middle Pliocene) and extensive exposures of the Red Crag (the only exposed British deposit to document the transition into the ice age). The county’s deposits also document the dramatically changing environments of the ice age between warmer, wetter episodes (interglacials) and colder, drier episodes (glacials).  With pre-eminent collections covering this period, the collection now attracts international research, which, for instance, includes searching for the oldest mammoth DNA from Europe in c. 200,000 year old teeth from Suffolk – research led by the Centre for Palaeogenetics, at the Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and the NHM). You can read more about the project here:

Beautiful molar of straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus from Hoxne, approximately 400,000 years old (Ipswich Museums collections)

Receiving this news is certainly very timely, as we plan the new galleries for our major 2022-2025 £8.7 million redevelopment project. It really helps us to justify building in the collection as a major element of the new displays, in a way that the Ipswich community can be proud of, with an outstanding collection on their doorstep. They will be able to connect to a rich past, through the diversity of the collections, in a period which was geologically-speaking “only yesterday”.

The application has been hard work, but hopefully well worth it. And perhaps Designation is the thing that you might be looking for to boost your significant statements around your collections…

I would like to thank everyone again who has helped to support our bid through providing us with data to help us put our Post-Cretaceous collections into better context.

Shell of the gastropod Murex canhami from the Red Crag at Waldringfield (type specimen at Ipswich Museums).
Check out at the BGS GB3D site at
or on our CIMS collections website (photography by Douglas Atfield).


Arts Council England, 2015. The Designation scheme. Guidance for applicants. [Online] Available at: < https:// default/ files/download-file/ Designation_Scheme_application_guidance.pdf [Accessed Friday, 24 January 2020]. < https://

Jackson, S., 2020. Secrets of Designation unlocked: the Tullie House natural science collection and a window into Cumbrian biodiversity. Journal of Natural Science Collections7, pp.24-33.

One thought on “Designated Status for Ipswich Museums’ Post-Cretaceous Geology Collection.

  1. Pingback: NatSCA Digital Digest – May 2023 | NatSCA

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