The Rotunda Museum, described as the finest surviving purpose-built museum of its age in the country, was built in 1829 to a design suggested by William Smith, 'Father of English Geology'. Smith's pioneering work established that geological strata could be identified and correlated using the fossils they contain. Smith came to Scarborough after his release from debtors' prison. The dramatic Jurassic coastline of Yorkshire offered him an area of geological richness. Sir John Johnstone became Smith’s patron and employed him as his Land Steward at Hackness. Johnstone was President of the Scarborough Philosophical Society which raised the money to build the Rotunda and consulted Smith as to the Museum’s design. Still in his twenties, Sir John was an intellectual leader in Scarborough in the 1820s and a staunch supporter of Smith and his ideas. He donated the Hackness stone of which the Rotunda Museum is built. The building is an exhibit in itself - the interior, with its stunning trompe l'oeil ceiling and fascinating gallery, featuring a frieze showing the geology of the local coastline designed by Smith's nephew, John Phillips, is remarkable.
With over 5,500 fossils and 3,000 minerals, the strengths of the Scarborough collection are numerous type specimens, which were the first of their kind ever to be described, and one of the finest collections of Middle Jurassic fossil plants in the country. The collection also includes a large selection of Cretaceous fossils from the Speeton Clay and the Chalk, a wide variety of Upper and Lower Jurassic specimens, specimens from the Ice Age such as mammoth teeth and fossils from the Kirkdale Cave and a pristine Carboniferous plant collection. The whole collection was catalogued and conserved in 2007 and the more spectacular specimens are now on display in the refurbished Rotunda Museum. These give a taste of the quality and range of the fossils and minerals that have been found along Yorkshire's Dinosaur Coast which stretches from Redcar in the north to Flamborough in the south. With a lift to all floors and a ground floor toilet the Rotunda Museum is accessible for wheelchair users. Guide dogs are welcome. All staff have had dementia awareness training. There are interactive and audio displays. It operates a loop system for audio displays. Full toilet facilities are available with baby changing facilities. The Scarborough Art Gallery is close by.
Location : Rotunda Museum, Vernon Road, Scarborough, YO11 2PS
Transport: Scarborough (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus routes : 6, 64 and 165 stop close by.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday + Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 01723 353665