Lyme Regis Museum to celebrate the life of Mary Anning

Published:
2:41 PM July 21, 2022



One of Lyme Regis’ favorite daughters is celebrated with a rarely seen portrait of famed paleontologist Mary Anning.

The Lyme Regis Museum, which stands on Mary’s former home on the waterfront, is also holding an exhibition featuring one of its rare ichthyosaurs and a recently discovered and special genus of extinct saltwater ‘crocodile’ found by two hunters of fossils.

Museum director Bridget Houseago said: “We are delighted to bring the portrait of Mary and one of her famous ichthyosaurs back to Lyme Regis.

“It’s a wonderful way to mark Mary’s birthday, the end of our centenary year, and to celebrate Lyme’s pioneering fossil hunter.

“We are delighted to have these precious objects on loan and hope that our visitors will enjoy viewing them.

‘The portrait is thought to have been commissioned, which was then bought by a collector and given to the Geological Society in Piccadilly, London, in 1875, where it has hung ever since.

“The irony was that Mary was not allowed to be a member of the society, because she was a woman, but they obviously appreciated her work and her expertise, because her portrait had hung there all this time – the only woman in a pantheon of famous fathers of science.

Mary’s portrait is on loan from the Geological Society and is on public display at Lyme Regis for the first time. Painted in pastels, it is the work of a local artist, Benjamin Donne, who would have known Mary and depicts her with her faithful dog, Tray, on Lyme beach.

Alongside the image, a very rare Ichthyosaurus breviceps discovered by Mary in 1832 is on loan from the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge.

No complete Mary Anning ichthyosaurs have ever been exhibited in Lyme until now.

Also featured is an exciting new acquisition for the first time, a recently discovered genus and species of extinct thalattosuchian marine crocodylomorphs discovered by Paul Turner and Lizzie Hingley a short distance from where Mary herself is believed to have fossils.

Richard Hughes, Executive Secretary of the Geological Society, said: “The Geological Society is proud to be associated with the museum’s new exhibition on the life of Mary Anning and we are pleased to have been able to assist with the loan of this portrait now. iconic.

“Although many people have seen it hanging on the Society’s premises at Burlington House, we hope that many more will be able to see it displayed in the city that was its home.”

Dr Paul Davis, curator of geology at the Lyme Regis Museum, says: “We are incredibly fortunate to be working with excellent local collectors Paul and Lizzie and to benefit from their generous gift of this incredibly important specimen, which is so unique that no one, not even Mary Anning, found one of these crocodylomorphs in Lyme Regis for the past 200 years.

The exhibition lasts until the end of September

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