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Journey to time dinosaurs ruled the earth in Britain’s newest museum

Museum of Jurassic Marine Life, Jurassic Coast, Manila Bulletin,

The Etches Collection – Museum of Jurassic Marine Life | Jurassic Coast | Manila Bulletin

LONDON — Britain’s newest attraction, the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life, has opened its doors, taking visitors to a Dorset village on a journey back in time.

The attraction has been built in Kimmeridge, in the heart of the Jurassic Coast, England’s only natural World Heritage Site.

Spanning 153 km, the Jurassic Coast is internationally renowned for the abundance of fossils on its shores. The rocks towering above the English Channel record 185 million years of the earth’s history.

The new museum houses the largest collection of clay fossils from the Jurassic Coast outside London’s Natural History Museum.

Its collection of more than 2,000 exhibits is the result of the passion of one man, fossil collector and amateur palaeontologist Steve Etches. He has devoted more than 35 years of his life combing the famous coastline in search of fossils and items from a time when the earth was different to the planet we know today.

Etches stored many of the items in the garage of his home, but people of Kimmeridge decided to form a trust charity to create a purpose-built museum to give a permanent home to his growing collection.

Costing more than 6 million U.S. dollars, the museum, home to the Etches Collection, is expected to attract thousands of visitors a year to people wanting to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs and creatures that roamed the earth and took to the skies millions of years ago.

UNESCO awarded World Heritage status to the coastline around Kimmeridge due to the quality of its varied geology and resulting palaeontology spanning the entire Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

A spokesman for the new museum explained: “Amazing stories can be found in the cliffs and rocks and out beneath the seas in the Kimmeridgian shale of sediments and clays that were formed 150 million years ago.”

“A prehistoric time when pterosaurs, big and small flying reptiles ruled the skies and the first feathered birds began to appear. On land, giant plant eating sauropods populated the terrain, grazing on the many species of tropical ferns and early conifers,” said the spokesman.

For many years it was thought the Kimmeridge Clays had little to yield, a belief changed by the discoveries of Etches. Many of the species he discovered are new to science and are of great palaeontological importance.

The Etches collection has won recognition from leading palaeontologists, geologists and scientists, leading to numerous awards for the passionate collector.

The museum features displays of fossil specimens, video presentations and a workshop where visitors can see the process of exposing and cleaning items for display, with Etches commenting he hoped it will “stimulate the imagination”.

As a museum spokesman added: “The space transforms into an aquarium of the past in the blink of an eye, changing from a scene of tranquillity and beauty to raw, primal violence and a fight for survival. Objects that once seemed static will be brought to life and represented as if they were modern day animals.”

“You’re not here forever, so it’s handy to pass on information which I’ve accumulated over the last 35 years,” he said at the opening Friday of the museum.

Simon Allen, CEO of the trust running the new museum said the fossil collection was globally-acclaimed.

Allen added: “It is only right that the Etches collection is stored in Kimmeridge where it was found.”

Professor Simon Conway Morris from the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge described the Etches collection as a gem for the country and a national treasure.