The crocodile and the camera

This present building opened in August 1931, the collection having been on Pier Road for the previous 104 years.

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, retired local photographer who was curator of the Museum from 1923 to 1941, wrote an account of how the fossil sea creatures were moved in the Museum in Pannett Park.

It was published in 1946 in “Chapters of Whitby History”, by Horace B. Browne, and edited for this website.

1931: The crocodile and the camera

Or, how this precious fossil was nearly lost!

Chance played an important part in the setting up of the Museum’s valuable specimen of fossil crocodile, teleosaurus chapmani, named after Captain William Chapman. In preparation for display in the New Museum it was placed in a flat table case, with four stout legs.

Before the plate glass was put on to protect this rare fossil, a photograph was to be taken. The camera was being supported between two planks, with their ends resting on two pairs of steps. But some of the members were so afraid that the photographer might slip, and fall on the precious fossil, that they suggested propping the table in an upright position, so that the photograph might be taken from safer position of the floor instead of from above.

While the crocodile was in this position it was noticed how much better it looked like this; so the legs were cut off and the case left at the present angle.

The fossil crocodile is probably the finest of its kind so far discovered. It was acquired for the Museum for the great sum of £7 in 1824.

 More on the fossils and other geology can be found here.