Presenting… Dr Hilary Ketchum


A few weeks ago we welcomed Dr Hilary Ketchum as our new collections manager for the geological collections. Hilary will be looking after all kinds of specimens, but especially the fossil vertebrate animals, including the dinosaurs. To welcome her, and to announce her arrival to the public, we have handed over our regularly-changing Presenting… display so that Hilary can exhibit some of her favourite things (so far) from behind the scenes in the Museum.

Hilary looking for plesiosaurs in the Oxford Clay on a rainy day. She’s never found one.
Hilary looking for plesiosaurs in the Oxford Clay on a rainy day. She’s never found one.

For her doctorate, Hilary researched a group of Jurassic sea-reptiles called plesiosaurs. Since then she has worked for the Natural History Museum in London and both the Sedgwick Museum and the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge. Although she spends most of the day behind the scenes in our store rooms she also loves being involved in activities and events.

I am very excited to be here. This has been my favourite museum since I first visited as an undergraduate, nearly 15 years ago. I love my job as it’s so varied and I learn something new every day. One minute I can be answering enquiries from scientists, or finding specimens for a new display. The next I can be identifying fossils that a visitor found on holiday.

A few of Hilary’s selection of specimens are include here. To see the full display, look for the Presenting… case just to the right of the Welcome Desk near the entrance to the Museum. An online archive of the Presenting… series is also available on our website.

The first plesiosaur – Part of a flipper from the first plesiosaur ever described scientifically. It was almost certainly collected by Mary Anning, one of the greatest fossil-hunters who ever lived.
Dendrites – This may look like a fossil plant but it is actually a form of mineral growth called a dendrite. This type of crystal growth can also be found in snowflakes.
Cubic pyrite crystals – This specimen of “Fool’s Gold” is from Spain. “I find it amazing that something so straight and orderly can arise in nature,” says Hilary.

Scott Billings – Public engagement officer


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