Slab showing 'Chirotherium storetonense' prints
There are currently around 36,000 registered fossil specimens in the collection. These mainly consist of British material arranged by stratigraphic age and taxonomy. The marine Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian and Lower Carboniferous are particularly well represented.
The local Triassic footprints and plants from the coal measures are also very important. One of the most important areas of the fossil collection which directs our current research interests are the fossil footprints found locally. The museum also has fine collections of fossil fish of all ages.
Unusual specimens include:
- Eggs of the dinosaur Hypselosaurus
- An egg from the first discovered clutch of Oviraptor eggs
- Two eggs of the flightless Madagascan bird Aepyornis
- Several fine examples of spiny Devonian trilobites, including Kolihapeltis and the complete skeleton of the extinct Irish deer Megaceros giganteus
- Sabalites, a huge fossil palm leaf from the Eocene of Wyoming.
The pre-war palaeontology collections and archives were almost completely destroyed in the incendiary fire at the museum during the Second World War. However, some historic material had already been moved from the building and these items survived.
Objects from other collections have been added since the Second World War and include those from Grosvenor Museum, Chester, Kendal Museum, University of Liverpool and St Helens Museum and most recently Wigan and Leigh College and Staffordshire University. The post war acquisitions have enabled the collections to now rank amongst the top ten in the UK.
Large historic collections include the Ravenhead collection of fossil plants (1870), Austin Crinoid collection (1886), the Buckman Ammonite Collection, George Highfield Morton's collection and Willoughby-Ellis collection from Kent's Cavern.