TWO giant pre-historic dragonfly fossils which lay hidden for 300 million years before they were discovered by miners at Bolsover Colliery are to go on display.
The extremely rare geological specimens were found underground by pit workers in 1978 and are normally housed at the Natural History Museum in London.
But next spring the dragonflies, which would have been flying to and fro across swamps in the Carboniferous Period, will return to the district where they were unearthed to form part of an exhibition at Creswell Crags.
They are two of only three giant dragonflies ever found in the UK and will go on display for three months each.
Project officer Rebecca Clay says the first dragonfly is often known locally as the Beast of Bolsover - a title more commonly associated with the town’s veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner.
“It is very exciting to have such an important part of the area’s natural history on display near to where it was discovered,” Rebecca said.
“It also gives us the opportunity to present the fossil in a new way by telling the story of its discovery from the people who were there at the time.”
The first dragonfly had a wingspan of more than 20cm and belonged to the now-extinct variety of dragonflies known as ‘Protodonata’.
It dates back to the Carboniferous Period, a geological era which means ‘coal bearing’.
The fossil will have remained undisturbed in the coal seam for around 300 million years until it was discovered by miners at Bolsover 33 years ago.
According to an account of the discovery in Derbyshire local history magazine The Tup, published in 1993, the fossil was found by miner Malcolm Spencer and passed onto his district deputy and well-known fossil hunter Terry Judge. It ended up with specialists at the Natural History Museum who eventually declared it a new species.
Later the same year another miner discovered a second dragonfly fossil at the pit, but Terry later wrote that this discovery never achieved the fame of its predecessor.
Creswell Crags is now looking for people to come forward with information to help tell the story of both fossils’ discovery ahead of the exhibition, which will be launched in April.
“We really want the local community to have a say on how the exhibition looks and feels,” Rebecca said.
“The fossils are international treasures and the dragonfly has become an emblem of Bolsover.
“This is a chance to see a really prominent piece of natural history on your doorstep.”
Rebecca says the temporary exhibition will include displays on the impact the discovery had locally, with press clippings of the hype surrounding the findings at the colliery. There will also be information on the Carboniferous Period and other discoveries which have been made in coal.
Anyone who can help Rebecca piece together information about how the dragonflies were discovered in 1978 should contact her on 01909 720378 or email Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org