During the Sedgwick Museum‘s Moving a Mountain collections move project, the team has encountered many colourful rocks. This encouraged us to create a rock-inspired Progress Pride flag.

Our collections move project is in full swing and we’ve managed to move an impressive 5962 drawers so far, totalling about 116131 specimens. That’s a lot of rocks! And while there are a variety of amazing rocks in our collections, sometimes we get a run of drawers full of different shades of grey, and that can get a bit boring. So, for our own entertainment, we’ve been keeping an eye out for really spectacular rocks. Some of us simply wanted to show that rocks can be more colourful than just ‘geology blue’ or ‘geology green’ (read: grey and a slightly different grey), whilst others were looking for specific combinations of colours such as to match pride flags (we’re still hunting for the perfect asexual rock). It didn’t take long for us to combine these ideas to celebrate Pride by creating our own flags showcasing rocks from the collection.

The first step was deciding which flags we wanted to recreate. We all pretty quickly agreed on the Progress Pride flag but, as long as we could find suitably coloured rocks, we also wanted to make individual flags to raise awareness of some of the lesser-known parts of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Progress Pride flag as designed by American artist Daniel Quasar

Flags decided, it was then a matter of finding rocks with the colours to match. This was easier for some than others, there was plenty to choose from for green and if in doubt when looking for yellow sulphur is an easy option, but finding purples that weren’t too grey or oranges that weren’t too brown was trickier.

After searching through the collection we managed to find everything we needed, and we deliberately tried to find multiple options for each colour. This was so that we could let the public choose at least the colours for the main Pride flag. Through polls on Twitter, we pitted rock against rock and the occasional cat (unsurprisingly, the cat won) as a fun way to also boost the museum’s public engagement. We carried out these polls over the course of four weeks without letting the public know our master plan, so at the beginning of June we could do a dramatic surprise Pride flag reveal based off the winning rocks.

And here are the winners:

Brown: Brown laterite lithomarge, from Giant’s Causeway

Blue: Brecciated lazurite, from Lake Baikal, Russia

Yellow: Sulphur encrustation, from the Solfatara volcano, Phlegraean fields, Italy

Red: Franklinite and zincite in calcite, from Franklin Furnace, New Jersey

White: Feldspar (xenocryst of microcline hybrid gabbronorite), from Okhliabinin Isle

Black: Silicon Carbide, from Arendal Smelteverk Eydhhavn Norway

Pink: Marble with spongeforms, from Kilchrist, Skye

Light blue: Wollastonite with calcite, from Crestmore, California, USA

Orange: Ulexite with realgar from Rio Tinto Borax Mine, Boron, California, USA

Green: Eclogite, from Roberts Victor Mine, Boshof, South Africa

Purple: Banded calcite, mica, amphibole, sphene, phlogopite marble, from Moll Valley, Austria

With more than 300 voters across 11 polls and a higher than average engagement rate compared to our usual Tweets, we were delighted by how much the public seemed to enjoy voting for their favourite rocks, even without knowing our full plan. It was fun to see how popular some rocks were. The winning rocks for blue, brown, green and pink all won by a landslide (pun intended), but it seems the real key to being popular with the public is bringing cats and vampires.

And here is our completed flag:

If we were excited by the amount of engagement we achieved with the polls, we were absolutely blown away by how well received the flag was. We got as many impressions (the number of people who saw the post) on the Progress flag alone as we usually get across our whole profile in a month. We even inspired others to make their own flags!

After posting the Progress Pride flag on 1 June on both Twitter and Instagram, we then posted the rest of the Pride flags throughout June with information and links about each identity.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to run the polls concurrently on both Twitter and Instagram. However, we subsequently posted the polls on Instagram alongside the different flags to see how the results compared. We were intrigued to find that despite the museum’s smaller following, we consistently had more people voting on Instagram than on Twitter. As with the polls, all of the individual pride flags had a higher engagement rate than normal and the public response to them was overwhelmingly positive. Over the course of this project, we more than doubled the monthly number of visits to our Instagram profile and quadrupled our Twitter profile visits, which was far more than we ever expected. A massive thank you to everyone who participated and made this project such a success!

The Moving a Mountain Team with the Progress Pride flag

Come see the printed version of the Progress Pride flag in flag and bunting form hanging in the gallery at the museum on Downing Street or at the Collections Research Centre on the Madingley Rise site.