By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 9 December 2013
Having written this blog (clearly in reverse given that I am now writing the introduction), my conclusion is that fierce things come in small, furry packages. When I need cheering up, watching the antics of this animal on nature videos works much better than chocolate. It’s adorable, endearing and lethal. I recommend this animal to you, should you ever be in the same position. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »
By Edmund Connolly, on 6 December 2013
The ever popular and ever sold out (although some tickets left for the 13th December screening) Petrie Film club chronicles the application of Egypt in just some of the many cinematic and TV masterpieces that have turned to pyramids, mummies and anthropomorphic deities for their stimuli. Moving pictures are all very well, but I am a bookish type and prefer the idea of lounging by a fire with some sort of paged item, reading away. Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids certainly struck a chord with me, considering it in relation to the Petrie Collection and the concept of Ancient Egyptian religion and the changes it underwent.
Pratchett, Pyramids (1989) copyright: amazon.co.uk
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By Helen R Cobby, on 6 December 2013
Kevin Guyan speaking with participants on his Bloomsbury walking tour, outside Paramount Court
Throughout this term, Kevin Guyan, PhD candidate at the UCL history department, has been working with the Art Museum to create events that compliment the current ‘Black Bloomsbury’ exhibition. His own research has allowed him to take themes from the exhibition in thoughtful and unusual directions for these workshops at the Museum. His events have included interactive investigations around 1940s music and dance, and exploring ideological boundaries within the Bloomsbury area through a walking tour.
Kevin’s own research explores how domestic spaces impacted upon the production and reproduction of masculinities in the post war period (c.1945 – 1966). Although this work focuses on a different time period to ‘Black Bloomsbury’, (1945-1966 rather than 1918-1948), he has drawn upon common themes running through both eras, including space and identity, and methodologies of how historians perceive and ‘see’ into the past. For a more detailed analysis of his research and its links to the ‘Black Bloomsbury’ exhibition, please see his article ‘Engaging with Black Bloomsbury’, published on the Student Engagers website here.
Curious to hear more about his work and the way he thinks up – and thinks about – the nature of his events with the Art Museum, I asked him a few questions. Read the rest of this entry »
By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 5 December 2013
Oh you bizarre gharial you, how I love your features
With the thinnest (relative) snout, of the Animal Kingdom’s creatures
One of the largest species, of all the world’s croc-kind
You’re really quite unique, when all your features are combined
Your legs so weak and measly, can’t get your body off the ground
And your only real defence, is a puny hissss-ing sound Read the rest of this entry »
By Mark Carnall, on 4 December 2013
Recently there have been a spate of high profile auctions of natural history specimens raising many issues about ownership, the value we should or shouldn’t put on natural history and the relationship between professional scientists, museums, amateurs and private collectors. My colleague Jack Ashby wrote about the recent dodo bones that were auctioned. Colleagues Dave Hone and Mark Graham give a balanced view of the recent sale of a Diplodocus skeleton over at the Guardian. The ‘duelling dinosaurs’ fossil was estimated to reach $9 million at auction in New York and last year the controversial proposed sale of an allegedly illicitly smuggled Tarbosaurus skeleton caused much debate.
I thought I’d add my thoughts on the subject here, in particular about the relationship between collectors, museums and ethics. Read the rest of this entry »
By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 December 2013
In a life changing move of progressionism, I have decided to do something a little different this week. I know, I know, “Noooo Emma, don’t do it, continuity is key!” I hear you cry. But do not fear my loyal follower (Mum) and other people who have come across this blog by accident, I promise you this is going to. rock. your. world. Rather than look at a single species, we are going to go on a journey of poisonings, lies, and masters of subterfuge. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »
By Edmund Connolly, on 29 November 2013
Many of us may be looking forward to Christmas in a few weeks’ time, but for many of our Egyptian (and other Coptic readers) Christmas will not be until January 7th 2014.
- UC75907, Coptic embroidery from the Petrie Museum
Coptic is a bit of a hydra of a term, with a few meanings that can be used synonymously or separately. The word Coptic derives from the Greek ‘aigyptos’ referring to the people of Egypt, originally this term had nothing to do with religious order or identity. Whilst ‘Egypt’ comes from more of an Ancient Egyptian pronunciation, Copt most probably held an Arabic influence, with the initial ‘ai’ being dropped to produce the plosive ‘K’ sound (Gregorious 1982, Downer).
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By Jack Ashby, on 27 November 2013
There are lots of good things about working in a university museum. The best is that there are thousands of people around us whose job it is to have ideas and then come up with a way of realising these ideas. In the museums we know a lot of academics from different fields who we can put in touch with each other when we spot complementary ideas to combine into exciting cross-disciplinary projects.
A few weeks ago some of our colleagues from UCL’s Institute of Making arrived with someone from Structural and Molecular Biology saying that they wanted to 3D scan our plaster bust of Charles Darwin to create a copy to go in the Darwin Building where UCL’s biologists live (and where the Grant Museum used to be housed). From there a project spiraled into something very exciting.
3D Scan of the Grant Museum’s Darwin bust by Mona Hess (all rights reserved)
The bust has a bit of history – it is part of the Grant Museum’s collection, and as such when we moved into our current home in 2011 we took him with us (you might have spotted him peeking out a window on Gower Street). The biologists in the Darwin Building were very sorry to see him go. This project will create a new Darwin for them, and will also result in an unusual exhibition, through a competition. Read the rest of this entry »
By Mark Carnall, on 26 November 2013
Back in October, I introduced this series (here’s a link to the opening post) about the specimens you’re near guaranteed to see in every natural history museum. We’ll take each specimen in turn and have a look at why they’re a usual suspect for display in a natural history museum.
Legs like pegs, it’s Japanese spider crab. One down, 8 to go.
The first specimen we’re going to take a look at is the Japanese spider crab. Japanese spider crabs are just one species, Macrocheira kaempferi. Confusingly, there is also a group of crabs, the family Majidae, called spider crabs which doesn’t include the most famous spider crab of them all. Japanese spider crabs are mostly found in coastal waters of southern Japan and have been recorded in waters as deep as 600 m so why do we find them in museums all over the world?
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By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 November 2013
Last week I was rewarded for my services to mankind* with a free trip to Edinburgh. You may or may not remember a huge hoo-haa about the zoo acquiring (on loan) a pair of giant pandas from China, at GREAT expense. The hoo-haa was primarily amongst the zoological community but raised many an eyebrow, and “tut”s were prevalent amongst colleagues and friends whenever the subject arose. Well, I decided it was time to find out what was what, and visit these controversial immigrants, worth more than their weight in gold, for myself. Well, the first thing I need to say is “AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW”. I am now completely in love with giant pandas. The second thing is, despite their £600,000 a year loan fee, visitor numbers have apparently risen to such an extent as a result that the pandas not only pay for themselves but have funded two other new animal enclosures in the two years they have been there. Eyebrows raise for different reasons now eh. We don’t have a giant panda (though I informed my Manager of the lucrative result of securing one), but we do have something similar. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »