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  • Specimen of the Week: 184

    By Dean W Veall, on 20 April 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-Nine Hello dear Grant Museum blog followers, Dean Veall here again bringing you Specimen of the Week 184. This week’s specimen of the week is the result of a recent rummage through the drawers of the collection. Through my contributions for the series I have often gone in search of a specimen that doesn’t get to be seen by the public very often and today’s specimen is indeed one of those and it also revisits an emerging avian tendancy I had not realised I had until I started writing these blogs. This week’s Specimen of the Week is….. Read the rest of this entry »

    What kind of animal is a Yoshi?

    By Mark Carnall, on 15 April 2015

    Our current exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals features images, specimens and objects all related to how animals are represented through time. The exhibition is centered around George Stubbs’ painting of a kangaroo, an iconic image despite the fact that he never saw a kangaroo first hand. From dodgy taxidermy, dinosaur toys, glass models and wildly inaccurate images of animals which were claimed to have been studied from life, the exhibition explores how we make sense of a newly discovered animal species from first encounters with living animals through to reconstructions made from written accounts and sketches. Initial encounters with kangaroos drew comparisons with more familiar mammals such as jerboas, greyhounds, mice and deer, the creature so strange to European explorers it didn’t fit within existing classifications.

    What happens if we start from an animal that we only know from a reconstruction? In the past (and today) mermaids, unicorns, giants, cyclopses, goatsuckers and deathworms have all been speculatively described either due to pervasive myths, hoaxes, delusions or confusion with other animals. To help with the process of working out how we identify animals we know from reconstructions alone, let’s see if we can work out how we’d classify a well known fictional animal, Nintendo character Mario’s companion and steed Yoshi*, this one acquired in a Happy Meal and currently on display in our exhibition.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 183

    By Mark Carnall, on 13 April 2015

    Scary MonkeyThis week’s specimen of the week is another specimen highlighted in our current exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals and yet another dinosaur specimen from me. In our exhibition about representing animals through art and science, this specimen is in a case about how understanding of extinct animal biology has changed through the discovery of new fossils and advances in analytical techniques and tools.

    Today’s specimen is often described as chicken-sized which is one of the go-to standard measurements of animals in popular culture, the full scale goes; mouse-sized, chicken-sized, turkey-sized, terrier-sized, volkswagen-sized then various dimensions expressed in double-decker buses ending with Olympic swimming pools and football pitches. There is a separate system for brain sizes oriented around fruit, nut and sporting ball sizes.

    This week’s specimen of the week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 182

    By Will J Richard, on 6 April 2015

    Scary MonkeyHello! Will Richard here. This month I have decided to dictate my blog to a footman, as I’m feeling very royal. Last month one (which is royal for “I”) wrote about a queen. And so, continuing in that grandiose tradition, this month one would like to write about a king. Not a pretend king like one (I think when speaking royal you can also use “one” to mean “me”) but a proper king. His Royal Highness himself…

    This week’s specimen of the week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: March 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 March 2015

    After last month’s deeply underwhelming fossil fish of the month the head of the network has been in touch to ask if I can sex it up a bit for everyone’s favourite month, March. So normally in this bit I go on about how this blog series is all about completely underwhelming fossil fish, here’s where you can read all the old ones etc. etc.  However, today I’ll inform you to strap yourself into whatever undergarments you find yourself wearing because this month I’m going for it. This is the first ever actinisitian underwhelming fossil fish of the month (take that, fictional network heads). I know right? Hype-tastic. What’s even more exciting is that this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is a non-coelacanthiform, coelacanthid, Coelacanthus which is a coelacanth but not the coelacanth (pronounced see-la-canth). But no! I’ve said too much. I should have kept some of the excitement for below. Let’s have a look at the star specimen in question:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Is the auto-icon wearing underwear?

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 30 March 2015

    A year or so ago a colleague drew my attention to a Jeremy Bentham related sketch by the ever excellent Horrible Histories BBC programme. Amongst the many Bentham inventions it highlights (including words such as ‘maximise’, ‘minimise’, ‘international’ and appropriately enough ‘eccentric’) was one I’d never heard of before – Jeremy Bentham invented underpants.

    Jeremy Bentham's auto-icon.

    Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon.

    As you can imagine, this is popular with school groups visiting the auto-icon, and along with his mummified head tends to be the fact school kids remember.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 181

    By Tannis Davidson, on 30 March 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineAt the Grant Museum we have nearly 68,000 specimens – and each, in its own way, has a story to tell.  Some are historical specimens dating back to the earliest days of the Museum such as Professor Grant’s thylacine skeleton  and the popular walrus penis bone.

    Others tell more modern tales of use in the collection for teaching (SOTW 178), undergoing conservation work (Return of the Rhino), or being featured in exhibitions (SOTW 180).

    This week’s Specimen of the Week has several stories to tell and as such,  I’ve always thought it one of the most interesting specimens in the collection.  It is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 180

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 March 2015

    Scary Monkey This week’s specimen of the week is an object that is very special to me and one of the objects featured in our current exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals. The theme of the exhibition is representations of animals centred around George Stubbs’ painting of a kangaroo, Europe’s first painting of an Australian animal which became the archetype for how people imagined how kangaroos looked, despite the animal itself never being seen by George Stubbs. In addition to this painting the exhibition focuses on representations of animals across modern scientific modelling, medieval manuscripts and, a part of the exhibition that is very close to my heart, representations of dinosaurs in popular culture in the form of toys, comics, video games and film.

    This week’s object from the exhibition is from my own personal collection, my first ever dinosaur toy which may be surprising to find in a museum but mass produced ephemera can tell us a lot about societies’ interpretation and response to ideas of extinct creatures despite being very far removed from any actual scientific investigation or research.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 179

    By Dean W Veall, on 18 March 2015

    Scary Monkey Dean Veall here. This week I return to a case that is one of my favourite in the Museum for my Specimen of the Week. It has particular relevance in a week I had my bi-annual haircut and lost my full head of curls, as the common name for this specimen has the word comb in it. I also chose this specimen as it challenges the long held stereotypic view of the group it belongs to, not slow, fumbling and herbivorous , but vicious, predatory and damn right mean looking (and ultimately really cool, swoon), you certainly wouldn’t pick a fight with this specimen. This week’s Specimen of the Week is….

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 March 2015

    Imagine that you are in a place no-one from your country has ever been before. You have just set eyes on an animal incomparible to anything you’ve ever encountered – it might as well be an alien. Cameras haven’t been invented. It will take a year for you or anything you send to reach home. Your job is to communicate what you’ve discovered to the people back home.

    The artistic outcomes of scenarios like this are the basis for much of our exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals, which opens today.

    The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo), George Stubbs (1772). ZBA5754 (L6685-001). National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London*

    The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo), George Stubbs (1772). ZBA5754 (L6685-001). National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

    The natural history of art; the art history of nature

    By examining the world of animal representations, the exhibition explores how imagery has been used to bring newly discovered animals into the public eye. From the earliest days of exploration, visual depictions in artworks, books, the media and even toys have been essential in representing exotic species that are alien to people at home.

    Strange Creatures investigates what we can learn about art history by researching natural history, and what art history can contribute to natural history.

    Read the rest of this entry »