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  • Specimen of the Week: Week 145

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 July 2014

    Scary MonkeyLike all professional zoologists, I own several sets of novelty animal-based playing cards. One such set is “Dangerous Australian Animals”. This is a particularly good set as in addition to the usual playing card graphics (hearts, diamonds, etc), not only do you get a lovely picture of a Dangerous Australian Animal on each card, but you get a star rating, out of five, of exactly how Dangerous it is.

    The manufacturers would have had to work pretty hard to narrow it down to just 52 Dangerous Australian Animals, given that most lifeforms in Australia are Dangerous.

    Alongside the snakes, crocodiles, spiders, jellyfish, scorpions and paralysis ticks, there is a single bird Dangerous enough to get its own card. With a Dangerous rating of 0.5 stars out of five, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Don’t ask the Archaeologist

    By Edmund Connolly, on 17 July 2014

    The archaeologist in question on site at the Parthernon

    The archaeologist in question on site at the Parthernon

    The Petrie regularly plays host to 80+ Primary School students a week who arrive at the museum armed with worksheets and  pencils in various stages of consumption. During the closing Q&A’s I often worry for my teaching prowess as I endure the same question again and again from 5 or more little upturned faces, wondering what have I done wrong, why aren’t they remembering anything?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Squirrels and Earth Resistance

    By Pia K Edqvist, on 17 July 2014

    The past couple of days people have found me in all sorts of random places: popping up from under tables, looking in cupboards and spying behind display cases. Initially we thought we were looking for a squirrel; thinking we would be finding a bionic-like animal with fluorescent eyes (pretty exciting). But in the end we realised that this ‘squirrel’ was actually the environmental monitoring box. This ‘squirrel’ was among many items that had to be located, but why?

    Image of Jo Howcroft PAT testing in the Grant Museum at UCL

    Image of Jo Howcroft PAT testing in the Grant Museum

    Excitingly enough, I have been supervising the Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) executed in the Grant Museum and the Petrie Museum. This test is used to check whether a portable/moveable electrical item is safe to use. As we do not have the expertise in-house to execute this kind of testing we had to search for help elsewhere. Fortunately assistance was not far away; this could be found within the department among the staff at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Theatre Technician Jo Howcroft came to the rescue bringing her expertise within the area. She also kindly explained the process of PAT testing (which is more complicated than one would ever imagine):

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Work Experience at UCL Art Museum

    By Martine Rouleau, on 14 July 2014

    This blog was written by Ellie who is in year 10 at Kingsmead School. She was on work experience at UCL for a week between 7th-11th July. She spent a day shadowing Dr Martine Rouleau, Learning and Access Officer at UCL Art Museum.

    LDUCS-2176_IMG1 - TurnerAs I’m on work experience here, I didn’t know anything about UCL Art Museum. I’ve been here for 2 days and I now know a lot of information about the history and collections at the art museum.

    I’ve learnt that there are over 10,000 pieces of art here created by a variety of artists, some that are very well known and some that aren’t. They’re very different and they all have different meanings and explanations of why they were produced. However, they have one thing in common and that is being under the same roof.

    UCL has the artwork of Turner, de Wint, Cox and Rowlandson. They also have work by students that have won competitions such as best art work in their year at University (the William Coldstream Memorial Prize).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 144

    By Mark Carnall, on 14 July 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week TwoAre you settled to read the 144th weekly specimen from the Grant Museum? This week I continue my personal mission to highlight the more obscure, complex and confusing animals. From a very early age our exposure to the animal kingdom is focused on the cute, charismatic and large animals, what we call ‘Hollywood animals‘ here at the Grant Museum.  They adorn lunch boxes, T-shirts and fill zoos but the sheer diversity of animal life is so much richer. Why is it that we can all recognise and name specific mammals but lump other huge animal groups under one name- crabs, frogs, spiders etc. Despite the fact that mammal species are but a tiny proportion of all animal species, around 5000 or so out of an estimated 1.5 million described species. It might be that we’re psychologically geared to remembering animals that are like us or perhaps it’s part of our brain wiring to remember animals that can stomp/eat/maul us. Either way, this week’s specimen is one that I’m fairly confident will be new to many of you.

    Prepare to be amazed, this week’s specimen of the week is…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Unpacking UCL’s Magic Lantern Slide Collections

    By Margaux Bricteux, on 9 July 2014

    Grant Museum magic lantern slide LDUCZ 299 showing craters on the lunar surface

    Grant Museum magic lantern slide LDUCZ-299 showing craters on the lunar surface

    The UCL Grant Museum and the Science and Engineering Collections currently have several thousand magic lantern slides that relate to subjects as diverse as telegraphy, astronomy or Australian coral reefs; but which for the most part have been consigned to gathering dust in splintering wooden boxes. I, however, have spent the last few weeks sorting, auditing and cleaning hundreds of these slides, and I am now rather well acquainted with these little glass squares.

    Example of a 19th century magic lantern slide projector from the UCL physics collection. This example was used as a sort of overhead projector but others were designed to project across a lecture theatre or hall

    Example of a 19th century magic lantern slide projector from the UCL physics collection. This example was used as a sort of overhead projector but others were designed to project across a lecture theatre or hall

    Magic lanterns were first developed in the 17th century as one of the earliest image projectors. While the device itself has evolved, the concept has remained the same: A combination of lenses and a light source are used to enlarge the images found on glass slides (each about the size of a Post-it) and project them onto a wall or screen. Magic lantern slides, hence, can be described as a kind of ancestor to the Kodachrome slides used in slide projectors, or even present-day PowerPoint slides. Read the rest of this entry »

    To Display or not to display?

    By Jenni M Fewery, on 8 July 2014

    While undertaking my Museum Studies Masters at UCL this year, common themes that kept cropping up were the issues that arise when displaying certain subjects or indeed objects. During our Museums: A Critical Perspective class we covered ethnographic collections, ‘Dark Tourism’ and national memory and the debate over displaying human remains. With my interests lying with the history of science and medicine I wanted to find a topic I could sink my teeth into whilst also focusing on museums of science and their methods of display.

    Brown Dog Statue, 1906 with the plaque reading: “Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”

    Brown Dog Statue, 1906 with the plaque reading:
    “Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”

    In April a UCL Science Collections curator asked me if I would be interested in taking a look at a 1930s dog respirator as a starting point for a dissertation topic. I was informed that the object may have been used during animal experimentation and there were concerns about how to display it responsibly, considering its historic role in experiments to which so many have a negative responses. I researched the history of vivisection – live animal dissection – and discovered the story of the little brown dog. During the early 1900s protests and riots spread through London as anti-vivisectionists campaigned against experimentation on animals in response to the illegal dissection of a little brown dog. Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of the dog to be erected as a memorial, antagonising medical students or “anti-doggers” and resulting in the statue being removed under the cover of darkness. In 1985 another statue, commissioned by the National Anti-Vivisection Society, was erected in Battersea Park and remains there today. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 143

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 7 July 2014

    Scary Monkey

    For this week, it’s my turn to step up to the ravenous hoard of knowledge-hungry blog followers (that’s you fantastic lot). But first, before I am ripped apart in a gladiator-esque fashion, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself; Hi all, I am Rowan. I am currently acting as Visitor Services Assistant on a temporary basis, so my time with you shall be unfortunately short yet sweet. So do drop in and you can see me at the front desk fumbling around in childlike wonder at all the amazingly weird thingies the Grant Museum has to offer.

    I’ve decided to choose a specimen who will always hold a special place in my heart, having been paired with this sullen looking creature during one of my zoological assignments this year (I’ve just finished the second year of my UCL Natural Sciences degree). One of us was tasked to identify the other, yet I’m still unsure as to who (between me and this fine critter) actually did any effective identification as I spent most of my time confusedly prodding and pestering this specimen; a scientific method which I can only professionally describe as “faffing around”.

    Sadly, this specimen is a little lonely having been blessed with an underwhelming greyish-brown and mistakenly ugly appearance. Unfortunately, being tucked away in a quiet corner along with the rather garish cephalopods, annelids and tapeworms (I’m sure they make wonderful neighbours) doesn’t quite help their romantic situation either.

    Without further ado, this specimen of the week is…. Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2014

    It’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month again. That wonderful time of the month where we take a look at one of the underwhelming fossil fish specimens in the Grant Museum collection. By staring at and reading about unloved, unspectacular fossil fish specimens I hope to increase global fishteracy as well as explore the question, why do we have material like this in museums? What is the point? What is the value? Maybe we also learn something important about ourselves. Something like, ‘I don’t find bad fish fossils particularly fascinating’. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s the journey not the destination that matters right?

    That’s enough my-little-pocket-book-of-zen. It’s time to unveil this month’s specimen. The sound of anticipation is absolute silence (is it still a sound?). Some of the recent entries have been labelled in the national press* as ‘slightly whelming’ and ‘not as bad as I’d imagined’ so I dug deeper into the fossil fish drawers to bring you something particularly unspecial. No thanks needed, I thank YOU.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 142

    By Jack Ashby, on 30 June 2014

    Scary Monkey For someone who spends as much time as possible with wildlife I could be accused of being a bit wimpy about it on occasion. Things that are poisonous, slimy, smelly, flappy or pointy don’t worry me much, but when I might encounter things that are really big or really bitey I have been known to back off a bit. Many would argue that this is mostly sensible, but I have been with friends who lean out of the jeep to the tiger or follow the grizzly bear footprints, when I would lean into the jeep or walk away from where the bear tracks lead. Things don’t have to be big AND bitey to incite the conflictual desire to be around wildlife and the fear of it killing me; just being big will do.
    This week’s specimen is big AND bitey. It’s the animal I have to think about the most regularly as I spend a couple of months a year on fieldwork in tropical Australia; it makes collecting water or crossing rivers a bit of an adventure.
    This week’s specimen of the week is…

    Read the rest of this entry »