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  • Specimen of the Week 320: the wolffish head

    By Will J Richard, on 8 December 2017

    Hello e-readers! Will Richard here bringing you an almost festive Specimen of the Week. Though, if I’m honest, there is absolutely nothing festive about half a fish head.

    LDUCZ-V1464 wolffish head

    LDUCZ-V1464 wolffish head

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    Ordinary Animals in the Classroom

    By Tannis Davidson, on 6 December 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Dr Brendan Clarke (UCL Science and Technology Studies)

    Some biological principles are hard to understand from words and images alone, because life exists in three dimensions. This is where museum specimens come in.

    However, some features are too small to observe in real life. Alongside microscope slides, wax models of enlarged embryos were widely used to teach biology between 1850 and about 1950. Most of the wax models in the Grant Museum collection represent exotic material – hard to obtain or to handle – like this series of human embryos produced by the Ziegler studio in Germany c1880:

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

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    Ready, Steady, Conservation!

    By Louise Bascombe, on 5 December 2017

    An Update of Papyrus Conservation Using a Red Papyrus and a Green Papyrus

    Since the last blog for the Papyrus for the People project, the conservation work on the Petrie Museum’s papyri has been progressing steadily and strongly. So much so, that it is nearly over! In light of this, I would love to share with you two of my favourite fixes that have occurred during this work.

     Ready Steady Conservation

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    Specimen of the Week 319: The Camberwell Beauty

    By Hannah Cornish, on 1 December 2017

    Specimen of the week this week is a rare visitor to our shores, with a slightly misleading name. Today we venture south of the river in search of…

    Nymphalis antiopa (Camberwell Beauty, or the Grand Surprize) LDUCZ-L3333

    Nymphalis antiopa (The Camberwell Beauty, the Mourning Cloak or the Grand Surprize) LDUCZ-L3333

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month November 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2017

    First halves are overrated. Be it team sports, plays, movies or books, the first half sets the scene, introduces the characters, gets the ball rolling but it’s really the second half which delivers the climax, the conclusion, the crescendo, a twist, the point or the moral. A good second half will stick with you, make you think. You’ll never get last minute drama, an eleventh hour save or a Cinderella story in a first half. It’s all about the second half. The same is absolutely not true of fossil fish at all. There’s tail fins, sure, but it’s all about what’s up front for fish. I don’t even know why I raised it in the first place really. But now you’re thinking about how cool the second half of things are and well, it’s not gonna be the case in this month’s underwhelming fossil fish, our periodic foray into the fossil fish collections of the Grant Museum of Zoology. Break your hopes down, here’s this month’s fossil. Read the rest of this entry »

    Ordinary Animals and sex: choosing the right partner

    By Jack Ashby, on 29 November 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Professor Judith Mank (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

    In many animals, females are pickier about choosing their mates than males are, since they invest more in their offspring than males do. By choosing high quality mates, females give their offspring a good chance of inheriting their fathers’ beneficial traits. This will help the young in their own search for mates, thereby increasing the chances that the original female’s genes will be passed down through the generations.

    Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

    Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

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    Specimen of the Week 318: The newly recapitated bandicoot

    By Jack Ashby, on 24 November 2017

    This is embarassing. The sheer scale of natural history collections means that some objects are going to be wrongly identified, and the fact that generations of professionals have worked here over nearly two centuries means that there has been plenty of opportunity to get things wrong. I am embarrased because I utterly failed to spot that someone had attached the head of one animal onto the body of another. I am particularly embarassed because both animals involved fall within my particular area of zoological interest – Australian mammals.

    A chimeric skeleton of a woylie's skull on a bandicoot's body. LDUCZ-Z85 + LDUCZ-Z58

    A chimeric skeleton of a woylie’s skull on a bandicoot’s body. LDUCZ-Z85 + LDUCZ-Z58

    Allow me to introduce you to…. Read the rest of this entry »

    The dogs that work to detect cancer

    By Jack Ashby, on 22 November 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Katrina Holland (UCL Anthropology)

    It’s 8.45am at a business park in rural Buckinghamshire, UK: my primary field site. A car pulls up and Kiwi jumps out, rushing into the workplace where she spends 3 days each week. Striding into the office, Kiwi wags her tail and greets her colleagues by pressing her wet nose into each of their trousers. Shortly after arriving, Kiwi is escorted by her trainer Sam to a grassy paddock where the pair stretch their legs. For Kiwi, this means darting across the field with her nose to the ground and choosing places to do her “business”. Meanwhile, armed with poop bags, Sam walks several laps of the paddock keeping a watchful eye on Kiwi. On their return to the office, Kiwi curls up on a cushion underneath Sam’s desk and dozes for an hour, before Sam calls her into the training room next door. Here Kiwi works, sniffing urine samples for up to 45 minutes per day as she learns to detect the odour of prostate cancer in urine.

    One of the bio-detection dogs searches the the samples.

    One of the bio-detection dogs searches the the samples.

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    Specimen of the Week 317: The Belemnite Fossil

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 17 November 2017

    Hello everyone, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another mollusc for you in this week’s Specimen of the Week. This specimen is a member of an extinct order of cephalopods that lived from the Triassic period (250-201 million years ago) through to the end of the Cretaceous period, becoming extinct around the same time as non-avian dinosaurs (~66 million years ago). These cephalopods were very common in the ancient oceans so they’re quite abundant in Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits all over the world. However, since the preservation of soft tissues is rare, it’s usually just the bullet-shaped rostrum that’s preserved. Not so in this week’s Specimen of the Week… Read the rest of this entry »

    Flies, Cats and Rat Traps: the Ordinary Animals of Ancient Egypt

    By Anna E Garnett, on 15 November 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition. This week we investigate some of the Ordinary Animals on loan from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.

    Ask anyone about ancient Egypt and standard responses generally include pyramids, mummies, Tutankhamun, and sometimes (if you’re lucky) animals. Ancient Egyptians were keen observers of their natural environment and are well-known for representing all manner of flora and fauna in their artistic works. Gods and goddesses were also associated with particular animals and their behaviour: for example, the jackal god Anubis guarded the cemeteries of the dead, just as real jackals roamed the desert edge. What is perhaps less well-known is how ancient Egyptians considered the ‘ordinary animals’ who lived side-by-side with them in the Nile Valley. Egyptians utilised a wide variety of wild animals and some of these were domesticated, some kept as pets, and others were considered as vermin – just as they are today.

    UC45976

    Mummified cat, currently on show in The Museum of Ordinary Animals exhibition (UC45976)

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