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  • Archive for February, 2011

    7 awesome months plus 1 day at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

    By Debbie J Challis, on 28 February 2011

    From August 2010 to March 2011 I did an Internship at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. During that time I did many different things for the Petrie. One of my last jobs is it now to write about my experience and let other people know what a great place the Petrie Museum of Archaeology is.

    To start I would like to introduce myself first. My name is Katrin and I am a German student of Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. I was always very curious about museum work and decided to take a holiday semester to do an Internship at a museum to see what is going on from the professional side. I had never worked in a museum before and never heard of the Petrie Museum until the day one of my Professors in Berlin highly recommended me there for an Internship. That is how, luckily for me, one thing led to another and I was hired as a “special project administrator”.; soon I could find myself in the middle of the Petrie world (or how my supervisor Debbie would call it “in the middle of Madness”).
    (more…)

    Sympathy for the devil – part two

    By Jack Ashby, on 24 February 2011

    A delayed account of zoological fieldwork in Australia – Part 5

    From April 2010 I spent about five months undertaking several zoological field projects across Australia. I worked with government agencies, universities and NGOs on conservation and ecology studies ranging from Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, the effect of fire, rain and introduced predators on desert ecology and how to poison cats. This series of blog posts is a delayed account  of my time in the field.

    Week Five

    Last week I described Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), and the population that was being studied by the University of Tasmania (UTas) which seems to be showing some positive immune response. I joined them early in the Tasmanian winter to trap devils in the population, monitor the spread of the cancer take blood samples and measurements. This is how we did it… (more…)

    Half a dodo?

    By Jack Ashby, on 22 February 2011

    Last week Natasha McEnroe, the Museum Manager and I met with Maev Kennedy of the Guardian to show her around the new Grant Museum space.

    One of the things she was most interested in was the unknown specimens that we had discovered when the collection was being packed up in our old home. Some of the new discoveries were rather disappointing but one exciting discovery was a box of dodo bones, and Maev has written a great piece about it in today’s Guardian.

    This is actually only half of our dodo material – the other half having been on display for years. According to our records, there should always have been two boxes of bones, but none of the current staff had ever seen it and occasionally material has been documented twice in the past creating phantom duplicate specimens. We asked all the staff from the previous 20 years, and they confirmed its existence, but had know idea where it was. We feared it was lost. (more…)

    Pop culture meets ancient icon

    By Rachael Sparks, on 20 February 2011

    Museum storerooms are by their very nature elusive creatures; the demands of finding space for the sixty-plus thousand objects in the Institute of Archaeology collections means that objects often lie cheek to jowl with one another fighting for both room and attention. For the curator, exploring a busy storeroom means that every now and again you will encounter the unfamiliar, the exciting, and sometimes the downright bizarre. Like this recently rediscovered object, known officially as 46.10/22.

    I first met 46.10/22 in an overcrowded drawer, mixed in with pottery from former excavations at the site of Jericho, from the modern-day Palestinian Autonomous Authority. Jericho itself is the stuff of legend – notorious for its trumpet-sensitive walls in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 5 – 6), from which account we derive the desire to ‘wish someone to Jericho’. But it has taken on other resonances in modern culture: as a tourist destination, the theme of a song by legendary 70s band Stray, or reinvented for television as a spy thriller and now an American town at the centre of a post-apocalyptic drama. Its also been the home of a few archaeological ‘discussions’, including a rather entertaining debate in 1990 between Manchester Museum’s Piotr Bienkowski and biblical archaeologist Bryant G. Wood (“Jericho was Destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, not the Late Bronze Age”, Biblical Archaeology Review 16.5, 45-6, and “Dating Jericho’s Destruction: Bienkowski is Wrong on all Counts”, Biblical Archaeology Review 16.5, 45-9). (more…)

    Sympathy for the devil – part one

    By Jack Ashby, on 17 February 2011

     
     

     


     

    Winter in the Tasmanian Highlands

    At night it would reach -10 degrees in the Highlands

    From April 2010 I spent about five months undertaking several zoological field projects across Australia. I worked with government agencies, universities and NGOs on conservation and ecology studies ranging from Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, the effect of fire, rain and introduced predators on desert ecology and how to poison cats. This series of blog posts is a delayed account  of my time in the field.

    Week Four

    The next stage of my trip took me to Tasmania – my favourite place in the world. This was the research project I was most looking forward to – to trap Tasmanian devils and attempt to investigate a ray of hope in their battle with a contagious cancer. Devils are a badger-sized marsupial with a bit of a rep. They do hunt things up to the size of a small wallaby, but are best known for their skills at scavenging. They can eat every part of the carcass and have an impressive set of teeth. I once saw one climbing out of the anus of a dead pademelon, while two others were working their way in through the back. (more…)

    Boy George, I think he’s got it!

    By Subhadra Das, on 16 February 2011

    To tell you how I found out about this story involves disclosing a private and guilty secret.

    I watch breakfast television.

    I would like to tell you that it’s just for the news headlines, the travel update and the weather report (which it is), but I must also admit that I find the bright colours and the glassy smiles of the presenters strangely comforting.

    That and the fact that on occasion, they cover a news story that is actually interesting.

    This time it was an interview with Boy George, the man who appears prominently in the soundtrack of my childhood and possibly the only living person whose eyeliner skills I envy. Mr. George has recently returned to its rightful owners an icon which he had bought in the mid 80s, and which turned out to be looted from church in Cyprus during the war in 1974. When he bought the icon, he had no idea where it came from, just that he appreciated it as a work of art. It was through a series of serendipitous events – who knew Bishops from the Church of Cyprus watched Dutch television? – that the Cypriot Church found out where their treasure had ended up and embarked on the process of getting it back. (more…)

    Musings on the Moustache

    By Andrea Fredericksen, on 15 February 2011

    One of the most interesting aspects of my job as curator at UCL Art Collections is making the artworks accessible to student researchers. This week that has included bringing out objects for teaching sessions, such as Works on Paper: History, Practice and Contexts, c. 1400-1700 (HART2218) during which a group of students spent two hours looking at 15th to 16th German prints and drawings, by such artists as Dürer and Holbein. Yes, the collection is pretty amazing!

    This part of my job also includes pulling out works for student visitors interested in having close-hand experience of an object. This is far more challenging – students often arrive with a vision of what they’d like to study but only have a vague idea of what object they’d like to see. Just yesterday, a student asked to see something sublime that was also small. If anyone out there knows anything about the sublime, you’ll know that it doesn’t usually come packaged as small. What a fascinating twist to explore! The role of curator as mediator may be challenging but it’s also what keeps me happy. (more…)

    Review (of sorts): Sexual Nature at the Natural History Museum

    By Mark Carnall, on 14 February 2011

    Happy Valentine’s Day. Last week, Jack Ashby the Learning and Access Manager at the Grant Museum and I were invited along to one of the private views of the Natural History Museum’s latest temporary exhibitions, Sexual Nature. Private views are a funny thing in museums – they may be a practice borrowed from commercial art galleries or perhaps a practice carried over from classier times when everyone who worked in a museum had to wear top hats. Generally though they are a good event to get together with colleagues, drink some wine, eat some canapés if you are lucky, and very occasionally actually go and see the exhibition that is being launched.  Here’s what we thought of Sexual Nature:

    FULL DISCLOSURE: We are pleased to continually work with colleagues from almost every part of the Natural History Museum, either sharing skills and skulls informally, or more formally through big public events and programmes. It is no lie that walking through the main hall for an early meeting before they open is a genuine thrill. There are only four museums with natural history collections in London and we stick together. Many of the curators at the museum are doing astonishing work, truly on the cutting edge of museum practice. However, that being said there is occasionally some resentment from small museums when large institutions get the lion’s share of attention. (more…)

    Catching rats in the land of the undead

    By Jack Ashby, on 10 February 2011

    Quenda or Southern Brown Bandicoot

    A quenda, one of the regulars at the cabin.

    A delayed account of zoological fieldwork in Australia – Part 3

    From April 2010 I spent about five months undertaking several zoological field projects across Australia. I worked with government agencies, universities and NGOs on conservation and ecology studies ranging from Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, the effect of fire, rain and introduced predators on desert ecology and how to poison cats. This series of blog posts is a delayed account  of my time in the field.

    Week Three

    At the end of the post last week I was dropped at Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve. This is a small reserve managed by the Western Australian Department for Environment and Conservation (DEC), with whom I was working. I was asked to fulfil a few tasks while I was staying – the only resident of the research quarters. I felt a little isolated as it was out of season and there were no tourists around, and until my colleagues arrived in a few days, the only other people in the park were the rangers, who spent a lot of time away from their base. (more…)

    Borrowing Galton

    By Natasha L Mcenroe, on 8 February 2011

    Although my main role is Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology, one of my responsibilities is to act as Curator for the Galton Collection. Francis Galton (1822-1911) is best known today for being a pioneer of modern eugenics, a fingerprint enthusiast and a cousin of Charles Darwin. The collection consists of over 500 objects, largely made up of Galton’s personal belongings and scientific instruments. Although small, the Galton Collection provokes a great deal of interest from both researchers and artists, partly due to the relevance of many of the themes and questions it raises in terms of identify, race and human rights.

    As the Galton is a small research collection that is available for viewing only by appointment, one of my main remits is to promote and facilitate loans to exhibitions taking place in other museums. In this way, as many people as possible get to access this material in a way that they wouldn’t do ordinarily. This is quite a time-consuming process, but the rewards are great – for example, the Wellcome Collection dedicated a large section of their excellent exhibition The Identity Project to Galton, meaning that nearly 80,000 people accessed a large chunk of the UCL Galton material in just a few months. It also means that the items can be seen by an international audience – I have just had loan of seven objects returned from the Hygiene Museum in Dresden.
    (more…)