By Mark Carnall, on 1 August 2011
These three specimens are the latest addition to the Grant Museum collection. Before the museum moved, model maker Tom Payne came into the museum and asked if there were any models he could make for the museum. After some discussion we decided that we’d like to have little life models made of three of our highlight specimens, the quagga, thylacine and dodo. We reference these three specimens a lot but unfortunately, to the untrained eye the skeletons look much like a horse, a dog and a box (now two boxes) of bones. In particular the quagga and thylacine have interesting fur colouration so we wanted to display this and quagga and thylacine skins are in rather short supply these days.
We’re really happy with the models that Tom produced and you can see the ‘making of’ over at this blog which Tom set up. The models are now on display next to the remains that inspired them.
We made the decision to formally acquire these specimens which means they will be accessioned and added to our collections database. Some museums would add them to a handling, teaching or display collection and perhaps not formally acquire them or accession them. The problem with doing this however, means that you end up with separate databases for different kinds of objects, or objects don’t go onto any databases at all. A hundred years later future curators won’t know where they came from, who made them or why they were acquired. These specimens are also the latest additions to a number of models we have in the collection from plastic dinosaurs through to 19th century anatomical models. Although models may not be thought of to be as important as biological specimens they are useful as records of scientific thought in the past and as examples of zoology in popular culture. For example, the dinosaurs are on display in the museum today prompting visitors to think about the importance of real specimens in the museum and they also went on exhibition at UCL’s disposal exhibition.
Thanks again to Tom for creating these lovely specimens.