By Jack Ashby, on 9 October 2012
As Manager of the Grant Museum I’m lucky because I get to work with what many people in the business would say is the best collection in London*, but also a team of very interesting staff. We have a window in the schedule of exhibitions in the Museum, so I decided to put these two bits of luck together and asked each member to select one object that they have made a discovery about to display.Previous visitors to the Museum will remember that by the door there was a row of pigeon holes from when the room was a library. When we moved in 18 months ago we were quite excited about these and the opportunities we thought they offered. In the main we thought we’d offer them up as one of the many spaces we have for exhibitions co-curated with academic researchers here at UCL (remember Art by Animals and Buried on Campus?). When there were no exhibitions on we could do something ourselves, like animal alphabets, or actually fill them with pigeons.
After a bit of experimentation we realised that beyond the fact that we didn’t have 36 pigeons, the holes were actually rather hard to work with, in that they have no fronts (a security risk), are really dark and rather small, so as part of a larger development project we decided to return them to the original Edwardian cabinets they once were, and put glass doors on. That way they would match the other cabinets around the room.
Eventually these six “new” cabinets will form part of a large display about the history of zoology and its teaching, allowing us to show for the first time some genuinely brilliant wax models, and other less ordinary things from our stores. We want to take our time developing this story over the coming months, and so we have the aforementioned window.
I found this… shows six specimens, in six cases, chosen by our six staff. We are a working museum with staff working constantly with our collections, which is nice. All the time we are uncovering new things that we generally weren’t looking for – the age of the collection and the way it was amassed over the years means that documentation isn’t perfect. Fairly often we will go to find an object which turns out to be something different to what is is listed as, or has a story to uncover.
My specimen is a jar containing two Central rock rats, one of the rarest mammals in the world. When I found it it was labelled as something else, potentially extinct, and so I decided to delve deeper. I’ve actually told its story on the blog before, so you may as well read that.
Over the coming days each member of team Grant will tell the story of their object – come back soon! And obviously come and see the six specimens in I found this…
*At least one of whom doesn’t work at the Grant Museum.