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  • Archive for August, 2013

    Petrie Menagerie: The Aquarium and Reptile House

    By Edmund Connolly, on 30 August 2013

    Our animal companionship has grown, with horses meandering along Egyptian groves, alongside languid hippos and regal lions. Returning to our first specimen, the hippo, we will dive once more into the waters to cavort in an aquarium of fish and chill in the boreal shades of a reptile house.

    Petrie Menagerie #5: The Aquarium and the Reptile House

    Egypt has two major water sources: the Nile which acts as a spine for the country, running down into Africa, and the Mediterranean sea. Both were essential for the trade routes, travel and artefacts that Ancient Egyptians are so famous for. In addition, these important bodies of water held swarms of fish, which were a key element of the Ancient Egyptian diet. Reptiles appear in Egyptian iconography principally as snakes, scorpions and crocodiles[1] in a host of iconographic, religious and spiritual incarnations.

    An Egyptian flat fish

    An Egyptian flat fish

    (more…)

    How To: Be a Cannibal

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 29 August 2013

    Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This blog series is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The fourth along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

     

    How To: Be a Cannibal

     

    At first response you may think it’s easy to be a cannibal, you just have to eat someone of the same species as yourself. Technically you would be right, however there are ways and means to accomplish such a task. The natural world is a wealth of cannibalistic techniques and methods that will give the inquisitive mind a plethora of inspiration. Let’s look at a few in the hope of encouraging your inner cannibal to spread its wings.

     

    A number of amphibians are known to practice cannibalism. Cane toads for example are known to eat eggs of their own species when they are just tadpoles. Most importantly it provides them with a nutritional boost, but it is also thought to be done in order to reduce the competition. They seem to be choosy eaters however as they don’t appear to eat their siblings. Researchers believe that as cane toads have a short incubation length as well as a long period between clutches, eating your own siblings would decrease the number of offspring any single female would produce. Awfully well thought out for a tadpole with a brain the size of a pinhead. They both locate and differentiate between eggs using an impressive sense of smell.

    (more…)

    Violent Earth – The Legacy of Dr Johnston-Lavis

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 28 August 2013

    Vesuvius in 1766.  © UCL Geology Collections.

    Vesuvius in 1766.
    © UCL Geology Collections.

    The UCL Geology Collection contains over 100,000 objects, mostly specimens collected for and used in teaching, or material collected in the course of research. Most of these are, unsurprisingly, geological specimens. However within the Geological Collections there is a special sub-collection which includes not just specimens, but also art works, photographs and books of  special interest to the history of the study of volcanology. This is known as the Johnston-Lavis Collection.

    Dr Henry Johnston-Lavis was born in London in 1856. He trained as a doctor at UCL and UCLH, gaining a first class degree in practical chemistry in 1874, and a first in clinical medicine in 1878. He moved to Naples in 1879, where he established a practice looking after the English speaking community. By all accounts he was a good doctor, and popular with his patients. There are accounts of him working day and night during a Cholera outbreak, despite being ‘dreadfully afraid’ of the disease. Amongst notable medical work he carried out was the discovery of the link between shell fish and gastric problems.

    (more…)

    Grant Museum’s visitor artwork

    By Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh, on 27 August 2013

    Thylacine. © Sandra Doyle

    Thylacine. © Sandra Doyle

    Last week we launched our new Grant Museum Tumblr site, which we will be using to showcase the work of our artistic visitors who come to the Museum to draw our very own specimens. On several occasions you may have happened upon a visitor drawing in the Museum with one of our specimens laid out on the table, or in deep concentration sketching by a display case. Well, this is just one of the services we like to offer at the Grant Museum, as we know our collections provide inspiration to art students, designers, researchers, illustrators, and many more. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety-Eight

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 26 August 2013

    Two blogs away from the big 1-0-0! In the run up to the 100th blog I will bring you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…

    1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.

    2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)

    3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.

    With that in mind, at Number Three, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    A Very Important Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August

    By Mark Carnall, on 22 August 2013

    This is the tenth in the Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month series, you can find all of the previous UFFotM posts here. In order to celebrate this minor milestone (the last time you’ll be able to count the total number underwhelming fossil fish of the months on two hands without carrying one over & only two UFFotM away from a calendar’s worth) we’ve got a VIUFFotM for you. One of a kind. They say that all underwhelming fossil fish are born equal. But we all know that some underwhelming fossil fish are more equal than others.  This month’s is one of those.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety-Seven

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 August 2013

    Scary MonkeyThree blogs away from the big 1-0-0! In the run up to the 100th blog I am going to bring to you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…

    1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.

    2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)

    3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.

    With that in mind, at Number Four, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Petrie’s Menagerie: The Horse

    By Edmund Connolly, on 16 August 2013

    Last week’s animals weren’t as exotic as their forerunners, and we will be looking at another recognisable animal for both Ancient Egyptians and Victorian Londoners. As promised, this week will be examining the horse, perhaps a not so obvious element of an Egypt based menagerie.

    Petrie’s Menagerie #4 The Horse

    Man’s best friend may be a dog, but man’s most useful friend is probably the horse and I won’t insult my readers by describing one.

    “With the harnessing of its strength and swiftness to provide mobility, the horse transformed human existence”

    Lawrence, 223.

    Icelandic ponies, I spent a few holidays riding these shaggy beasts around France. copyright wikipedia.org

    Icelandic ponies, I spent a few holidays riding these shaggy beasts around France. copyright wikipedia.org

    (more…)

    You dirty rats!, moles, dodos, etc…. Assessing popularity from visitor filth

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 15 August 2013

    Introduction
    Once every month I get to clean all of the glass throughout the Grant Museum. You may think this laborious back-breaking time-consuming task is not a popular event in my diary. You’d be wrong. It gives me the opportunity to see the Museum through the eyes of those who have visited the Museum over the last month. How? By their grubby little fingerprints. It interests me greatly which spots have provoked the highest number of points of contact between finger and glass as people have pointed things out to their friends and relatives. These prints are not necessarily a measure of positivity- of enthusiasm or pleasure, but a measure of ‘reaction’. How many times have you heard “Yuk, look at this”, as well as the more pleasurable “Wow, look at this”? This month, as I wiped out the traces of this month’s reactions, I decided to do an analysis. (more…)

    The Fathers of Modern Japan

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 14 August 2013

    In May 1863, five young Japanese men were disguised as British Sailors and smuggled on board a ship that would take them on the first leg of their journey to Britain. At the time it was illegal for any Japanese person to leave the country. It took them 135 days to make the journey.

    The five young men who made up the Choshu Five.

    The five young men who made up the Choshu Five.
    (Image Credit -  Glasgow University Museum)

    Once they arrived in the UK the owner of the shipping line, Hugh Matheson, introduced them to Professor Alexander Williamson, who had been head of the Chemistry Department at UCL since 1855. Williamson and his wife took the five under their wing, inviting three of them to live with them. They apparently even moved to a bigger house to accommodate their guests.

    Williamson isn’t very well known now, outside history of science circles, but perhaps he should be. He came up with the ‘Williamson Synthesis’, which showed that water has two Hydrogen atoms. Hence H2O, not HO as was previously thought.

    (more…)