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  • Archive for October, 2013

    From the vollies: Loose ends and key information

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2013

    This is a guest blog from one of the Grant Museum’s volunteers, Geoffrey Waller. Geoffrey has been volunteering for the Museum for a number of years undertaking the diligent collections care work that helps us to function as a museum and make the most of our collections here. Recently, Geoffrey has been going through one of our many series of card indices cross-referencing information with our current catalogue, enriching  data we have about our specimens which make them significantly more useful for teaching and research. Here are some of the highlights.

    For the last 18 months I have been working on a long-term cataloguing project at the Grant Museum. The project has involved sorting a large collection of some 1500 hand-written record cards into appropriate categories and numerical order. Each card (known technically as an MDA card*) bears the specimen’s accession number – the unique identifying number given to specimens on the Grant Museum collections database. It is therefore possible to cross-check the specimen data on the MDA card with the data already held on the database.

    Image of examples of MDA cards from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    Three of the 1500 MDA cards now added to the collection catalogue.

    Mining the Data

    During this cross-checking, I could add any new information recorded on the MDA cards to the existing database entries, making it available to anyone accessing the records. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of The Month: October

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 October 2013

    12 MONTH UNDERWHELMING FOSSIL FISH OF THE MONTH BLOWOUT! We made it! Back in November last year we launched this series with the lofty ambition of increasing the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time. Shirley, it’s no coincidence that since this series started fossil fish have been making the news headlines for all the wrong reasons in the case of Megalodongate, as nobody is calling it, and for all the right reasons with Entelognathus primordialis maybe, possibly, unlocking the origins of jaws (not Jaws) as we know and love them today.  We’re confident in claiming that this series alone propelled fossil fish stories into the limelight, leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home. There’s no other explanation.

    There’s no cause for complacency though. This post marks the twelfth entry in the series, a calendar’s worth, but there’s a while to go until we reach enough for a Top Trumps deck or come anywhere close to unearthing the full mediocrity of the drawers and drawers worth of Underwhelming Fossil Fish we have here at the Grant Museum. So it’s with no aplomb we soldier on with October’s particularly uninspiring fossil fish.

    (more…)

    ‘African Hair Combs’ – a Conservator’s comment

    By Edmund Connolly, on 28 October 2013

    Guest Blogger: Pia Edqvist

    Has anyone seen the exhibition ’Origins of the Afro Comb, 6,000 years of Culture, Politics and Identity’ currently on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge? If so, what did you think?

    If not, you must go and see it; the display will be closing on the 3rd November and you do not want to miss this exhibition.

     

    Origins of the Afro Comb

    Origins of the Afro Comb

    On display is the iconic Black fist comb which was the symbol of the Black Civil Rights and Power Movement during the 1970’s in the USA. Earlier, the Afro comb was not very visible and for this reason it has been assumed that the afro comb was developed during this time. But this exhibition shows that the afro comb dates back to Ancient Egypt. The oldest comb is an Ancient Egyptian comb 5,500 years old which is displayed side by side with the black fist comb. The parallels between these combs are what inspired this exhibition. The connections made between the past and the present make this exhibition extra fascinating. This is also seen in the presentations of oral histories and testimonies within the exhibition which document attitudes towards hair and grooming in the present day. These contributions will also create an archive for the future.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 107

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 28 October 2013

    Last week we had an amazing set of activities at the Museum for our event Life Under the Waves, where visitors could touch a sawfish snout, stroke a dolphin and smell a triggerfish (maybe only I did the last one). To protect our specimens we place them on a soft foamy mat that cushions them against the hard surface of the table. After clearing the specimens away, I noticed that one of them had left a fascinating set of depressions in the foam. Highly amused by this, I tried to photograph it to share it with you, but it just looked like I’d taken a picture of a table. So, I will tell you about it instead. This week’s Specimen of the Week is: (more…)

    Ramsay and the Nobel Discovery

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 25 October 2013

    Sir William Ramsay's Nobel Prize Medal

    Sir William Ramsay’s Nobel Prize Medal.
    UCL Chemistry Collection.

    Sir William Ramsay was arguably one of the most famous scientists of his day. Between 1894 and 1898 he discovered five new elements – helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon; commonly known today as the noble gases. Not only was this impressive in itself, but these new elements did not fit onto the periodic table as it existed at that time. This led to Ramsay adding a whole new group to the periodic table. In 1904 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences chose to award Ramsay the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for his discovery of the noble gases. He was the first British person to win this prize.

    2013 marks 100 years since the retirement of Sir William Ramsay from his post as Head of Chemistry at UCL. To mark this UCL Chemistry Collection will be taking part in a very special pop-up exhibition in the Rock Room, UCL’s Geology Museum.

    Between 12.30 – 3pm on November 1st a range of objects relating to Ramsay and his work will be on display. I have picked out a few of my personal favourites…

    (more…)

    Looking Through the Eyes of an Orangutan

    By Alice M Salmon, on 25 October 2013

    I am going to start this blog off by openly admitting that I am breaking social media convention by blogging about an event that took place nine months ago. *audible gasps*. Yes, I do really mean nine months ago. However, there is good reason for this. In February this year, UCL’s Museums and Collections, and the Library Special Collections, worked in collaboration with the UCL English Department and literary charity First Story, to deliver a creative writing day  for 100 students from local non selective secondary schools.  Today, the schools’ poetry anthologies have landed on my desk and they are definitely worth blogging about.

    A selection of poetry anthologies by The First Story Group

    The anthologies by First Story Group that are happily sitting on my desk.

    (more…)

    What’s the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

    By Jack Ashby, on 24 October 2013

    Crocodiles and alligators are big nasty predators. All of them. (Except the ones that are small lovely predators). If you see one swimming towards you then be concerned. Whilst considering your impending doom, you may wish to ascertain the correct taxonomic position of the beast. Here’s a quick guide to help you tell the difference between crocs and gators…

    An Australian freshwater crocodile. One of the smaller lovelier ones (a baby) (C) Jack Ashby

    An Australian freshwater crocodile. One of the smaller lovelier ones (a baby) (C) Jack Ashby

    Before that, I should explain that there are 23 members of the order Crocodylia, which contains both the crocodile family (Crocodylidae) and the alligator family (Alligatoridae), as well as the gharial (the sole member of the family Gavialidae). When I say “crocodile” I am referring to members of Crocodylidae, not all members of Crocodylia, otherwise there wouldn’t be much point to this post.

    Things to ask to work out whether you are being eaten by a crocodile or an alligator… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 106

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 21 October 2013

    We’ve been having some conservation work done at the Museum recently, and one of our largest mounted skeletons is currently legless. Physically, not metaphorically. I don’t see that as a reason to make her hide away in shame though. Nor wait for her newly legs ‘renovated’ legs to come back, in order to celebrate how beautiful she is. So, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Museums Showoff: Celebrating the mundane

    By Mark Carnall, on 18 October 2013

    Earlier this week I was lucky(?) enough to have a spot on the excellent Museum Mile Museums Showoff special as part of the Bloomsbury Festival. For those of you who don’t know, Museums Showoff is a series of informal open-mic events where museum professionals have nine minutes to show off amazing discoveries, their research or just to vent steam to an audience of museum workers and museum goers. My nine minutes were about the 99% of objects that form museum collections but you won’t see on display. They fill drawers, cupboards, rooms and whole warehouses. But why do we have all this stuff? Who is it for? In my skit on Tuesday I only had nine minutes but I thought I’d take the time to expand on the 99% and the problem of too much stuff (particularly in natural history museums) and what we can do with it.
    (more…)

    New findings show museums can make you healthy and happy.

    By Helen J Chatterjee, on 17 October 2013

    9781409425816.PPC_PPC Template

    There are now lots of examples of museums offering activities and programmes geared towards improving their audience’s health and wellbeing. From creative arts and museum object handling sessions through to talks, tours and knitting groups, museums offer a diverse array of ‘healthy’ activities. But what is the real impact of such activities on individual’s health and wellbeing?

    Guy Noble from University College London Hospital and I have been collating, reviewing and analysing hundreds of projects, reports, publications and other evidence in our new book Museums, Health and Well-being, to find out if museums really can make you happier and healthier. The results are startling and impressive.

    There is substantial anecdotal evidence regarding the value of museums-in-health, a new term coined in the book, and when considered along with the scholarly evidence it appears that museums benefit health and wellbeing in lots of ways, by providing: (more…)