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  • Archive for November, 2013

    Coptic Christmas: and a Myriad of Calendars (advent or otherwise)

    By Edmund Connolly, on 29 November 2013

    Many of us may be looking forward to Christmas in a few weeks’ time, but for many of our Egyptian (and other Coptic readers) Christmas will not be until January 7th 2014.

    UC75907, Coptic embroidery from the Petrie Museum
    UC75907, Coptic embroidery from the Petrie Museum

    History

    Coptic is a bit of a hydra of a term, with a few meanings that can be used synonymously or separately. The word Coptic derives from the Greek ‘aigyptos’ referring to the people of Egypt, originally this term had nothing to do with religious order or identity. Whilst ‘Egypt’ comes from more of an Ancient Egyptian pronunciation, Copt most probably held an Arabic influence, with the initial ‘ai’ being dropped to produce the plosive ‘K’ sound (Gregorious 1982, Downer).

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    The Great Darwin BUST UP

    By Jack Ashby, on 27 November 2013

    There are lots of good things about working in a university museum. The best is that there are thousands of people around us whose job it is to have ideas and then come up with a way of realising these ideas. In the museums we know a lot of academics from different fields who we can put in touch with each other when we spot complementary ideas to combine into exciting cross-disciplinary projects.

    A few weeks ago some of our colleagues from UCL’s Institute of Making arrived with someone from Structural and Molecular Biology saying that they wanted to 3D scan our plaster bust of Charles Darwin to create a copy to go in the Darwin Building where UCL’s biologists live (and where the Grant Museum used to be housed). From there a project spiraled into something very exciting.

    3D Scan of the Grant Museum's Darwin bust by Mona Hess (all rights reserved)

    3D Scan of the Grant Museum’s Darwin bust by Mona Hess (all rights reserved)

    The bust has a bit of history – it is part of the Grant Museum’s collection, and as such when we moved into our current home in 2011 we took him with us (you might have spotted him peeking out a window on Gower Street). The biologists in the Darwin Building were very sorry to see him go. This project will create a new Darwin for them, and will also result in an unusual exhibition, through a competition. (more…)

    Natural History Museum Bingo: Japanese Spider Crab

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 November 2013

    Back in October, I introduced this series (here’s a link to the opening post) about the specimens you’re near guaranteed to see in every natural history museum. We’ll take each specimen in turn and have a look at why they’re a usual suspect for display in a natural history museum.

    Image of natural history museum bingo with Japanese spider crab crossed out

    Legs like pegs, it’s Japanese spider crab. One down, 8 to go.

    The first specimen we’re going to take a look at is the Japanese spider crab. Japanese spider crabs are just one species, Macrocheira kaempferi. Confusingly, there is also a group of crabs, the family Majidae, called spider crabs which doesn’t include the most famous spider crab of them all. Japanese spider crabs are mostly found in coastal waters of southern Japan and have been recorded in waters as deep as 600 m so why do we find them in museums all over the world?

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 111

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 November 2013

    Last week I was rewarded for my services to mankind* with a free trip to Edinburgh. You may or may not remember a huge hoo-haa about the zoo acquiring (on loan) a pair of giant pandas from China, at GREAT expense. The hoo-haa was primarily amongst the zoological community but raised many an eyebrow, and “tut”s were prevalent amongst colleagues and friends whenever the subject arose. Well, I decided it was time to find out what was what, and visit these controversial immigrants, worth more than their weight in gold, for myself. Well, the first thing I need to say is “AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW”. I am now completely in love with giant pandas. The second thing is, despite their £600,000 a year loan fee, visitor numbers have apparently risen to such an extent as a result that the pandas not only pay for themselves but have funded two other new animal enclosures in the two years they have been there. Eyebrows raise for different reasons now eh. We don’t have a giant panda (though I informed my Manager of the lucrative result of securing one), but we do have something similar. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Reflections on ‘Plaster reproduction in the context of 3D printing’ Pop-Up Display and Lecture

    By Helen R Cobby, on 22 November 2013

    Mona Hess, Research Assistant for 3D imaging and project co-ordinator of the Petrie Museum’s 3D imaging project, curated a Pop-Up display this November on 3D printing and scanning at UCL Art Museum. 3D printing is a new and high profile phenomenon that started in 2007. The aim of the Petrie research has been to make use of the opportunities this technology creates in the museum space, such as engaging with a diverse and wide audience through the creation of 3D objects.

    This Pop-Up workshop wove together film clips of high resolution colour laser 3D scanning to demonstrate how different types of technology works, as well as addressing techniques first-hand with the use of a mini hand scanner with the use of a low cost hand scanner based on near-infrared detection originally used for motion tracking.  (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: November 2013

    By Mark Carnall, on 22 November 2013

    How are the cockles of your heart? In need of some warmth? Here’s the latest Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month (all the others are here). Eagle-ray eyed readers won’t be able to read this with both eyes because eagle-rays have monocular vision. Eagle eyed readers will have no doubt spotted a slight change. As this is the 13th month of uninspiring amorphous rocks resembling, organisms which were formerly fish, I’ve added a date after the blog title because Akheilos forbid you get confused between ‘seasons’ denying yourself the available UFFotM goodness.

    To kick off season 2, I’ve prepared nothing special. Fossil fish don’t discriminate between or celebrate such arbitrary occasions, it is in their honour that we maintain that composure. Prepare to lose five minutes of your life. No returns or resales. (more…)

    Fossils, climate change and the future of life on Earth

    By Dean W Veall, on 21 November 2013

    Each year we celebrate the birth of the man who was the first Professor to teach evolution in an English university, the man who gave an astonishing 200 lectures a year and the man who lent his name to the Museum, Robert Edmond Grant. November 11th saw the 220th year since his birth and in honour we held our 17th Annual Grant Lecture on Tuesday, with dinosaurs, climate change and the future of life on our planet, it was one not to miss but in case you did here are the highlights.

    (more…)

    Passionate enthusiastic scientists – just another way of saying Geek?

    By Jack Ashby, on 19 November 2013

    Last week I went to a presentation at the Zoological Society of London about the impact on museum visitors of meeting real scientists. The speaker, Amy Seakins, is just finishing a PhD which examines this topic, specifically on visitors to the Natural History Museum (NHM) who encounter real scientists through the excellent Nature Live programme.

    Among the many interesting findings were her results on how the visitors’ concepts of what “scientists” are like changed after seeing them speak. Seakins asked them to describe what they think of scientists before and after the events.

    Scientists are Geeks
    Before, the common theme from the answers was that scientists are socially awkward boring geeks fixated on their single topic. These are obviously negative constructions. If this really is how the average person (who is engaged enough in science to visit a museum about it) sees us then there is a problem. Thankfully it’s a problem that formats like the NHM’s Nature Live can fix… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 110

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 18 November 2013

    When people come into the Grant Museum for the first time I frequently hear the question “Is it just this one room?” When I say “Yes”, I always hastily follow it up with the factoid that we have more zoological specimens on display in ‘just this one room’ than in the whole of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. It’s not that I’m trying to start some rivalry (although the idea of science nerds and museum geeks having a show down does amuse me) but the point I am making is that we display our specimens in such a way that you have to look with your eyes rather than your feet. Due to the density of our specimens, it inevitably means that some will get frequently overlooked, and I want to bring one such, huge, specimen to your attention from the back corner of the Museum. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Warm-up for ‘Going Dancing: Black Bloomsbury and Dance in the 1940s’

    By Helen R Cobby, on 14 November 2013

    Gjon Mili, 1950 © Time Inc.

    Gjon Mili, 1950 © Time Inc.

    On Friday 15th November from 2 – 3.30pm Kevin Guyan, PhD candidate in the History Department, will explore the dance hall as a site of social and cultural exchange for the black community of Bloomsbury in the 1940s. This participative event will include music and images from the period and will also be an opportunity for those in attendance to share and discuss memories of ‘going dancing’ in the mid-20th century.

    Helen Cobby talked to Kevin about his up-coming event and what participants can expect:  (more…)