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  • Archive for December, 2013

    Specimen of the Week: Week 116

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 30 December 2013

    Only two days left to conjure up all manner of good intentions and promises to yourself that you’ll be determined to keep until the first slip and then give up until the following New Year. Last year my New Year’s resolution was to start at one end of my (many) bookshelves and read my way through my ‘library’. I did pretty well, until I got to a boring book and then tailed off. In retrospect, I should have thrown the book out and kept going. This year I think I’ll make life a little easier on myself and make the resolution to watch more DVDs. With 48 hours left until the resolutions need to be made, here is a suitably New Year’s Eve-y specimen to get you in the mood. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    What’s the difference between seals and sea lions?

    By Jack Ashby, on 26 December 2013

    This is one of the easier spots in our “What’s the difference” series, but also one of the most commonly erred of all the picked nits. Zoologists are a pedantic bunch, and whilst correcting people just to demonstrate that you know more than them is not an effective engagement model, the world would be a better place* if more people landed on the right side of the seal vs sea lion dichotomy. The difference is, after all, at the same taxonomic level as otters and red pandas, and few would confuse them.

    Seals vs Sea lions: The taxonomy of seal-ish things

    All of these things are pinnipeds – a sub-group of the order Carnivora. Pinnipeds are split into three families – True Seals (Phocidae); Eared Seals (Otariidae) and the Walrus (the sole member of Odobenidae).
    Let’s dispatch with walruses – they are easy to spot with their tusks.

    True seals cannot raise their bodies onto their hind or fore limbs

    True seals cannot raise their bodies onto their hind or fore limbs

    True seals are the animals that look most like overweight tubes of toothpaste – all of the species we get around the UK are true seals (except for the occasional walrus). Grey seals, leopard seals, elephant seals, harp seals and ringed seals are among the 19 species of true seals.
    Eared seals are the 16 species that are commonly named sea lions – because of the males’ manes- and fur seals – because of their dense underfur (for which they were heavily persecuted).
    Only true seals are “seals”. Eared seals are not seals; they just look a lot like them.

    The two easiest characteristics to look out for when trying to work out whether an animal is a true seal or an eared seal (I expect you can guess what one of them is) are…
    Q: Can it walk? (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 115

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 23 December 2013

    IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Nearly). Two days to go and I already can’t sleep I’m so excited. My house is adorned with hanging decorations, two Christmas trees (one’s tiny in my defence), tinsel on all the shelves, and a very cheap looking Christmas wreath from Poundland purchased after the budget ran out. It is a Christmas wonderland and so, it is no surprise I imagine that you are about to read about a Christmassy animal. But not one you might be expecting. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    So long fair thee well, pip pip cheerio, We’ll be back soon…

    By Edmund Connolly, on 20 December 2013

    Following the wise Dickensian ( /Lionel Bart) sentiment this will be the final blog post from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology for 2013 and we will be closed until March 2014 to have a fulgurating new light system installed. Despite the museum being closed, the collection is still active. We have a plethora of events and activities going on across campus and Camden, with further details here that will be leading towards a large summer celebration, something to look forward to after the excitement of Christmas.

    We can also be followed online via twitter: @PetrieMuseEgypt and on our shiny new facebook page: Excavating Objects: Behind the scenes at the Petrie Museum or, if pictures are more your thing follow our instagram where we have a host of images of objects and events that show what a vibrant and diverse museum we are: @Petriemuseum

    A small summary of our year:

    VP Michael Worton presenting Ramdane Kamal with his graduation certificate, September 2013

    VP Michael Worton presenting Ramdane Kamal with his graduation certificate, September 2013

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: December 2013

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 December 2013

    Twas the night before ChristmasUnderwhelming Christmas of the year

    When all through the Grant Museum

    Not a creature was stirring

    Because it was a zoology museum and all the animals had stirred their last a long time ago

    Doubly so for fossil fish.

    It has long been assumed that Christmas is a very mammalian celebration. 2013 years ago Santa invented Coca-Cola and ever since humans have been celebrating by writing each other cards, giving each other presents and eating too many Twiglets. However, there’s compelling evidence that Christmas has its origins deep in the geological past. (Christmas) puddingstones date back to the Pleistocene. Christmas Island is over 100 million years old. Christmas trees evolved back in the Carboniferous. Christmas songs celebrate Rocking around the Christmas Tree. Surely it’s no coincidence that many fossil fish are composed of rock today. It’s entirely possible (plausible is a stretch) that the-yet-unfossilised fossil fish celebrated Christmas in Devonian seas and possibly even further back.

    However, the origins of Christmas in the fossil record have been poorly studied. More research is needed to confirm a non-mammalian origin of Christmas hypothesis. Until then, let’s take a cold hard festive stare at yet another Underwhelming Fossil Fish from the Grant Museum’s collections. This month I’ve got nothing particularly special lined up for you. (more…)

    The Mullard Space Science Laboratory

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 17 December 2013

     

     

    The Mullard at night with teh comet Hale-Bopp in the sky.

    The MSSL with comet Hale-Bopp

    One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that I get to work with many different departments from across UCL. I meet people from a wide range of backgrounds and get to do some pretty interesting stuff with them. And of course being a curator I get to work with collections as well, which is in my opinion the best thing about working in museums.

    In the last few months I have had the good fortune to visit the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). A part of UCL that very few people get to see, staffed by people who are extremely passionate about their jobs, and housing a whole new collection of objects that I didn’t know existed.

    The MSSL was opened in 1967, and is the largest university space research group in the UK. Not only that but its early date marks it as one of the earliest such centres in the world, and makes it an important part of the early history of the British Space Programme, now known as the UK Space Agency (yes we really do have one of those). The lab is located near (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 114

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 16 December 2013

    Last week, in a flurry of productivity I wrote the Specimen of the Week topic schedule up to Valentine’s Day. In coming up with so many specimens all at once, I asked a Student Engager what specimen they would like to read about. It is entirely her doing therefore that I ended up researching an animal that I would never have thought to be quite so exciting as it turns out to be. I almost want to put a book about them on my Christmas wish list (yes it is still ok to make a list at age 32). This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Back to Ancients/Basics

    By Edmund Connolly, on 13 December 2013

    by guest blogger: Helen Pike

    Feeling the stress of Christmas, blitzed out on overpriced gaudy baubles, one too many festive drinks on the calendar, need a restorative notion …. then take a tour round the Petrie museum this December time and contemplate a more ancient approach to soothe your furrowed brows…

    Why not deck the halls with thoughts of the Amarna temple wall tiles

    A colourful array of Amarna tiles. Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

    A colourful array of Amarna tiles. Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

    These tiles were found at Amarna capital of the heretic Pharaoh Akenaten with his missus the renowned beauty Nefertiti -who both knew a thing or two about decoration preferring to chuck out the chintz if you like and gods of previous dynasties and bring in a revolution in terms of artistic production and new idols – the sprit of Aten. The tiles in the Petrie collection are exquisite in terms colour and pattern and conjure up what must have been a spectacular wall covering in the temple. Take a leaf out of the master of sun worship and reinvent your home your own way this Christmas with a new take on décor and not be swayed by the gaudy baubles out there… (more…)

    Friends of the Grant Museum Annual Trip: Royal Institution & Linnean Society

    By Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh, on 12 December 2013

    Dried specimens of twinflower (Linnaea borealis)

    Dried specimens of twinflower (Linnaea borealis)


    Each year we organise an outing for the members of our Friends programme to visit other museums and attractions. Annual trips are a great way for us to meet the Friends of the Grant Museum and for them to meet other Friends. We try to visit places that aren’t normally accessible to the public or go behind the scenes. As the organiser of this year’s event I got to tag along.

    This year we visited the Royal Institution, home to eminent scientists such as Michael Faraday, and the Linnean Society, the world’s oldest active biological society. Here are a few of the things I discovered that day. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 113

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 9 December 2013

    Having written this blog (clearly in reverse given that I am now writing the introduction), my conclusion is that fierce things come in small, furry packages. When I need cheering up, watching the antics of this animal on nature videos works much better than chocolate. It’s adorable, endearing and lethal. I recommend this animal to you, should you ever be in the same position. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)