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  • Archive for May, 2014

    Pottery Project Guest Blog: Trade in Opium from Cyprus to Egypt

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 30 May 2014

    Guest Blog by Valentina Gasperini

    In our sixth in the series of different perspectives on Egyptian potteryValentina Gasperini, a post-doctoral reseracher at the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology University of Liverpool, looks at a Cypriote pottery vessel found in Egypt.

    As a ceramicist interested in trade and exchange, particularly at the site of Gurob (located at the entrance to the Fayum region), I would like to present a Cypriot juglet found there during Dynasty 18 (c. 1550–1292 BC) and currently located in the Petrie Museum. This vessel can be studied from a variety of viewpoints and it provides important clues about chronology, social needs and changes in fashion.

    UC13441 was found at Gurob, most probably during the Brunton and Engelbach archaeological campaign of 1920. When dealing with these early excavations the job of a ceramicist often becomes like that of a detective. By cross-examining the excavation reports and a series of clues, I have been able to trace the original context of discovery of this item: Gurob tomb 603.

    A well-travelled pottery vessel currently in the Petrie Museum, London, excavated in Egypt, but made in Cyprus more than 3000 years ago.

    A well-travelled pottery vessel currently in the Petrie Museum, London, excavated in Egypt, but made in Cyprus more than 3000 years ago.

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 May 2014

    It’s been a full year since this monthly blog series, exploring the uninspiring and underwhelming fossil fish in the Grant Museum’s collection, featured what scientists call a ‘pretty boy’ specimen. Back in April last year, I featured this astonishingly handsome specimen that kicked up a media storm. The museum was inundated with flowers and fan mail being sent in (please don’t send live flowers to the museum they are an integrated pest management nightmare). I anticipate that this month’s fossil fish will also set hearts a fluttering. I recommend that those of you susceptible to swooning and screaming uncontrollably at a beautiful fossil prepare yourselves accordingly. Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

    (more…)

    ‘Second Person Looking Out’: The Sixth Annual Slade School of Fine Art / UCL Art Museum collaboration

    By Helen R Cobby, on 29 May 2014

    'Getting close but then again not close at all' by Olga Koroleva

    ‘Getting close but then again not close at all’ by Olga Koroleva

    The themes, materials and presentations of the annual collaborations have varied immensely, and this year there is a great diversity within the exhibition itself. The range of media is particularly striking, as is the way digital technologies have been used and portrayed to give new experiences of space – particularly the spaces of the UCL Art Museum itself.

    There are four time-based media works and one beautifully crafted light box installation, giving emphasis to technological media within the show. However, an array of oil paintings, intricate drawings, etchings and even a bronze cast are also part of this exhibition.

     

    'Entombment' by Lara Smithson

    ‘Entombment’ by Lara Smithson

    Glowing at the back of the UCL Art Museum, in between the cupboards storing prints, is one of the most enchanting works of all. This is the light box, which constitutes the installation entitled ‘Entombment’ by Lara Smithson. It cleverly depicts the somewhat hidden UCL Art Museum painting store, giving us a glimpse of the racks of paintings mostly by former Slade students. This image has been overlaid with a painting by the artist herself, which results in a merging of different types of artistic spaces and temporalities. ‘Entombment’ seems to reveal things behind the surface (most notably the UCL painting store), while also reflecting on the (literal) surface of painting and the material properties – or potentials – of glass.

    Another work that interrogates the materiality of its medium alongside its processes of production is a bronze cast work called ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith. This artwork achieves this using the word ‘fonte’ as both the subject matter and form of the work. In this way, the work prompts investigation into the etymology of the word ‘fonte’. The meanings include ‘to spring’ and ‘to pour’, actions that can be linked to the process and discourse of bronze casting itself.

    'Fonte' by Maxima Smith

    ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith

    A play with words is also immediately apparent in Katja Larsson’s hand carved slate, entitled ‘Hullmandel 4:3’. Here the artist has decontextualised a phrase she has taken from Charles Joseph Hullmandel’s 1835 lithography manual. Using this lithographic manual as a source is both a subtle and pertinent reference to the main body of the UCL Art Museum’s collection of artworks, which are prints. The artist’s chosen words are beautifully carved onto the slate – a process that mirrors the processes of printmaking. Using slate as the medium also reminds us of the lithographic process, being a traditional tool and material in lithographic production. This emphasis on process and action reflects one of the dominant themes in the entire exhibition.

    ‘Second Person Looking Out’ is on show at the UCL Art Museum weekdays 1-5pm until 13 June. On Friday 13 June the exhibition will become part of the One Day Festival in the City with several of the artists from the exhibition extending ideas from their work to engage visitors in interactive installations and other creative activities. More information on this to follow, so check this blog again soon. 

     

    Helen Cobby is a volunteer at UCL Art Museum and studying for an MA in the History of Art at UCL

    Specimen of the Week: Week 137

    By Jack Ashby, on 26 May 2014

    Scary MonkeyThe cost that museums have to dedicate to caring for individual objects is determined by a number of factors. If it’s particularly fragile or susceptible to the elements it might need to be housed in a controlled climate or stored in specialist materials. If it’s particularly desirable it may need souped up security measures. If it’s particularly large then museums have a whole feast of troubles – one giant object will take up the same space as dozens of smaller ones; they are very difficult to move; and they require huge amounts of equipment to prepare and store. This is why you don’t get 30m blue whales stored in jars – just think how much alcohol that would take, and how thick the glass would have to be.

    Fortunately for natural history museums, most big animals start off pretty small, so there’s a way we can cheat the system. If we use baby animals in our collections we can avoid the problems caused by largeness, and still have the species represented. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Animals in Art

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 May 2014

    One of the aspects of working in a museum that I most enjoy is ‘enquiries’. Normally this will be museum visitors bringing in or sending in photos of mysterious objects that they want identifying. Not only is the challenge of identifying a mystery object fun but it’s very satisfying to work out what the object is and most visitors are happy to have had their object identified (with the rare exception when a dragon/dinosaur egg turns out to be a large very spherical pebble). Occasionally however, I receive an enquiry from a colleague from another museum asking for help with identifying animals depicted in a work of art or archaeological object.

    From the earliest images made on the walls of caves through to today, animals have inspired many people and we see this throughout the history of humans. Animals can be depicted as a record of the animals that an artist readily comes into contact with but often they carry symbolic representations or are merely a visual representation of the idea of an animal not meant to depict a specific species or individual.

    (more…)

    Subnature exhibition opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 May 2014

    ALTED Hydrozoa by Lan Lan, 2014. From Subnature exhibitionToday an incredible exhibition of artworks based on digitally altered fish bone sculptures opens at the Grant Museum. Subnature features sculptures and prints by emerging artist Lan Lan (UCL Slade School of Fine Art), who through the manipulation of original fish bone sculptures creates contemporary phantom creatures.

    Set amongst the Museum’s historic collections of skeletons, skulls and specimens in jars, the exhibition establishes a dialogue between natural history and its contemporary interventions – intertwining a Victorian collection with 21st Century digital techniques.

    The fantastical works take the form of cosmic bodies and marine animals, with some installations imagining a fictional future where energy plants rely on the phantom creatures. There is a flickr album showcasing some of the works.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 136

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 May 2014

    Scary MonkeyDid you know that of the 135 previous specimen of the week posts only 20% of them have featured invertebrates! I’m abusing my specimen of the week writing privileges to do my best to address this grave misrepresentation. Poor invertebrates. This week I’ve chosen a specimen that is part biological material, part model that gives us an insight into how biology was taught in the past.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

    (more…)

    UCL Festival of the Arts and the Science Collections

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 16 May 2014

    In the last week of May, UCL will be hosting its second ever Festival of the Arts. It’s a four-day free festival aimed at showing off some of the wonderful work going on at UCL. And I am very pleased that three very different types of collections I help to look after will be featuring in three different events.

    So here’s a bit more about them…

    The first event I am helping out with is one of the first of the whole festival – ‘From Phantasmagoria to Science!

    A Fleming Magic Lantern Slide - Views of Saturn

    A Fleming Magic
    Lantern Slide -
    Views of Saturn

    A Fleming Magic Lantern Slide - A Human Eye

    A Fleming Magic
    Lantern Slide -
    A Human Eye

    A Fleming Magic Lantern Slide - The Moon

    A Fleming Magic
    Lantern Slide -
    The Moon

    (more…)

    What do all of our Curators have in Common? On the Origin of Our Specimens

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 May 2014

    Over the past few months we have been investigating what we can learn about where our specimens came from by researching the history of the Museum’s thirteen previous Curators. This “On the Origin of Our Specimens” series has uncovered much about our collections and the people that have worked here over the past 187 years. In this final post in the series I’m going to share some of the unexpected threads that kept reappearing through this time.

    In answer to the question “What do all of our Curators have in common?” one thing that leaps out is a consistent failure to usefully identify which specimens they actually added to the collection. Professional documentation standards are a relatively new invention, and they have only recently been applied to our collection, mostly since we became a “proper museum” and not just a teaching collection and research repository.

    Besides that, there are four topics that keep reappearing through time… (more…)

    Tiny Praise for the Micrarium at the Museums + Heritage Awards

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 May 2014

    The Micrarium

    The Micrarium

    Last night was the Museums + Heritage Awards – the Oscars of the Museum world. This was our third year on the shortlist, and after winning the Award for Innovations in 2012 and the Guardian Cultural Pros Pick (a public vote to find the UK’s most inspiring museum) in 2013, hopes were high that the Micrarium (our place for tiny things) would pick up the Award for Project on a Limited Budget in 2014.

    Sadly that wasn’t to be, but happily we didn’t come away empty handed. We were the Highly Commended entry in the category, so we do have something to add to the trophy cabinet. We are really thrilled that the project was recognised by the sector.

    The Micrarium was conceived to overcome two identified problems in museums with natural science collections. First, that 95% of all known animal species are tiny – smaller than your thumb – yet nearly all the specimens on display in natural history museums are large animals. As such, natural history museum galleries are deeply unrepresentative of the natural world – a disconnect that visitors very rarely notice. (more…)