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  • Archive for May, 2017

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month May 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 May 2017

    GOOD NEWS ALERT. Thanks to the transfer of some fossil material from UCL Geology Collections to the Grant Museum of Zoology, the Museum is now definitively the unique home of underwhelming fossil fish on the UCL campusTM. This transfer will keep the series going for a further 40 years on top of the next 70 years of underwhelming fossil fish of the month until the series is forced to examine an fossil fish that may be of interest.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the monthly format, it works in exactly the same way as reality TV talent contest shows like the X Factor does. Except instead of people, there are only fossil fish and instead of searching for outstanding entertainment talent to slowly homogenise week on week into formulaic flash-in-the-pan popular music success we’re searching for indistinguishing blandness. Also, there aren’t judges or voting or live shows or broken dreams or insufferable presenters or music or six chair challenges or sad stories about dead grannies or guest appearances by pop stars who have an album or a tour to promote. Other than that, it is exactly the same.

    This month to commemorate the influx of new old material into the museum, our talent scouts have picked out one of the new kids. Let me underwhelm you with it. Voting is now closed. (more…)

    The trace is the appearance of nearness

    By Martine Rouleau, on 30 May 2017

    Blog post written by Liz Rideal, Leverhume artist in residence at UCL Art Museum and Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art

    Installation view of Terme Di Diocletian by Liz Rideal

    Installation view of Terme di Diocleziano by Mike Dye

    The trace is the appearance of nearness, however far removed the thing that left it behind may be. The aura is the appearance of a distance, however close the thing that calls it forth. In the trace, we gain possession of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.

    Walter Benjamin

    All of the UCL Museums exist in compact spaces, the Art Museum is no exception with John Flaxman‘s (1755-1826) sculptural bequests crowding the walls, leaving small gaps for temporary exhibitions. The advantage here is that the plethora adds to the excitement around what is available to see, and the Legacy exhibition of Richard Cooper Jnr (1740-1822) makes an unusual eighteenth century complement to the permanent display. Cooper Jnr’s prints are exhibited so that one can compare, contrast and appreciate their repetition of landscape format and small scale. We can recognise the tropes made familiar by his precedents, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Claude Lorraine (1604/5-1682) and lesser known but more famous in his day, Herman van Swanevelt (c.1603-1655) with their reiterated Italianate views made popular by print and available in albums. It emerged that the museum curatorial assistant George Richards’s Masters was on The Dutch golden age. A landscape print of Richard Cooper Jnr’s ‘after Swanevelt’ was in the display, consequently I was able to expand his knowledge of this artist through sharing art historian Sue Russell‘s research into Swanevelt, thus making further connections – another unimagined benefit of my Leverhulme research grant.

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    Specimen of the Week 293: The Cockchafer

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 26 May 2017

    The common European cockchafer, Melolontha melonlontha. LDUCZ-L239

    The common cockchafer. LDUCZ-L239.

    Behold. What divine wings of clumsy bumbletude are brought in on the wind? Mitchamador
    Hark. Who buzzes and squeaks betwixt the trees? An Oak-wib
    Prod? It is I who takes rest beneath this loamy soil. The Snartlegog

    This week’s specimen is…

     

     

     

     

     

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    Specimen of the week 292: the horned lizard

    By Will J Richard, on 19 May 2017

    LDUCZ-X86 horned lizard

    LDUCZ-X86 horned lizard

    The Mexican plateau horned lizard (Phrynosoma orbiculare) is a small reptile native to the high plateau of Central Mexico. They are almost spherical, about the size of a 50p coin, and have two characteristic horn-like projections on their snout. They seem pretty harmless… THIS IS NOT THE CASE. As a last resort the tiny lizards can shoot streams of pressurised blood from the corners of their eyes, spraying predators over a metre and half away. At first this seemed the single grimmest thing I’ve ever read about any animal but it got me looking at other disgusting ways species choose to defend themselves. These are a few of my “favourites”…

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    Spotlight on the Slade: New findings

    By Martine Rouleau, on 17 May 2017

    Blog post written by Helen Downes, Paul Mellon Centre Research Curator

    UCL6602 Portrait of a Man, 1939 by Nancy Dorothea Craig-Barr. © Estate of the artist. Name inscribed at upper right.

    UCL6602 Portrait of a Man, 1939 by Nancy Dorothea Craig-Barr. © Estate of the artist. Name inscribed at upper right.

    Exciting findings continue to emerge from UCL Art Museum’s Spotlight on Slade, the research and cataloguing project generously supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
    Recent findings have unearthed new information about Slade artists and have focused attention on the cataloguing process itself and how artists, subjects and meanings can be subsumed and potentially lost through the process of cataloguing.
    As I work through the Slade Drawings collection, looking at each work, checking and updating title, date and artist information, I am also recording the numerous inscriptions on the works. These can range from artist signatures to notes by the student or the tutor, a scribbled record of a prize won or a subject drawn. Many record the old ‘Slade No.’ which corresponds with the original Slade record slip detailing the artist, title, subject and prize awarded. A whole group of works have been carefully inscribed by Randolphe Schwabe (Slade Professor 1930 – 1948). Interesting itself is how the ink has faded and its constituency altered, now appearing as if pencil has been meticulously and precisely overwritten in ink.

     

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    Specimen of the Week 291: Leech Embryo Models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 12 May 2017

    Back in January, this blog featured a set of 36 wax models which were chosen by UCL Museum Studies students as a research project for their Collections Curatorship course. At that time, the models were a complete mystery. They were unidentified, undocumented and unaccessioned.

    I’m thrilled to report that we now have answers! Due to the brilliant efforts of students Nina Davies, Clare Drinkell and Alice Tofts the wax models are no longer a mystery. Here they are (again) – this week’s Specimens of the Week are the…

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    Specimen of the Week 290: The awful Bosc monitor lizard

    By Jack Ashby, on 5 May 2017

    Taxidermy Bosc monitor lizard. LDUCZ-X1314

    Taxidermy Bosc monitor lizard. LDUCZ-X1314

    Taxidermy appears to being going through a period of popularity at the moment. Hipsters and fans of geek-chic have realised what many of us already knew – natural history is cool. Gastro-pubs and boutique coffee shops are widely using it as decoration (I wonder whether they know that it’s probably been covered in arsenic to stop it being eaten by moths and beetles – not the best things to have around food and drink), there are excellent museum installations exploring it, and there are taxidermy classes being offered all over the place. However, some of it is truly awful (perhaps that’s part of the charm?), including this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    Curiosities from UCL’s Cabinet

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 May 2017

    Guest post by Rebecca Reynolds

    ‘Curiosities’ seem to be popping up a lot on TV, radio and the web recently – such as in Radio 4’s Museum of Curiosity, where guests donate objects to a vast imaginary museum, and Professor Hutton’s Curiosities, the Discovery Channel’s 2013 series exploring quirky museums from around the UK (including the Grant Museum).

    As many will know, these titles take their cue from cabinets of curiosities, collections kept by physicians, naturalists, explorers and wealthy amateurs throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Surviving objects from these cabinets are still on show – one is the Chaucer stone, a piece of flint broken open to show the shape of the poet’s face, in the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery; another is Powhatan’s mantle in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford; yet another is ‘the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary’ in the Natural History Museum, a dried fern which people loved to believe was half animal, half plant.

    Egyptian cat goddess Bastet from the Petrie Museum. UC30384

    Egyptian cat goddess Bastet from the Petrie Museum. UC30384

    Three objects from UCL Museums ended up in my own cabinet of curiosities, a book published in February this year. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month April 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 2 May 2017

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the monthly union of a fossil fish and the acknowledgement of how underwhelming this fossil fish is, in holy blogimony, which is an honourable estate, that is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and soberly.

    This month’s fossil fish, is what we call in the palaeontological trade “a bit of alright”, that is, it is aesthetically rather on the ‘girl you gonna make me sweat’ end of the fossil fish scale. Don’t claim you haven’t been warned as this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is revealed before you as it will be in three, two, one… (more…)