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  • Archive for the 'Cross-collections' Category

    Happily Never After: A Moral Proposition for the Management of Museum Collections

    By Subhadra Das, on 11 February 2016

    This is a provocation I wrote and presented at ‘The Future of Museums’ Conference, held at UCL in 2014. Having attended a few seminars and conferences in the sector recently, I feel the need to share it with a wider audience. The text appears as I presented it at the conference, with added links for your delectation and miniscule adjustments to diction and syntax to make me sound cleverer.

    Hello.

    My provocation was: “In the future, no object should ever enter a museum collection on the assumption that it will be there forever.” Looking back, that’s pretty tame. What I meant to tell you was that, if I ever get round to writing one, my ideal Collections Development Policy would consist of just 5 words:

    “Burn it. Burn it all.”

    (more…)

    Behind the Scenes of the Cabinet

    By Helen Pike, on 2 February 2016

    In our continuing series to document the process behind the next exhibition in the Octagon, artists Mark Peter Wright and Helena Hunter who were chosen to work with curators and academic researchers from UCL led by Helen Pike, Public Programmer at The Petrie Museum give an update on their methodology. Mark is an artist and researcher working across sound, video, assemblage and performance and Helena’s practice spans performance, text and moving image. The blog offers a chance for ideas to be presented and hopefully engage comment and conversation!

    BDA-UC1-0016

    Over the last couple of months we have been developing a concept and method for material display entitled The Cabinets of Consequence for the forthcoming new Octagon exhibition. This is a reference and adaptation of the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. Originating from a 17th century European tradition, cabinets of curiosity were ramshackle rooms furnished with an abundance of objects of artistry, craftsmanship and relics. Wunderkammers as they were called, productively disturb taxonomic conventions of display, however, the emphasis on curiosity detaches objects from their ethical and social-political contexts.

    We want to destabilize hierarchies of display but not at the expense of the entangled geo-political histories of archives and processes of asymmetrical extraction on which objects have been collected.

    We intend therefore, to emphasize the multiple ecologies (Guattari, 2000) around such materials. The central challenge for us is to hold onto the vibrant materiality of objects, whilst simultaneously projecting matter into its ethico-political milieu: an aesthetics of display that not only works backwards through history, but also forwards, through the present and its possible futures.

    ‘A new metaphysics (materialism) is not restricted to a here and now, nor does it merely project an image of the future for us. It announces what we may call a “new tradition,” which simultaneously gives us a past, a present, and a future.’ Dolphijn, R & Van der Tuin, I.

    Safe drinking water in Mexico: a project by EWB-UCL

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 28 January 2016

    On Friday 5th February the student society Engineers Without Borders UCL will be hosting a special event in the Rock Room focusing on one of their successful projects. Between 12.30 – 4.30pm members of the society will be on hand to talk to visitors, who will also get the opportunity to inspect museum specimens from the Grant Museum, UCL Art Museum and UCL Geology Collections which relate to the subject of their project – providing safe drinking water to a rural community in Mexico whose drinking water was contaminated with fluoride and arsenic.

    Arsenic Sample. Photo from Wikipedia.

    Arsenic Sample.
    Photo from Wikipedia.

    UCL Engineers Without Borders’ mission is to ‘facilitate human development through sharing engineering and technical expertise in the developing world’. It is open to everyone to join, not just those with an engineering background and in 2014-15 it was involved in nine development projects across the world.

    I met the society’s president, Gabriela May Lagunes, last summer at UCL’s Spark Fest, (more…)

    New Year, New Resolutions: Museum Conservation Conversations on the UCL PACE Museums and Collections Blog!

    By Susi Pancaldo, on 12 January 2016

    The PACE Conservation Laboratory on UCL’s Bloomsbury Campus serves the needs of UCL’s diverse collections. The objects we have examined and treated in 2015 have ranged from fragile inorganic and organic archaeological materials, small sculpture and other works of art, dry- and fluid-preserved zoological specimens, all manner of scientific teaching models, an array of mechanical and electrical scientific instruments, and much, much more!!

    UC40989 faience shabti, during treatment: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Museum; UCLAM10026 bronze medal of Prosper Sainton: UCL Art Museum; Z2978 mammoth tusk: Grant Museum of Zoology; Mathematical model: UCL Maths.

    Faience ‘shabti,’ during treatment: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (UC20989); Bronze medal: UCL Art Museum (10026); Mammoth tusk: Grant Museum of Zoology (Z2978); Mathematical model: UCL Maths.

    These objects have come to our Conservation Lab from UCL’s collections for a variety of reasons. Some need to be cleaned or repaired ahead of use in teaching, research, loan or display. Some present mysteries which close examination and scientific analysis may help unravel. Others have been selected for treatment as part of ongoing programmes to improve the condition of collections currently in storage.

    Each object has a story to tell, and with the start of this New Year, we have made a resolution to share the work we do with our blog audiences. (more…)

    The Evils Of Helium Balloons…and why you shouldn’t use them this holiday season.

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 3 December 2015

    Tis the season to be Jolly! We’re into the time for celebrations, festive cheer and office parties, drinks, mince pies and holiday decorations. And yet using some of those decorations could have serious consequences for us in the future, I’m talking of course about the menace that is… helium filled balloons.

    You'll thank me one day. "The Grinch (That Stole Christmas)". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

    You’ll thank me one day.
    “The Grinch (That Stole Christmas)”.
    Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

    Helium and UCL have a long and entwined history. Sir William Ramsay first identified it on earth on March 26th, 1895, in his UCL lab (now an artist’s studio in the Slade School of Art) and it was this, along with his discovery of argon, neon, krypton and xenon, that won him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1904. There’s a couple of labs named after him, and arguably without him our neighbouring area of Soho would look very different (as helium is used in ‘Neon’ signs).  (more…)

    Agriculture and War : Seeds and Death -what does it all mean ?

    By Helen Pike, on 24 November 2015

    In our continuing series to document the process behind next year’s exhibition in the Octagon, Mark Peter Wright and Helena Hunter  were chosen to work with curators and academic researchers from UCL on this new exhibition led by Helen Pike, Public Programmer at The Petrie Museum. Mark is an artist and researcher working across sound, video, assemblage and performance and Helena’s practice spans performance, text and moving image. The blog offers a chance for ideas to be presented and hopefully engage comment and conversation !

     

    “Is there a form of theory that can acknowledge a certain ‘thing-power’, that is, the irreducibility of objects to the human meanings or agendas they also embody?”

    Jane Bennett, Agency, Nature and Emergent Properties: An Interview with Jane Bennett. Contemporary Political Theory 8, 90-105 (February 2009).

     

     

    Throughout October and early November we did a tour of curators and their collections. First up was Alice Stevenson, curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology. We discussed the agricultural tools and equipment dating back thousands of years on display and how such items evidence the development of mechanistic technologies that began to enter and change landscapes and civilizations, both physically and psychologically. We’re interested in tracing cartographies around such material cultures: extending an appreciation of the “thing” outwards, towards broader relationships and speculative assemblages, and their political and ecological consequences. Interestingly, Petrie himself produced a book called “Tools and Weapons”, a detailed analysis of items from an Egyptian expedition in 1916 and which nests agriculture and war, seeds and death in close proximity.

    Next was Prof. Simon Lewis from UCL Geography department. Simon is at the cutting edge of Anthropocene debates and with Prof. Mark Maslin co-authored the recent paper “Defining the Anthropocene” (March 2015, N. 519) for the influential Nature Journal. We discussed the difficulty of pinning this contingent epoch to a specific start time. Our conversations focused upon two of the “Golden Spikes” that Lewis and Maslin identify as geological specificities, or points of “origin”. One being 1610 at the point of the collision of old and new worlds by way of colonialism and trade, the other being 1964 as a result of increased levels of radioactivity produced through nuclear weapons testing.

     

    Our heads now spinning, we visited Nick Booth, curator of the Geology collections. We were interested in drawing out connections between the earth and technology, primarily through rare earth minerals. These physical elements, mined from the earth, make up parts of our so-called “immaterial” culture such as phones and laptops. Along with rare earths and a host of other items including a Chirotherium fossil footprint and Sir William Ramsay’s original set of discharge tubes, we were drawn to a collection of micro fossils and the deceptively large impact they have in relation to oil exploration.

    Microfossil Image_Miracle_UCL-2

    Close up of a micro fossil credit UCL Geology 

    Our final visit of the day took us to Paolo Viscardi, curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology. If the desire for energy drives the Anthropocene then it seems petroleum oil/plastics are one the central material actors within this story. Stemming from such materialities are the consequences on species such as the giant tortoises of the Galapagos. These animals were exploited for their oil rich bodies in addition to suffering from the clearance of their natural habitat for agricultural purposes. Like the microfossils these museum artefacts (in this case, giant shells) project a powerful grafting of non-humans and humans, technology and the earth, extinctions and possible futures.

     

    To conclude this post, and in response to Jane Bennett’s opening quote at the top of this blog, we would say that although “thing-power” may productively recognize the intensities of material things in and of themselves, we are more interested in mixing vibrant matter with their geopolitical contexts: to drawn a cartography of consequences rather than a type of material awe.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Where are we now?

    By Helen Pike, on 10 November 2015

    Mark Peter Wright and Helena Hunter were chosen to work with curators and academic researchers from UCL on this new exhibition project. Mark is an artist and researcher working across sound, video, assemblage and performance and Helena’s practice spans performance, text and moving image. In this series of blogs running from now until the exhibition opens, the two will discuss how they are finding the process of research and discuss the ideas that are emerging.  The blog will stand in as the space of thinking for the exhibition

    Helen Pike – Public Programmer

     ‘The fossils of the future are the ones we live among’.

    Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media, 2015, p.123

    By Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright

     

    As part of our research for the forthcoming Octagon exhibition we visited neuroscientists Aman Saleem and Matteo Carandini and at The Institute of Ophthalmology. We were introduced to methods and practices from their research that focused upon navigation and cognitive mapping. The main content of our discussions centred upon the ‘hippocampus’ – a region deep within the brain that  resembles a seahorse.  It plays a vital role in how both humans and mammals navigate through space, in addition to both short and long term memory function. As a multi-sensual area of the brain it differs from the visual cortex that has a more singular visual pursuit, offering a reception for sensory input that gives recognition but not clarity as to what we are seeing. The hippocampus is a plural, multi-sensory region in the brain accommodating a dualistic appreciation of place: the point we are physically located in and the place we may be relating to at a distance. Like the blue dot on Google maps, it resembles a pulsing area where the process and production of where we are, or think we are in the present is activated.

    But where are we now?Hippocampus_small[1] This deceptively simple question has opened up many trajectories for us. Where are we in terms of physical space? Political or ecological contexts? Subjective and collective identities? What happens between the here and there when binaries collapse? What errors, frictions and fictions may emerge?

    The Anthropocence is the current condition that underwrites such broad questioning of ‘where are we now?’ The term, coined by scientists, marks out a new geological epoch. It is an umbrella within which to describe how the human (antropos) has become irrecoverably grafted into every aspect of global-techno-animal life. Its consequences are read primarily through the current climate and ecological crisis. It also speaks towards the impact of advanced capitalism and our relationship to non-human agents – from animals to rocks. It is debated that we have been in this “now” since the industrial revolution, perhaps even further back. (See: Parikka, 2015). Alternative hybrid formations of the term, pinning specific areas of inquiry, have also been proposed (See: Braidotti ‘Capitaloscene’; Haraway ‘Chthulucene’; Parikka ‘Anthrobscene’).Seahorse Fossil

    [1] We are reluctant to speak of a “we” in terms of one homogenised collection of (human) people. When “we” is evoked we are therefore talking from our subjective and relational positions firstly, but also wish to extend a sense of collectivity and agency to non-human others.

    Within this matrix of connections and contexts we want to ignite a set of opening questions: can the hippocampus provide a methodology to navigate the present within archival collections? Is it possible to way-find between the here and there? What repetitions and differences might we discover? What possible fictions and futures may emerge in the errors and glitches along the way?

     

    Glass delusions from the ancient Egyptian world

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 4 November 2015

    This post is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    We often visualize ancient Egypt in sandy hues against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, or the watery Nile framed by green vegetation. Yet there was a much wider palette of colours used in the adornment of palaces, temples and decorative objects. The Egypt world was brightly, sometime garishly, vibrant with colour. Glass was one of the luxury materials that came to be used for decoration during the period Egyptologists call the New Kingdom, around 1500 BC.

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology. 18th Dynasty, Amarna, UC22911 - UC22920

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology.
    18th Dynasty, Amarna, From the Petrie Museum collection (UC22911 – UC22920)

    (more…)

    A UCL Museums Murder Mystery

    By Dean W Veall, on 25 August 2015

    Dean Veall here. UCL Museums, comprising of UCL Art Museum, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Teaching and Research Collections and us, teamed up for an evening of dark noir, intrigue and subterfuge in celebration of Museums at Night 2015. A crime had been committed on campus and with prizes to be won we invited visitors to solve this museum murder mystery.

    (more…)

    UCL Museums Student Events Team

    By Rachel H Bray, on 8 June 2015

    Rachel again…

    Back in February this year, UCL Museums ran a very special late night opening at the Grant Museum of Zoology around Valentine’s Day, called Animal Instincts: Sex and the Senses. Much fun and merriment was had by all with special lusty-themed cocktails, an animal photobooth, crafts and some particularly pungent ‘animal’ smelling boxes. Over the years UCL Museums have built up a reputation for putting on events such as these; however, for Animal Instincts, they handed over the reigns to the events programme to some of us UCL students.

    A shot of the busy bar at our event "Animal Instincts: Sex and the Senses".

    Farrah serving up a cocktail storm at the bar during the evening.

    (more…)