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Archive for the 'Engineering Collections' Category
By Nicholas J Booth, on 17 December 2013
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…)
By Nicholas J Booth, on 18 September 2013
People often ask me what it is I do for a job. “Well” I answer, “I’m a curator”.
“Yes, but what do you actually do?”
“I curate a collection, I help look after it”.
“Yes but what do you ACTUALLY do all day?”
It’s a good question, and one to which the answer is never really that simple. What I ‘actually do’ varies from week to week, and depends upon what I have to do, what I need to do, and what I have time to do. So I thought I would write a blog as a way of answering.
Last week I made a point of recording exactly what I was up to between Monday and Friday, and tried to take a few more photos that I would normally. I should say that I did not particularly plan for this week to be one I blogged about, and I resisted the urge to book in lots of important sounding meetings. I had planned to use a stepometer during the week, to see how far I walked, but sadly couldn’t get my hands on one in time.
So, my week…
By Nicholas J Booth, on 17 September 2013
On Wednesday 18th UCL Museums will be taking part in the Ask A Curator Day event on twitter. The original day was way back in 2010 and this year already has more museums signed up than ever before (525 in 34 countires at time of writing). We know that asking a question in a museum can sometimes feel intimidating , and that we curators can sometimes be hard to track down. There’s so much to do (all that cataloguing…gah!) that we aren’t always the most accessible group of people (though we really do try). We are taking part in the day as part of our commitment to make our collections as accessible as possible.
Ask A Curator works like this. Anyone in the world with a twitter account can tweet a question with the #AskACurator hashtag, and it will be answered by any of the institutions taking part. If you have a specific question for us you can tweet it directly to us @UCLMuseums and one of our staff will do their best to answer you. The Grant Museum is also taking part using @GrantMuseum.
In preparation for this I thought I would introduce you to our members of staff taking part… (more…)
By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 July 2013
This is the final installment of the excellent Conserve it! blog series, written by four conservation students from the Institute of Archaeology. In this post Leslie Stephens and Louise Stewart describe the last stages of the process.
To read the full series please click on the ‘Engineering Collections’ or ‘Science Collections’ category tabs on the left hand side of this page.
Conservation doesn’t end when all the pieces are back together. Once researched, cleaned and reassembled, the x-ray tubes will need further work. Filling gaps and preparing the tubes for storage are the final stages in the process.
Why do conservators fill gaps in objects? Fills are usually undertaken for two reasons: aesthetics and support. When an object has most of its pieces remaining, it is frequently the job of the conservator to make an object look as complete as possible so that visitors are aided in its visual interpretation. When the object’s original material is fragmentary, it is often difficult for visitors to understand what it would have looked like before damage. The more material is missing, the harder this job is for the conservator. There is a fine line between aiding interpretation for the visitor, and presenting an object that is too much ‘interpretation’ and not enough original material. If the conservator is not certain what the missing fragments would have looked like, they are less likely to fill that area with a ‘guess’. When there is very little original material left, however, fills sometimes hold fragments in place. This happens especially when there is not enough original material left for the object to hold its own weight; these types of fills are considered support fills.
By Nicholas J Booth, on 6 June 2013
Most of last week I was busy installing the new Octagon Gallery Exhibition, ‘Digital Frontiers: Smart, Connected and Participatory’, curated by Claire Ross from the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. The exhibition features a huge range of objects, from a tweeting doorstop (the ‘sheep-pig’) to a drawer of pinned beetles, however most of the objects have come from the UCL Engineering Collections. This is one of the collections I look after, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about what goes into the process of putting together one of UCL’s Octagon exhibitions.
The exhibition opened on Wednesday 5th June. However the first meeting happened back in September when all the curators and collections managers from the different UCL Museums and Collections get together with Claire to hear about her plans for the exhibition, and to initially brain storm about what we have in our collections that fit with the exhibition subject. This was harder for some collections than others, but happily was relatively easy for me.
After this initial meeting Claire met all the curators individually to discuss the exhibition and view possible objects, before going away and coming up with a long list of what she wants. In the case of the Engineering Collections it was a very long list…which is great! However this also means that there was a lot of work for me, and others, to do.
By Nicholas J Booth, on 24 May 2013
This is the third installment of the Conserve it! blog series, written by a team of UCL conservation students who are working on four damaged objects from the Medical Physics Collection. Here Louise Stewart explains how they have gone about reconstructing the smashed tubes.
Now that our background research is done and we’ve considered the various significances the objects, we come to the most time-consuming step of conservation: the actual treatment! In this case, the main portion of treatment for all four of us is the reconstruction of the glass bulbs of the various x-ray tubes.
By Nicholas J Booth, on 27 February 2013
The second instalment of the Conserve it! blog, written by Miriam Orsini, details the research and analysis that conservators have to undertake before they even begin to work on objects. Particularly exciting for me is the photo towards the end of this post showing one of the X-Ray tubes glowing green under UV light! I had no idea they could do this…
Probably one of the most exciting things conservators must do before they start conserving an object is researching and analysing the object itself. This is the moment when the object starts to talk to you and tells you its story. In this post we are going to share some of the pretty amazing stories which these X-Ray tubes have told us.
We started with some preliminary research using the internet and academic literature to find out more about what kind of X-Ray tubes we were dealing with, and to try to understand their functioning and to date them. We realised that the tubes represented four stages in the history of the manufacture and design of X-Ray tubes, from earlier examples to more modern models.
My tube (above) is an early example of an X-Ray tube known as Jackson Tube or Focus Tube. This particular example was produced by a company based in London, Newton & Co. The presence of the company’s name and address, Fleet Street London, inscribed on the metal plate contained in the tube, led us to think that the tube was made before 1930, when the company moved from Fleet Street to Wigmore Street. (more…)
By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 February 2013
This is the first in a series of blogs written by conservation students working on objects from UCL’s Medical Physics Collection. Over the the next few months the students will keep us updated on their progress. This initial blog was lead authored by Katherine LM Becker.
On December 13, students from UCL’s MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums, their course co-ordinator – Dean Sully, the UCL Collections Senior Conservator – Susi Pancaldo, and UCL Museums curator – Nick Booth, met to discuss a new project!
During relocation of the Medical Physics Department’s collection, Nick Booth encountered four objects in need of conservation and, through Susi Pancaldo, was able to bring the objects to the conservation lab to be treated as part of student portfolios! Four students elected to participate in the project: Katherine Becker, Miriam Orsini, Leslie Stephens, and Louise Stewart. Together, we hope to gain new experiences and challenge ourselves with potentially complex glass reconstructions. From the beginning we thought that the best approach to the project would be for each student to be responsible for one object, but for us all to work as a group in problem solving and to make cohesive decisions.
By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 December 2012
Those of you who are based around UCL will probably have noticed the opening of the Octagon Gallery, UCL’s brand new exhibition space and the first part of the University’s ‘master plan’. If you haven’t been to see it I urge you to. The cases are brand new and look great in the space, and we have used touch screens and AV for all the interpretation, so there’s plenty to prod and poke and play with. The idea of the gallery is to act as a show case for UCL’s collections and current academic research, and there is a wide variety of different objects represented.
One of these objects was recorded on our database simply as the ‘Big Egg’.
When I saw this on the database I was disproportionally excited, as it’s the punchline to one of my favourite jokes –
Q – What’s big and small at the same time?
A – A big egg’
On my first visit to the Science and Engineering Collection store rooms this was the first object I looked for and, when I eventually found it and unwrapped it from its bubble wrap (a bit like Christmas) I wasn’t disappointed. As you can see it looks exactly like a big white egg, but it also opens up to reveal a strange red cross on the inside. It can even be taken apart to reveal a pair of matching crosses. Why?