By Edmund Connolly, on 7 March 2014
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Archive for the 'Galton Collection' Category
By Subhadra Das, on 18 February 2014
Having spent some time digging around, I’d like to share with you some of my thought processes to build up a picture of the development of the Galton Collection through its object labels.
Nothing is so helpful to a curator than the work of those others who have worked to document the collection before them. In the Galton Collection, some of this consists of labels attached to objects. As previous blog authors have said, old object labels can help us to work out the provenance of objects in the absence of this information in a complete catalogue.
For example, objects with this label:
By Debbie J Challis, on 16 October 2013
Shortly after blogging my response to the ‘legends’ around the head of archaeologist Flinders Petrie, artist Michal BarOr has used these legends, the head itself and Petrie’s ideas about measuring heads , skulls and faces for race ategorising in a work for the display New Sensations. New Sensations is part of Frieze Art Week and on display in Victoria House on Bloomsbury Square until tomorrow. (more…)
By Alice M Salmon, on 19 April 2013
Firstly, I need to apologise for the lack of immediacy in writing a blog about the year 8 “spring school” that I ran on behalf of UCL’s Museums and Collections last week. With my teenage years a distant memory, a bit of R and R was required to recover from the energy of 38 constantly excited 13 year olds.
That aside, it was certainly a week to remember! Participants witnessed a barber surgeon in action, analysed animal poo, and created their own alien dissection, all in the name of education. They discussed the ethics of human display, philosophised over what makes us human, and took great pleasure in analysing the “worth” of a dismembered foot that had been consumed with dry gangrene. (more…)
By Edmund Connolly, on 4 April 2013
With the days lengthening and the bleak Beowulf-like nights withering we can start to revel in getting home from work in glorious sunshine (/grey illumination) and wend our commuter way with the street lights still off. Returning to my theme of spring (and Ancient Egypt), I’m now intrigued by the new affectation in the heavens: the sun!
Our sun is about 4.6 billion years old, comprising of 99.86% of the solar system’s mass. Probably the starkest visual image we can experience, the sun has inspired civilizations over millennia, and continues to affect our notion of time, season and even our emotions.
By Edmund Connolly, on 1 April 2013
guest blogger: Chris Webb
In recent history there are few contentious subjects that are as notorious as eugenics. There are not many areas of discussion that can illicit such heated debate. Indeed, even the simple task of blogging becomes a semantic minefield, my inclusion of the word ‘contentious’ above, inferring (erroneously) that there are two sides to ‘argue’. However, research into the concept of eugenics, its founding and articulation, is the focus of a new book by Dr Debbie Challis who asks ‘How much was archaeology founded on prejudice?’
By Subhadra Das, on 15 February 2013
Only once in my life have I ever encountered an object in a museum display case which delivered such an emotional sucker-punch as to physically stop me breathing.
One of the fun things about objects in museum collections is the way in which you can appreciate them in the context of your own life, experiences, sometimes even your own body. For example, when looking at the gynaecology specimens in UCL’s pathology collections they are full of resonance for me because I’ve got similar (hopefully considerably less diseased) bits sitting inside me and because my mother was, for over four decades, a gynaecologist and obstetrician.  In the Galton Collection, I have classified my hair and eye colour according using the colour scales and devices which were used at the Galton Laboratory.
I’ve also experienced those little moments of recognition for things which, even when you see them for the first time, are somehow immediately familiar and speak directly to you. The ones I remember best are the hugely spectacular – like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio – and those that refer to memorable thoughts and experiences. On a visit to Nottingham, I was blown away by these ivory chessmen which sit in a case at Nottingham Museum and Art Gallery and are exactly like the ones described in my favourite novel. I stood gawping at those chessmen for much longer than any other exhibit in the museum, even the fancy modern artworks which were what I had actually gone to see. Running a close second on the same trip was the statue of Robin Hood at the bottom of the hill leading up to the castle, which featured in a documentary about Torvill and Dean, a recording of which I had watched repeatedly and obsessively as a five-year-old.
Given that I am aware of the evocative power of objects, the emotional (and physical!) winding I mentioned at the start of this blog may have been a shock, but it wasn’t entirely a surprise. The object in question was this, in one of the more innocuous displays at the Design Museum in Copenhagen. Up until that point I had been happily strolling through the galleries taking pictures of chairs – of which they have an extensive typology, going ‘Oooh…!’ at the Japanese porcelain vessels and trying to work out why there was a bottle of Heineken in a case that otherwise only exclusively held antique silverware.
Then, suddenly, blithely sitting in a case, was this; my Dad’s CD player.
By Celine West, on 16 November 2012
One of the things we do as part of Learning & Access is outreach work with London schools. This is teaching with objects in the classroom, most often with Primary school children. I have been away from work for a while and returning recently I realized this is something I don’t talk about enough so I’m just going to share some numbers with you about outreach that’s happening now.
In 2 months staff are visiting 23 different Primary schools on 27 different days. They are teaching in 66 classes and are working with 2000 children, children of all ages from 4 to 12 years old.
The schools are spread across 5 London Boroughs and in this 2 months, staff will have spent about 45 hours in total travelling on London transport to and from schools… (more…)
By Subhadra Das, on 10 October 2012
A head spanner originally used by the Galton Laboratory and now part of the UCL Galton collection appeared in ‘Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip’ on BBC2. The second in a 3-part self-described ‘emotional history of Britain’ focussed on how the Victorians embraced the stiff upper lip as an empire building tool. Used to take accurate measurements of human skulls, this head spanner, and others like it, contributed to the colonial project of keeping colonials… well, colonial.
As someone who has relinquished an Indian passport to take on the mantle of Britishness*there are lots of issues I could talk about here, but I’m also a museum curator and so enjoy getting het up about very little things rather than massive philosophical and social issues.
So, I thought I would 1) write and let you know that you can catch-up with the series on the BBC iPlayer And 2) give you an insight into the practical, professional and ethical aspects of lending an object for filming a documentary.
It went a little something like this:
By Nicholas J Booth, on 22 June 2012
For my first ever solo blog am I am going to talk about a collection that really stood out when I was looking around UCL in my first few weeks, and the interesting ‘science’ of phrenology.
Phrenology is the study of head morphology and the belief that this is related to a person’s character. Simply put, the lumps and bumps on your head can indicate if you are (or are going to be) industrious or a criminal, a failure or success, a drunkard or teetotal. To many now this seems obviously absurd, and the theories behind it have been widely debunked, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries this was regarded as good science, and was very popular.
One of the Teaching and Research collections cared for by UCL is the Galton Collection, named after Sir Francis Galton (see here for further details). Galton was well known in his time as (amongst other things) an explorer, a pioneer of meteorology, psychology and phrenology and a statistician. He is particularly remembered today for his work with fingerprints, and amongst the bundles of finger prints held in the collection are those of Prime Minister William Gladstone.