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  • Archive for the 'Science Collections' Category

    Finding meaning in the Thermionic valve

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 26 May 2015

    This guest blog has been written by Kelsey Svaren, a placement student who has been working with us over the past few months. 

    Hi, my name is Kelsey and I am current MA Museum Studies student here at UCL. As part of my program, I am required to undergo a placement where I work on a museum related project. I have spent the last month working closely with Nick Booth, curator of the Electrical Engineering Collections at UCL. I have spent this time researching the numerous thermionic valves in the collection.

    Before I started my placement, I had a vague idea of what a thermionic valve is. I knew that it could be used in technologies, such as radios and telephones, to receive and amplify radio signals. Other than that, I was pretty clueless. Since I have started my placement, I have learned more about thermionic valves than I ever thought I would!

    One of Flemings original experimental valves.

    One of Flemings original experimental valves.

    The thermionic valve is especially important to UCL, because it’s inventor, John Ambrose Fleming was a professor at UCL and helped to develop the Electrical Engineering Department that we see today.

    (more…)

    The Museum is Where the People Are – vote for us now

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 29 April 2015

    PURE EVIL - Roberto Rossellini's Nighmare

    Roberto Rossellini’s Nightmare, Pure Evil

    VOTE NOW http://bit.ly/connectpureevil

    Old master prints, drawings of flayed bodies, mysterious things in glass jars, extinct animal skeletons, glittery minerals and rocks, amulets and charms from ancient Egypt: UCL Museums and Collections are a treasure trove of the awe inspiring and unusual. But we don’t just think of ourselves as being a collection of objects fixed to one space and place, we believe that the Museum is where the people are and we want to take the spirit of our collections off site for the Museums at Night event on 30 and 31 October. (more…)

    Curt Herzstark and a remarkable machine.

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 27 January 2015

    Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet soldiers. To mark this I thought I would discuss an object from UCL’s collections with a pretty remarkable story. This object not only saved the life of its inventor, but also allowed him to save the lives of others at Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

    Curt Herzstark with one of his calculators. Image taken from http://www.vcalc.net/cu.htm.

    Curt Herzstark with one of his calculators.
    Image from http://www.vcalc.net/cu.htm.

    The Curta calculator is a wonderful machine. It’s was the world’s first handheld mechanical calculator and was used extensively from its invention until the digital calculator took over in the 1960s / 70s. Scientific American called it “the most ingenious calculating machine ever to grace an engineer’s hand” (£ link).

    The Curta calculator was invented by Curt Herzstark, born 1904 in Austria, whose family owned a company that made calculating machines and other precision instruments. (more…)

    Sunshine in Stratford

    By Meg J Dobson, on 22 October 2014

    Excited about Interstellar, the new sci-fi blockbuster by Christopher Nolan (who, incidentally, is an alumnus and honorary fellow of UCL)?

    To get you in the mood, we are holding an evening of space exploration on 28th October at 8pm at Stratford Picture House with a special screening of Danny Boyle’s sci-fi epic, Sunshine, which will be accompanied by a talk by solar researcher, Jamie Ryan, from UCL’s space research facility.

    Cillian Murphy in Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle.

    Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle, starring Cillian Murphy.

    (more…)

    Celebrating Marvellous Maps!

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 9 October 2014

    Marvellous Maps Poster

    Marvellous Maps Poster

    Whenever I’m giving an introduction to the UCL Geology Collections there is one part of the collection that is pretty much guaranteed to get even the least engaged, non-geological undergrad at their 9am lecture on a Monday interested…our maps. There’s something about stopping what you are doing and exploring a map that just seems to interest people. Perhaps it’s the fact that with most maps the more you look the more you see; the more time you spend looking the more you are rewarded.

    The 13th – 19th October is International Earth Sciences Week, and Friday 17th is Geological Map Day, so with this in mind UCL Earth Sciences and UCL Museums invite you to a very special pop-up event…

    Marvellous Maps’ will be hosted in the Rock Room on Friday 17th October by UCL Earth Sciences, between 1 – 5pm.

    (more…)

    A Medical (School) Mystery

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 24 September 2014

    For most of the last two weeks of September I was working on a collections project aimed at auditing, repacking and photographing the UCL Physiology Collection. Although the collection itself consists of only 82 objects (for now), it shares its store room with a large number of additional objects, papers, books and other ‘misc’ material. It was quite a job, and took 5 of us the best part of two weeks to complete.

    Among the objects and papers we saw during the work were two 20th century dog respirators, half a door, papers relating to experiments on Everest and lots of framed portraits and photos.

    Included in this last lot was a particularly perplexing object, which caused us all to scratch our heads for a while.

    Medical Faculty 1957, with troll (middle back).

    A traoll (?) standing behind the class, holding an umbrella and tin helmet.

    A troll (?) standing behind the class,
    holding an umbrella and tin helmet.

    (more…)

    To Display or not to display?

    By Jenni M Fewery, on 8 July 2014

    While undertaking my Museum Studies Masters at UCL this year, common themes that kept cropping up were the issues that arise when displaying certain subjects or indeed objects. During our Museums: A Critical Perspective class we covered ethnographic collections, ‘Dark Tourism’ and national memory and the debate over displaying human remains. With my interests lying with the history of science and medicine I wanted to find a topic I could sink my teeth into whilst also focusing on museums of science and their methods of display.

    Brown Dog Statue, 1906 with the plaque reading: “Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”

    Brown Dog Statue, 1906 with the plaque reading:
    “Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”

    In April a UCL Science Collections curator asked me if I would be interested in taking a look at a 1930s dog respirator as a starting point for a dissertation topic. I was informed that the object may have been used during animal experimentation and there were concerns about how to display it responsibly, considering its historic role in experiments to which so many have a negative responses. I researched the history of vivisection – live animal dissection – and discovered the story of the little brown dog. During the early 1900s protests and riots spread through London as anti-vivisectionists campaigned against experimentation on animals in response to the illegal dissection of a little brown dog. Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of the dog to be erected as a memorial, antagonising medical students or “anti-doggers” and resulting in the statue being removed under the cover of darkness. In 1985 another statue, commissioned by the National Anti-Vivisection Society, was erected in Battersea Park and remains there today. (more…)

    Science + Art = ?

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 6 May 2014

    What happens when you give a Geology Museum to a set of Art Students? Well we are about to find out…

    Photo taken in Geo-Chemistry Lab

    Geo-Chemistry Lab at UCL.

    Last year a group of sculpture Masters students from the Slade School of Fine Art took over the Rock Room (UCL’s Geology Museum) for a day, created a load of new art works relating to the space and the collection, and then opened it up to the public to view their work. It was a great day, we had a lot of visitors and the students seemed to enjoy themselves.

    This year I met with the Slade organiser, Lecturer in Sculpture Karin Ruggaber, early, and we decided that we would build on the work of last time, by offering a tour of some of the lesser seen parts of the Geology Collections, and the Earth Science Department here at UCL,

    (more…)

    Museum Training for the World

    By Edmund Connolly, on 7 March 2014

    UCL is launching a new project with the British Council to help develop and teach new methods of Museum management. The Museum Training School opened this week and is aimed at mid-career professionals who are aspiring to be emerging leaders in the museum sector.

    bc-ucl-mts-logo-black

    (more…)

    An un-noble argument over a Nobel subject

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 February 2014

    After a few drinks last weekend, my sister, who is doing a Ph.D at a ‘different’ university, and I got in to a friendly ‘my horse is bigger than your horse’. I gloated that UCL has tentacles that reach around the world, is ranked within the top four universities within the UK, and most importantly (because this is how I measure university performance) we have several Nobel Prizes. Well as it turns out, so does her university, but the important thing is that we have more.

     

    Although the conversation was entirely (ok, mostly) in jest, it made me curious as to how justified my claims of ‘having a bigger horse’ actually were and I set about some googling. As luck would have it, even after calibrating the data for variables such as my university is around 130 odd years older than hers, and also taking into consideration the fact that the Nobel Prize only began in 1901 whereas we were founded in 1827, UCL are still higher achievers. Mwah hah hah. According to the website www.nobelprize.org, there have been 487 Nobel Prizes given out worldwide since its inception. Well let me hear an ‘oooo’ for the fact that 21 of those belong to us. As in UCL, not my sister and myself. (more…)