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    Ordinary Animals in the Classroom

    By Tannis Davidson, on 6 December 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Dr Brendan Clarke (UCL Science and Technology Studies)

    Some biological principles are hard to understand from words and images alone, because life exists in three dimensions. This is where museum specimens come in.

    However, some features are too small to observe in real life. Alongside microscope slides, wax models of enlarged embryos were widely used to teach biology between 1850 and about 1950. Most of the wax models in the Grant Museum collection represent exotic material – hard to obtain or to handle – like this series of human embryos produced by the Ziegler studio in Germany c1880:

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 315 : The Red Ancients

    By Tannis Davidson, on 3 November 2017

    Back in September, a Specimen of the Week blog post The Gross, The Bad and The Ugly featured a number jarred specimens which were, in part due to their dreadful condition, disposed of. They were all fluid preserved specimens which had over time deteriorated and disintegrated and could not be salvaged by conservation.

    But not all specimens in jars have this potential to turn nasty. There are thousands of fluid specimens in the collection which are in excellent condition. The Grant Museum also has specimens in jars which are not fluid preserved at all and, by the virtue of their jarred-ness, have been shielded from the effects of deterioration and look as lively and colourful as they did on their last living day.

    So, as a counterpart to the uglies, this week’s blog is showcasing some lovelies… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 304: Fossil Box 12

    By Tannis Davidson, on 11 August 2017

    Fossil Box 12

    Fossil Box 12

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is, depending on how you count it, one single entity known as Fossil Box 12. It is also 89 individual specimens that have recently been transferred from UCL’s Geology collection. In total, 12 boxes containing 408 vertebrate fossils were transferred to the Grant Museum.

    The new material is a welcome addition to the Museum’s fossil vertebrate reference collection and will be available for use in teaching and for research. Some of these specimens have already made their social media debuts such as Gideon Mantell’s Iguanodon bones and several fossil fish featuring on the Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month blog.

    Fossil Box 12 was chosen as this week’s Specimen of the Week to celebrate the new fossils as well as all the work that has gone into documenting the new acquisitions.  (more…)

    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…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 286: The Notebook Models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 7 April 2017

    Practical Zoology Notebook

    Student Notebook 1911

    As is often the case, it is difficult to choose a single specimen to highlight in this blog. The Grant Museum has 68,000 specimens and each one has a story to tell. Sometimes the stories are connected and link specimens together in unexpected ways, which is why this week’s focus is on a quartet of specimens, rather than one.

    At first glance the four specimens may not appear to have much in common. One is a glass jellyfish, two are wax models of different parasitic worms and the other no longer exists. What they do share is a common history of use, artistic beauty and legacy. This week’s Specimens of the Week are…
    (more…)

    Splicing Time. Rome and the Roman Campagna at UCL Art Museum

    By Martine Rouleau, on 2 March 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. She also lectures and writes educational material for the National Portrait Gallery.

    Being invited to take up the role of artist in residence at UCL Art Museum was an unexpected outcome of Splicing Time, Rome and the Roman Campagna, my 2016-17 Leverhulme Fellowship.

    Liz Rideal, Splicing Time: Rome and the Roman Campagna, 2016

    Liz Rideal, Splicing Time: Rome and the Roman Campagna, 2016

    One theme was to study Claude Lorraine’s Liber Veritatis drawings, in the British Museum’s collection and attempt to plot their contemporary locations, to study his concept of real, imagined and invented landscape and relate this imagery to my own work in the Roman Campagna today. However, it occurred to me that UCL Art Museum might also be a fruitful venue for my quest and I decided to approach curator Andrea Fredericksen to investigate this further. Coincidentally the museum’s upcoming Legacy exhibition was to concentrate on Richard Cooper Jnr, eighteenth century Grand Tour printmaker, an artist who followed the footsteps of Claude Lorraine and who was thus perfectly suited to my own theme. So, in this synchronous and surprising manner I started to consider Cooper Jnr’s work.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 270: Dalmanites trilobite

    By Tannis Davidson, on 16 December 2016

     

    LDUCZ-J422 Dalmanites caudatus

    LDUCZ-J422 Dalmanites caudatus

    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites
    O trilobite, o trilobite,
    You must be Dalmanites

    Your exoskell’s ovoid in outline
    Your frontal lobe is vaulted fine
    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites

    Eleven thoracic segments
    Pleural furrows deeply impressed
    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites*

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a jolly little chap, ready to bring the Christmas cheer to Grant Museum blog readers everywhere.  An early gift from Santa’s pack, this fossil has recently arrived at the Grant Museum following a transfer from UCL’s Geology teaching collection. Despite being a bit broken and a bit repaired, this trilobite has received a warm welcome from all who have glanced upon his charming petrified remains. Behold this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    Meanderings in the Vault

    By Martine Rouleau, on 24 November 2016

    Vault artist in residence Kara Chin and Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis introduce a screening of Magnetic Rose, a Japanese animé that follows four space travelers who are drawn into an abandoned spaceship that contains a world created by one woman’s memories, alongside It’s a Good Life, an episode of the Twilight Zone television series.

    h - Version 2

    This double programme started with an exchange between Kara and Martin about themes found in science, urban planning, art, films and other cultural productions. The essence of this discussion can be found here. Kara Chin is hosting a screening of the Japanese animé Paprika, also discussed here, on the evening of the 29th of November.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 265: Termite collection

    By Tannis Davidson, on 11 November 2016

    The story of this week’s Specimen of the Week begins in 1862, in Prague, with the establishment of a small business offering teaching materials to aid in the study of natural sciences. The business grew, and by the late 1880’s, its proprietor Václav Frič was procuring zoological specimens from around the world (1). He accomplished this through contacting traveller-collectors such as fellow Czech Enrique Stanko Vraz – the man who collected this week’s highlighted specimens…

    LDUCZ-L71, L72, L73, L75, L77, L78, L80, L82 Termes bellicosus

    LDUCZ-L71, L72, L73, L75, L76, L77, L78, L80, L82 Macrotermes bellicosus

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 253 : Moroccan phosphate fossils

    By Tannis Davidson, on 19 August 2016

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is not one, but 48 individual specimens which make up a display box highlighting various fossil teeth from Morocco. Display boxes of this sort are not uncommon as they are a visually appealing way to showcase numerous small specimens not to mention an entrepreneurial solution to add value to otherwise inexpensive individual fossils. The Grant Museum’s display box is a rather nice example of this type containing fossil teeth of 19 different species of fish and marine reptiles: (more…)