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  • Archive for the 'Grant Museum of Zoology' Category

    State of the Union! Natural History Museums 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 August 2014

    Reposting of an article I wrote for the NatSCA website in my capacity on the #NatureData Coordinating Committee, summarising the ‘State of the Union’ for natural history museums following the SPNHC 2014 conference.

    At the end of June was a rather special event; the coming together of three subject specialist networks (SSN), the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA) and the Geological Curators’ Group (GCG) hosted by Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales. Between them, these three networks represent a sizeable chunk of curators, conservators, directors and educators who work in and with natural history museums and collections. Each SSN has yearly meetings but a syzygy rarely happens.

    The full conference was a six day affair packed with field trips, stores tours, talks, workshops, demos, poster sessions and discussions attended by over 250 delegates from almost as many natural history institutions. This provided a great opportunity to catch up and meet friends, facilitated the catharsis in sharing frustrations unique to natural history museums and offered a rare chance to establish a sense of ‘the state of the union’ in natural history museums across Europe, North America and elsewhere.

    You can read the rest of this entry over at the NatSCA website at this link.

    Mark Carnall is the Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 August 2014

    Welcome welcome to this month’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. The mission of this blog series is to temporarily shine the spotlight on underwhelming fossil fish specimens from the Grant Museum collection. It’s not that the Grant Museum collection is particularly underwhelming, most fossil collections are made up of huge archives of fragmentary, broken and not-particularly-impressive material that have had their heyday in scientific research and are now just taking up space. This month, I’m taking a leaf out of singer-songwriter, actor, record producer, businessman, and philanthropist, Justin Timberlake’s book and I’m bringing SexyBack with this month’s fossil fish. Combing the drawers for suitable specimens this one stopped me in my tracks and got me blushing.

    This specimen is bringing sexy back. The other underwhelming fossil fish of the months don’t know how to act. Warning, this month may not be suitable for those who are of a nervous disposition.

    Take ‘em to the bridge.

    (more…)

    Culture Vulture: Digital Revolution at the Barbican

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 August 2014

    Culture Vulture: A vulture skull in UCL Art Museum

    Culture Vulture: A vulture skull in UCL Art Museum

    It’s been a while since we had a culture vulture review on the blog. For the uninitiated we share our thoughts on recent museum exhibitions and displays to demonstrate that we don’t all get put into a cupboard at the end of the day. Last weekend I made my way down to the Barbican Centre to see the tantalisingly titled Digital Revolution: An immersive exhibition of art, design, film, music and videogames. As you may have gathered, I’m a bit of a geek (is there even a need to use the label anymore? We’re all geeks now) and I’m always interested to see how ‘digital’ translates into museum exhibitions. A number of exhibitions I’ve been to in the past about digital art, design and video games always manage to make what should be exciting, schizophrenic and contemporary seem sterile and uninspiring through the lense of a museum display. How did Digital Revolution fare in my eyes?

    (more…)

    Animals and their super senses

    By Dean W Veall, on 26 August 2014

    Guest blogger Dr. Helen Czerski

    Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) LDUCZ-Z2589

    Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) LDUCZ-Z2589

    Peering up the nose of a hyena is not generally on the “to do” list of most people.  As a physicist  it’s also not the sort of thing you are trained to do, either.   Fortunately for me, this hyena was long-dead – I was only faced with a skull that had just been borrowed from its display case in the Grant Museum of Zoology.   And its nose was well-worth ogling.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 150

    By Pia K Edqvist, on 25 August 2014

    Scary MonkeyI did not really have a choice selecting the specimen of the week; this as a particular specimen was speaking to me in the corner of one of the display cases, I felt somewhat hypnotised. Firstly because the way it looks; it has an extraordinary appearance consisting of a lattice-like pattern in a somewhat geometric and architectural design, the specimen is very beautiful. Is it actually made of glass? Studying this specimen it has proven to have depth (it lives in the deep sea) but also breadth; its uses are many and its fascinating qualities are still investigated, this animal still raises more questions than provides answers.

    This week Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 149

    By Dean W Veall, on 18 August 2014

    Specimen of the Week: Week Two Dean Veall here. Here I am again presenting my choice of the 68,000 specimens here in the collection. My previous choices have included the tiger beetle and the box jellyfish, so what have I gone for this week? Well, here are the teasers, this week I have chosen what I believe to be one of the showiest animals in the UK, was collected close to my Valleys home of Bargoed in Brecon and is a specimen that I came across whilst rummaging through the drawers of the Museum, which means it is not usually on display. This week Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    The Not So Beautiful Birds

    By Mark Carnall, on 13 August 2014

    Image of Grant Museum sparrow skeleton

    Grant Museum sparrow skeleton. Specimen LDUCZ-Y1595

    Recently this specimen and a number of other bird skeletons came back from our conservation lab. When I first started at UCL these nine skeletons were in the dreaded “curator’s cabinet” a cabinet of broken and miscellaneous specimens that  were presumably the bane of previous curator’s lives. These skeletons were fragmented, partially disarticulated and all the fragments mixed together. I gave these specimens to Gemma Aboe who was undertaking some conservation work for us and she managed to piece together a number of half skeletons from this mixed box. These specimens aren’t the kind of thing you normally encounter in a public natural history museum display as they aren’t ‘perfect’ but I couldn’t resist taking a few extra shots of these whilst documenting them as although they are incomplete and not ‘worthy’ of a spot on display they are still quite hauntingly beautiful.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 148

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 11 August 2014

    Scary MonkeyZombies aren’t real… or are they? In the world of nature, pretty much anything you come up with already exists: What’s that, a lizard that shoots blood out of its eyes? Yup, that’s been done. What about a toad with babies that burst out its back? Nah, you have to be more creative than that!

    But zombies? Practically anything along the subject makes me prance around like a toddler, combine them with one of my other most favourite things in the world – insects -  and I’m a giddy puddle.

    Boy, this is a treat for you guys! It’s our first non-zoological specimen of the week. That is, if you don’t count the fact that there’s a dirty great big caterpillar stuck to it, and no, this isn’t a case of the mysterious battery-stuffing opossum maniac up to their usual museum antics again with the Pritt-Stick; the two are fused in a macabre display of harmony, mutual love and zombification.

    This specimen of the week is…

    (more…)

    We’ve Added 600 New Labels, But Can we Label Everything?

    By Jack Ashby, on 6 August 2014

    The answer to that question is no, we can’t label everything. We’ve just installed 600 new labels in the Museum, as a result of visitor feedback. But have we got the balance right?

    Some of the 600 new labels being unpacked

    Some of the 600 new
    labels being unpacked

    There are about 6000 animal specimens on display in the Grant Museum (which, incidentally, is more than is on display at the Natural History Museum), including about 2300 in the Micrarium. The room is only about 250m², and this means our displays are very densely packed. We are hugely keen on specimens at the Grant – providing close access to real objects is one of our biggest selling points. For this reason (and also because we don’t have a lot of storage space), we put as much out on display as is logistically possible.

    Drawbacks of dense displays

    As much as people tell us they think of the Grant Museum as a room crammed with amazing rare things creating with an atmosphere that promotes exploration, filling every spare gap with objects does have its downsides. Some people think that displays should give each object its own space to breathe, allowing people to concentrate on them, but we’ve made the decision to go in a different direction. Plenty of other museums use this sparse display philosophy – but if you want to be immersed in a real and different celebration of objects, come to the Grant Museum.

    The major drawback of jam-packed cabinets is that there isn’t a lot of room for labeling. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 147

    By Jack Ashby, on 4 August 2014

    Scary monkeyMuseums are full of mysteries (particularly when you are as cursed with historically challenging documentation, as many university museums are). For example, why do we have a plum in a jar? Why does our dugong only have seven neck vertebrae (it is one of the few mammal species that should have eight)? Why don’t we have a wolf, one of the world’s most widespread mammals? Who ate our Galapagos tortoise? Why do we only have the heart and rectum of a dwarf cassowary? Why is scary monkey (pictured) so scary?

    Not to mention, why did we put all those moles in that jar?

    After ten years of working here, I am confident that there is no greater mystery in the Grant Museum than this one: why would you stick a battery in a dead animal?

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)