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    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: November 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2015

    The sound of mince pies is in the air. People with awful moustaches are getting a free pass this month. This can mean one of only two things. Either the annual conference of British Pie Awards and The Handlebar Club have booked the same conference venue* or it’s November. Delete as appropriate. What this may mean is that it isn’t October anymore, so it’s time to welcome you to another underwhelming fossil fish of the month, our monthly foray into the world of uninspiring fossil fish. UK museums have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of fossil fish in their collections and they get a hard time. They aren’t used in exhibitions, they don’t feature on lunchboxes, they aren’t the subject of Hollywood films.

    Well, normally that is. This month, due to a mix up at the email sorting office, I’ve been wired a rather interesting and semi-famous fossil fish. You’ll probably instantly recognise it from the photo below. It’s going to be hard to play this one down, this one has been featured on stamps. I know, I’m going to get letters for highering standards. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 216: European Plaice

    By Dean W Veall, on 30 November 2015

    Hello dear Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here. This week I shall be bringing you a very fishy (again) Specimen of the Week, how can I possibly top the three toothed pufferfish you may be asking yourself? Well, I believe I have for two very good reasons. Firstly the fish I have chosen is one of the asymmetrical marvels of the natural world. Secondly, has one of the most curmudgeonly comical faces of all animals (I challenge you to find me an animal that beats this specimen). And finally, has recently featured in the events that have accompained our Glass Delusions exhibition. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…..


    Specimen of the week 215: the sparrowhawk taxidermy

    By Will J Richard, on 23 November 2015

    Hello zoo-fans. Will Richard here, throwing words at the page to bring you this specimen of the week. And what a specimen I’ve chosen. Graceful, elegant, deadly and now stuffed. Slightly wonkily. Case 17’s finest…

    LDUCZ-Y1549 female sparrowhawk taxidermy

    LDUCZ-Y1549 female sparrowhawk taxidermy


    Specimen of Week 214: Fossil Vertebrae

    By Tannis Davidson, on 16 November 2015

    LDUCZ-X1111 Dimetrodon vertebrae

    LDUCZ-X1111 Dimetrodon sp.vertebrae

    In the spotlight this week is a specimen that is currently experiencing it’s ‘busy season’. The Grant Museum collection is widely used in teaching at UCL and the Museum is home to many specimen-based practicals. For example, during term 1 in 2014, there were 34 practicals using over 600 specimens by 1400 students.

    Amidst this flurry of activity, certain specimens catch the eye. Is it that they are finally freed from the safe-keeping of their fossil drawers and have their moment to shine? Could it be that they are used over and over and over again to illustrate a turning point in evolution so critical that repeat viewings are essential? Or is it that the specimen is quite simply, an attractive object in itself, perhaps a worthy contestant in a specimen beauty contest?

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

    Specimen of the Week 213: The Enigmatic Gibbon

    By Rachel H Bray, on 9 November 2015

    Hello Grant Museum blog readers and zoology enthusiasts, it’s Rachel Bray here. You may be wondering who I am, unless you saw a Specimen of the Week blog by me back in May when I temporarily joined the Museum for my MA placement. I am very lucky to be back at the Grant until Christmas to work with the Museum’s wonderful learning and events programme. As part of my return I’m pleased to be getting back into the Specimen of the Week swing of things by researching this week’s candidate which is…

    Photograph of the grey gibbon specimen

    LDUCZ-Z475 Hylobates sp.


    Hello! I’m the new Grant Museum Curator

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 6 November 2015

    My name is Paolo Viscardi and I’m the new Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL.


    I have a background in biomechanics and comparative anatomy, with a particular fondness for bones, which I’ve been writing about since July 2009 on my personal blog Zygoma. In my spare time I am Chair of the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA) and I run the science communication event Science in the Pub (or PubSci for short). My passion for communicating science also keeps me busy giving talks and getting involved in all sorts of events and performances, from immersive theatre to providing a scientist’s response to art. (more…)

    Glass delusions from the ancient Egyptian world

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 4 November 2015

    This post is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    We often visualize ancient Egypt in sandy hues against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, or the watery Nile framed by green vegetation. Yet there was a much wider palette of colours used in the adornment of palaces, temples and decorative objects. The Egypt world was brightly, sometime garishly, vibrant with colour. Glass was one of the luxury materials that came to be used for decoration during the period Egyptologists call the New Kingdom, around 1500 BC.

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology. 18th Dynasty, Amarna, UC22911 - UC22920

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology.
    18th Dynasty, Amarna, From the Petrie Museum collection (UC22911 – UC22920)


    Specimen of the Week 212: I am the Walrus

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 2 November 2015

    After spending my Halloween weekend dressed as a vampire, I’ve been thinking a lot about animals with big fangs that feed by suction.

    Walrus skull Odobenus rosmarus LDUCZ-Z2270

    Walrus skull Odobenus rosmarus LDUCZ-Z2270

    That’s right, my Specimen of the Week is…


    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: October 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 October 2015

    It’s that time of year, the leaves are turning brown, Christmas advent calendars are on the shelves, British people are struggling with the decision to complain about it being too hot or too cold for the time of year because its possibly both but not as clear cut as say summer or winter. But none of that matters to a fossil fish. Even if they were able to blink in life, which most couldn’t, the unblinkable, unblinking eyes of fossil fish care not for such trivial concerns as the changing of seasons. Partly because they’ve been turned to stone. Well, completely because they’ve turned to stone.

    Welcome to October’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month, our monthly foray into the world of underwhelming fossil fish from the drawers and stores of the Grant Museum of Zoology. The unloved, the untreasured, the uncelebratable fossil fish. And so they should be. They’re not very interesting at the best of times. In fact, I wouldn’t carry on reading this, you’ll only be disappointed in 5, 4, 3, 2… (more…)

    How to make a diamond

    By Jack Ashby, on 28 October 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    Diamonds made from the dead creatures of the River Thames (c) David Dobson

    Diamonds made from the dead creatures of the River Thames (c) David Dobson

    This year, on Thursday the 30th of July, I made a diamond. Only a few weeks before, this diamond had been floating around the River Thames in the form of dead plants and animals. It had taken a few hours, high pressure and temperature and most importantly a lot of help from UCL chemists and geologists to transform the dead creatures of the River Thames into tiny diamonds. These can now be seen at the Grant Museum as part of my exhibition Glass Delusions, along with a booklet ‘How to make a diamond’ which describes the process. (more…)