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  • The Petrie Geeks Out (Again)

    By Debbie J Challis, on 5 August 2014

    Next week the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is exhibiting at LonCon3 - the largest science fiction (SF) convention in the world. We’ll be there alongside exhibits on Doctor Who, Iain M Banks, academic posters on SF and English Heritage. But why is a museum of Egyptian Archaeology going to this mahosive SF convention? Read the rest of this entry »

    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… Read the rest of this entry »

    Re-packing UCL´s Magic Lantern Slides

    By Margaux Bricteux, on 29 July 2014

    As my time working with UCL’s lantern slides draws to a close, I thought I’d reflect on some of the things I’ve discovered over the past few weeks. (To learn what lantern slides are, and why UCL has accumulated thousands of them, click here).

    Scan of slide EE703, showing a diagram of a Vreeland oscillator

    Slide EE703 – A Vreeland oscillator, 
    or just another electric circuit
    to the unaccustomed eye.

    The majority of  the slides in the UCL Science and Engineering collection are, unsurprisingly enough, about Engineering. Electrical Engineering to be precise. I must say that, having not had a single Physics lesson in the past six years, the prospect of cataloguing slide after slide of what looked like identical electric circuits was not exactly my cup of academic tea. But I soon learnt that there is a lot more to ElecEng (as it is apparently abbreviated) than alternators, resonators, oscillators and commutators. In particular, I became interested in UCL’s very own Sir John  Ambrose Fleming, founder of England’s first University Department of Electrical Technology, inventor of the thermionic valve and Pender Professor at UCL for three decades.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 146

    By Dean W Veall, on 28 July 2014

    Scary Monkey

    Dean Veall here. This week it is I who am bringing you specimen of the week and I have the great pleasure of bringing you specimen 146! Huzzah. But can it really have been seven whole weeks since I last shared a specimen with you?  In my role of Learning and Access Officer I have several hats I wear, (these hats pale in comparison to the hats worn by Joe Cain during our Film Nights) so more like caps then. Naturally they are of the flat variety, or as we call them back home Dai Caps, reflecting my heritage, politics and social status as a ‘working class hero’ (who works in the arts and cultural sector!?). When I take off my more showy Dai Cap I wear for our evening events for adults that showcase UCL research I put my more hardier Dai Cap I wear during the day for our Schools learning programme. This week’s specimen of the week is one that I use heavily in our sessions we run for primary schools here in the Museum. It is one that inspires a myriad of questions from the pupils, most frequent being that old favourite “Is it alive?”  and a new kid on the block “But why is it moving?”. To find out the answers to these questions and more read on. This week’s specimen of the week is……….

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: July 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 25 July 2014

    I’ll be honest with you reader, I’m totally phoning in this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month. When I pulled last month’s underwhelming fossil fish out of the drawer it looked to me like a small but slender mandible which I lazily attributed to the fish Saurichthys. I then wrote what I can only describe as the greatest underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post in the world. Confidently, I scheduled it to be published and then actually looked at the specimen and re identified it as the now infamous caudal  fulcrum of Chondrosteus. In a fit of shame, the dark side of science we don’t often talk about, I printed out the blog post, then shredded it and then burnt the shreds. I sent the ashes to the four corners of Earth and then deleted the original blog and rewrote one for Chondrosteus. So this month I am writing about Saurichthys but, as is always the case, the rewrite was nowhere near as interesting, engaging or downright life changing as the original lost version. Suffice to say, this is not the greatest underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post in the world. This is just a tribute.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    What remains to talk about? Human bodies on display

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 24 July 2014

    I’ve recently returned from holiday in Cascais, near Lisbon in Portugal, which was for the most part a fairly relaxing break. For the most part. There was the small matter of a rather lengthy complaint furiously scribbled into a comments book at one particular museum we visited and my husband being subjected to an in-depth critique of ethical museum display practice – for several hours. So what got me so agitated? The display of three mummies: two Peruvian and one Egyptian in the Museu Aqueológico do Carmo, Lisbon.

    All blue skies?

    All blue skies? Outside the Museu Aqueológico do Carmo, Lisbon.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    A year in Show’n’Tell

    By Dean W Veall, on 24 July 2014

    Dean Veall here. This year we have given researchers from across UCL the chance to rummage through our drawers and delve into our cupboards as part of a brand new series of lunch time events, Show’n’Tell. The researchers had one task, to  find just one object out of our 68,000 to show audiences and tell them all they know about it. Through these events we aimed to showcase the amazing research that is going on here at UCL and the passions driving some the people who work here. Some of the specimens chosen by researchers have directly related to their work whilst other have been a bit more left-field. As I get ready to host our last Show’n’Tell before the Summer break I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on the specimens that we have had so far this year.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 145

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 July 2014

    Scary MonkeyLike all professional zoologists, I own several sets of novelty animal-based playing cards. One such set is “Dangerous Australian Animals”. This is a particularly good set as in addition to the usual playing card graphics (hearts, diamonds, etc), not only do you get a lovely picture of a Dangerous Australian Animal on each card, but you get a star rating, out of five, of exactly how Dangerous it is.

    The manufacturers would have had to work pretty hard to narrow it down to just 52 Dangerous Australian Animals, given that most lifeforms in Australia are Dangerous.

    Alongside the snakes, crocodiles, spiders, jellyfish, scorpions and paralysis ticks, there is a single bird Dangerous enough to get its own card. With a Dangerous rating of 0.5 stars out of five, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Don’t ask the Archaeologist

    By Edmund Connolly, on 17 July 2014

    The archaeologist in question on site at the Parthernon

    The archaeologist in question on site at the Parthernon

    The Petrie regularly plays host to 80+ Primary School students a week who arrive at the museum armed with worksheets and  pencils in various stages of consumption. During the closing Q&A’s I often worry for my teaching prowess as I endure the same question again and again from 5 or more little upturned faces, wondering what have I done wrong, why aren’t they remembering anything?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Squirrels and Earth Resistance

    By Pia K Edqvist, on 17 July 2014

    The past couple of days people have found me in all sorts of random places: popping up from under tables, looking in cupboards and spying behind display cases. Initially we thought we were looking for a squirrel; thinking we would be finding a bionic-like animal with fluorescent eyes (pretty exciting). But in the end we realised that this ‘squirrel’ was actually the environmental monitoring box. This ‘squirrel’ was among many items that had to be located, but why?

    Image of Jo Howcroft PAT testing in the Grant Museum at UCL

    Image of Jo Howcroft PAT testing in the Grant Museum

    Excitingly enough, I have been supervising the Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) executed in the Grant Museum and the Petrie Museum. This test is used to check whether a portable/moveable electrical item is safe to use. As we do not have the expertise in-house to execute this kind of testing we had to search for help elsewhere. Fortunately assistance was not far away; this could be found within the department among the staff at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Theatre Technician Jo Howcroft came to the rescue bringing her expertise within the area. She also kindly explained the process of PAT testing (which is more complicated than one would ever imagine):

    Read the rest of this entry »