Museums & Collections Blog
  • Categories

  • Tags

  • Archives

  • Revolution under a King: French Prints 1789-92

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 15 January 2016

    Louis Seize lightbox print

    Detail from the light box outside UCL Art Museum of Jean-Michel Moreau after Noël Le Mire, Louis Seize: Bonnett des Jacobins Donne au roi, le 6 Juin 1792, Copper Engraving, UCL Art Museum

    Our exhibition Revolution under a King opened with the start of term at UCL on Monday 11 January. The exhibition features a selection of prints from the early, highly volatile years of the French Revolution, curated by Emeritus Professor David Bindman and Dr Richard Taws, in collaboration between UCL Art Museum and UCL History of Art. Is already attracting visitor numbers that we have grown to be accustomed to since the Museum’s refurbishment – on average 80 visitors per day and on average visitors can be found spending between 30-45min in the museum. It has been wonderful working on this exhibition, as it really highlights the complexity of curatorial practice with researchers, which is highly collaborative and unites multiple, sometimes competing, agendas. I’m really pleased with the outcome.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Robert Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks – what we know now.

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 15 January 2016

    Cast of a murderer - Noel-34 - Irmscher. Photo courtesy of Alan Taylor.

    Cast of a murderer – Noel Head 34 – Irmscher.

    The Robert Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks consists of 37 plaster casts made in Germany in the 19th Century. As the name suggests the plaster casts were taken of both the living and the dead, and were collected by Robert Noel (a distant relation of Ada Lovelace) to show the ‘truth’ of phrenology, which simply put was the study of the lumps and bumps in people skulls in the belief that this gave insight into a person’s character. In this blog I aim to tell the story of the collection (as we know it now) and gather links to the various blogs, videos, articles that are available online. Enjoy!

    When I started working at UCL 4-ish years ago we knew almost nothing about the Robert Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks. In its life at UCL it had been on display in the Galton Eugenics Laboratory, the Slade School of Fine Art and (reportedly) at one point it’s been fished out of a skip. Now, thanks to the work of a number of UCL students, we know so much more – the names of the people represented in the collection, what Noel thought of them and the background to Noel himself. They have also been properly conserved and looked after, so they will survive for another 150 years or so. Read the rest of this entry »

    New Year, New Resolutions: Museum Conservation Conversations on the UCL PACE Museums and Collections Blog!

    By Susi Pancaldo, on 12 January 2016

    The PACE Conservation Laboratory on UCL’s Bloomsbury Campus serves the needs of UCL’s diverse collections. The objects we have examined and treated in 2015 have ranged from fragile inorganic and organic archaeological materials, small sculpture and other works of art, dry- and fluid-preserved zoological specimens, all manner of scientific teaching models, an array of mechanical and electrical scientific instruments, and much, much more!!

    UC40989 faience shabti, during treatment: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Museum; UCLAM10026 bronze medal of Prosper Sainton: UCL Art Museum; Z2978 mammoth tusk: Grant Museum of Zoology; Mathematical model: UCL Maths.

    Faience ‘shabti,’ during treatment: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (UC20989); Bronze medal: UCL Art Museum (10026); Mammoth tusk: Grant Museum of Zoology (Z2978); Mathematical model: UCL Maths.

    These objects have come to our Conservation Lab from UCL’s collections for a variety of reasons. Some need to be cleaned or repaired ahead of use in teaching, research, loan or display. Some present mysteries which close examination and scientific analysis may help unravel. Others have been selected for treatment as part of ongoing programmes to improve the condition of collections currently in storage.

    Each object has a story to tell, and with the start of this New Year, we have made a resolution to share the work we do with our blog audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 222: Dik-dik skull

    By Dean W Veall, on 11 January 2016

    LDUCZ-Z709 dik-dik (Madoqua sp. )skull

    LDUCZ-Z709 dik-dik (Madoqua sp. )skull


    All the 2s, two hundred and twenty two. Dean Veall here,  I’ve secretly harboured a desire to be a bingo caller and with that opening I got to live out a little bit of that fantasy (imagine booming tones as you read it). Whilst we’re on sounds, and moving away from the sounds I produce, this week’s Specimen of the Week is named after the distinctive call sound it makes when alarmed. It also has a pretty awesome prehensile nose, is tinnyyyyy (for an antelope) and the species this specimen belongs to surely deserves the mantle of the world’s prettiest animal. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…..

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Top Ten Grant Museum Blogs of 2015

    By Jack Ashby, on 8 January 2016

    Happy New Year!

    2015 was an absolute cracker for the Grant Museum, with our two exhibitions – Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals, and our Artist in Residence Eleanor Morgan’s Glass Delusions – as well as the massive Bone Idols conservation project. Together these helped us break all records for visitor numbers, as well as being voted by the public to win Time Out’s Love London award for being Bloomsbury, Fitrovia and Holborn’s most loved cultural attraction (beating some pretty stiff competion [COUGH/britishmuseum/COUGH])

    As a way of looking back over this monster year, on Twitter over the past week we’ve been counting down the best of 2015’s blog – the Top Ten most viewed Grant Museum posts of last year*. Looking back, it’s certain that we’ve had a top year in terms of blogging, with 93 posts from Team Grant. But what were the best posts?

    I’ve announced those ranking at 10 to 2 in the charts, and exclusively revealing here that the most popular post of 2015 is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the week 221: The mega-toothed shark tooth

    By Will J Richard, on 4 January 2016

    LDUCZ-V1301 fossil megalodon tooth

    LDUCZ-V1301 fossil megalodon tooth

    Hello and a Happy New Year to you Grant-fans. So, the first specimen of the week of 2016 falls to me, Will Richard. And I’ve chosen a monster to kick off the year: possibly the biggest ever fish with teeth to match. This one was found on the 2nd January 1880 (seasonal!) but people have been puzzling over these dental discards for generations. They were originally believed to be the dried tongues of dragons but actually I think the truth might be scarier…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 220: The Fossil Sea Lily

    By Tannis Davidson, on 28 December 2015

    LDUCZ-S31 Encrinus liliiformis

    LDUCZ-S31 Encrinus liliiformis

    It is perhaps no surprise that during December, most of the specimens featured in this blog tend to have associations with wintery Christmastime animals. There has been a reindeer, a polar bear, a robin, an owl and (last week) a partridge – all of which have been highlighted to kindle the yuletide cheer.

    In a radical departure, here’s a specimen that has absolutely no connection to winter, snow or any December seasonal holiday. But does it bring joy? Yes. This is an amazing specimen. Would this be a great Christmas present? Absolutely. If you ever see one, keep me in mind.

    Here it is – the one you’ve been waiting for – this week’s Specimen of the Week is the…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: December 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 December 2015

    Underwhelming Christmas of the yearSilent drawer, lowly drawer!

    All is calm, all is poor(ly preserved).

    Found yon fossil fish, maybe a skull.

    Fragments of scales, so broken and dull,

    Unidentified piece,

    U-hun-identified piece.


    2016 is nearly upon us, but before it is, let’s take some time to reflect on the highly disappointing year of underwhelming fossil fish that has passed. If this is your first dip into this blog series then you’re out of luck. This series is an exploration of the frankly dull and uninteresting fossil fish that are found in museum collections the world over. Are they destined to a…erm…. a destiny in a museum drawer? Yes probably. Are they justifiably destined to an eternity in a museum drawer though? Yes, probably. But this series aims to celebrate them because they’re underwhelming because life shouldn’t be all about biggest, brightest and boldest.

    This year has been the least whelming year so far.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 219: Partridge Cranium and Mandible

    By Rachel H Bray, on 21 December 2015

    Rachel Bray reporting for Specimen of the Week duties. Christmas Week is officially upon us! Are you embracing bountiful amounts of merriness and mirth? No? Well then reading this blog will contribute a big ol’ Christmassy tick to your December to do list. Taking festive inspiration from the popular carol Twelve Days of Christmas, this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    Side view of Phasianidae specimen

    Phasianidae Cranium and Mandible – LDUCZ-Y1565


    Read the rest of this entry »

    Galton Island Discs

    By Subhadra Das, on 17 December 2015

    Desert Island Discs

    Would being marooned here be that bad, really?

    You’ll remember I have a motto? This time it’s the turn of the classic ‘Desert Island Discs’. Approaching Christmas, this seemed a good a time to take a more light-hearted look at Galton while simultaneously sneaking in multiple references to his considerable influence on the way we live now.

    Each entry lists the track title, year it came out, the album it featured on and the artist, along with an extract of lyrics which relate to the story of Galton’s life and work. Click on the track title for a link to a YouTube video so you can get a taste of what the songs sound like[1].

    1. 1. “Flagpole Sitta”, 1997, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, Harvey Danger

    Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding, The cretins cloning and feeding , And I don’t even own a tv.

    This indie anthem for the disenfranchised – superlatively used as the theme for the Channel 4 comedy ‘Peep Show’ – ironically and concisely captures a Galtonian worldview. Like many rich white men who benefitted incalculably from the colonial project, Galton was concerned that the quality of the British population was being irreversibly eroded by the Industrial Revolution which, among other things, allowed masses of the ‘unfit’ to agglomerate in metropolitan centres and increase their numbers.

    Read the rest of this entry »