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  • Conserving a thermopile in UCL Science and Engineering Collections

    By Emilia L Kingham, on 24 March 2016

    Thermopile, Physio-062

    Thermopile, Physio-062

    My name is Dae Young Yoo and I am the MSc. Conservation student placement with UCL Museums and Collections.  One of my objects that I have been assigned to research and conserve is a thermopile from the Physiology Department.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Do some animals look too boring to be in a museum?

    By Jack Ashby, on 22 March 2016

    There is an underlying struggle in museum displays to fulfil two sets of needs. They have to do both to be successful:

    1. To engage the visitors’ interests, desires or questions that are sparked by their own experience of a topic, whether they come pre-armed with that experience, or whether they acquire it during their visit.
    2. For the museum to tell the stories that it has identified as the stories it exists to tell.
    Too boring-looking to display? LDUCZ-T11

    Too boring-looking to display? LDUCZ-T11

    The struggle comes when a display meets one of these needs but not the other. This issue is the same in the worlds of politics and media – do we tell the people what they want to hear, or do we tell them what we want them to know?*

    In natural history museums, we know that people like big animals, for example. Dinosaurs meet both needs above – people want to see them, and museums want to engage people in stories about them. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 231: Common Pipistrelle

    By Rachel H Bray, on 18 March 2016

    In case you haven’t heard, it’s UCL BAT WEEK! So it seems appropriate that this week’s Specimen of the Week is a small nocturnal friend of ours… the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus).

    Photograph of the fluid specimen, Pipistrellus pipistrellus

    POW! It’s not the famous crimefighter this time, it’s the common pipistrelle. LDUCZ-Z2603 Pipistrellus pipistrellus

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Frostbitten Fingertips Get A New Look

    By Emilia L Kingham, on 17 March 2016

    Frostbitten fingers attached to wax hand with peeling paint and yellowed fluid

    I was recently contacted by the National Army Museum to consult and treat a fluid preserved specimen that is due to be displayed in their newly renovated museum.  The specimen is the frostbitten, severed fingertips from Major Michael Patrick ‘Bronco’ Lane.  Bronco Lane summitted Mount Everest in 1976, but during this expedition, ran into bad weather and was forced to remove his glove to attach an oxygen bottle to his face mask.  An hour after he removed his glove, he found his hand had frozen. The fingertips were removed on his return to the UK.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Grant Museum’s Fifth Birthday

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 March 2016

    Happy birthday to ewe
    Guppy birthday to ewe
    Guppy bird-jay deer Grant Museum

    Guppy bird-jay shrew ewe.

    On the 15th March 2011 the Grant Museum 2.0* opened its doors to a new era. It was the day we begun our lives in our current home on the corner of Gower and University Streets. Permit me to be a little sentimental, but it was the start of something wonderful. It’s been an amazing five years in which our little museum has really grown in stature to be a significant part of London’s cultural offer. Here’s what’s happened over the last year, which I think it’s fair to say has been our best ever! Read the rest of this entry »

    Some favourite magic lantern slides

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 14 March 2016

    This is a guest blog written by Bethany Gugliemino, a Museum Studies MA Student on a work placement with the UCL Teaching and Research Collections. 

    Hello! My name is Bethany and I’m a museum studies student here at UCL. I’m currently completing my work placement with the UCL Science and Engineering Collections, specifically working on the collection of magic lantern slides held in the Electrical Engineering collection. You may remember reading about these slides before on the blog when a previous intern began cataloguing the collection. Since those posts covered what lantern slides are and how they’re made and an overview of the main contents of the collection, I thought I would give you some examples of my favourite slides I’ve found so far.

    Slide EE1497, Electric Light on Thames Embankment

    Slide EE1497, Electric Light on Thames Embankment

    This slide shows an illustration of spectators marvelling at the installation of electric lighting on Victoria Embankment. Read the rest of this entry »

    Conservation of Public Art in the UCL Wilkins Building

    By Susi Pancaldo, on 11 March 2016

    Have you ever noticed – as you hurry off to class, the library or an event – that UCL’s campus is filled with works of art?

    The Wilkins Building, at the heart of the UCL Bloomsbury campus’ main quad, is particularly rich in sculpture. Outside the building, of course, are the iconic lead athletes on the steps below the dome.

    Lead statues of the Capitoline Antinous and the Discophorus, Wilkings Building

    Lead statues: Capitoline Antinous and Discophorus, Wilkins Building

    These figures have a fascinating history and I will write more about them another time.

    Inside the Wilkins Building, there is an abundance of works on permanent display too. Adjacent to the Jeremy Bentham auto-icon are two large, ancient Egyptian limestone lions in excavated by Sir Wm.M.F. Petrie. There are a number of 19th and early 20th century sculptures on either side of the Octagon Gallery; wall paintings in the Whistler Room (soon to be opened to the public); and upstairs, within the library, a myriad of sculpture in and around the 1st floor Flaxman Gallery. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 230: The Beaver Skull

    By Jack Ashby, on 11 March 2016

    North American beaver skull. LDUCZ-Z2731

    North American beaver skull. LDUCZ-Z2731

    It is purely coincidence that Specimen of the Week 230 – the number most associated with going to the dentist [tooth hurty. Apologies.] – is an animal famous for the incredible feats of its teeth.

    Beavers can cut down huge trees, owing to the superb adaptations of their skulls.

    Like squirrels, but at the bottom of trees

    As members of the squirrel-like rodent group Sciuromorpha, beavers have massive, ever-growing, self-sharpening front teeth. Rodent incisors are often differently coloured on the front and back. The orange substance on the front side is super hard enamel, while the back is unusually exposed dentine (a softer material which fills the inside in most teeth). When rodents bite on hard material, or even by biting their top teeth against their bottom teeth, the dentine erodes away at a faster rate than the enamel, essentially sharping the “blade”. Read the rest of this entry »

    Fashions that are dated but timeless: the Petrie Museum wardrobe

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 7 March 2016

    Fashion month has recently passed, with all eyes on the latest trends, cuts, and colours. Vintage styles are frequently reimagined on the catwalk, but designers could find inspiration elsewhere in London from the most vintage garment of them all: the Tarkhan dress. It has just been confirmed as not only the oldest known from Egypt, but the most ancient complex woven garment in the world. It is more than 5000 years old.

    The Tarkhan dress, showing that the V-neck has been in vogue since at least 3000 BC.

    The Tarkhan Dress, showing that the V-neck has been in vogue since at least 3000 BC (UC28614B1)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 229: Fossil Poo

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 4 March 2016

    It’s time for my turn to do the new and streamlined Specimen of the Week – and this time I’m pleased to bring you something on an underwhelming par with certain fossil fish that regularly feature on the blog.

    LDUCZ-X1077 Coprolite

    LDUCZ-X1077 Coprolite

    In fact, it could be argued that this specimen is so underwhelming that it’s crap… literally. That’s right, I bring you… Read the rest of this entry »