By Jack Ashby, on 6 November 2014
The rhino in the Grant Museum – what’s his name?
The largest single specimen in the Museum – our (hornless) Indian one-horned rhino – is about to go on holiday. He is going away for some serious conservation work. You might call it health tourism.
The rhino entered the Museum as an un-mounted skeleton in 1910-11 when the University of London Loan Collection was disbanded. The Museum then paid £14 to have him, the seal, the bear and “a zebra” (possibly the quagga) mounted onto iron frames. Since then, the rhino has been on open display in the Museum, and the iron is slowly corroding.
This year, as part of a major project called Bone Idols: Preserving our Iconic Skeletons, 39 of our largest specimens are undergoing conservation treatment. Some need intensive cleaning to remove the damaging pollutants and particulates that have built up over up to 180 years on open display; some also need repairs to certain body parts. Some, like the rhino and quagga, need to be totally disassembled, cleaned, and then repositioned on new skeleton-friendly metal frames, with all his joints correctly matching up.
All of this work will allow us to safe-guard our irreplaceable collection for the long-term future and continue to use it every day for teaching, research and public engagement.
There are two exciting opportunities coming up as a result… Read the rest of this entry »
By Dean W Veall, on 5 November 2014
Dean Veall here. Over the last year I’ve been hosting our new lunch hour event series Show’ n ‘ Tell, with PhD students from across UCL sharing some of their amazing research and choosing just one object from our collection of 68,000 to tell the the assembled audience what they know about it. If you couldn’t make it to our last event, fear not, Irrum Ali from UCL Communications and Marketing came along and here’s what happened.
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By Jack Ashby, on 3 November 2014
We all know that in this world of competing stimuli, an animal really needs to work hard to get people interested, achieve celebrity status in the media, and ultimately realise the dream that all animals hold – to star their own bank, crisps or cereal advert.
We trade in animal USPs every day… We talk about the biggest/smallest/rarest/fastest/ugliest/deadliest, and this is what gets aspiring animal stars into the And Finally… sections of the news.
The A-Team of animal superlatives is well established, and so today I am acting (for a commission) to promote the under-promoted of the animal world. This Australian marvel has a long list of “-est”s to its name.
This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »
By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2014
October has been a bumper month for not-so-underwhelming-fossil-fish with show off species Microbrachius dicki making headlines early this month for inventing penetrative sex (although of course you and I know that this hyberbolic reporting conflates the ever so slight nudging of oldest evidence of internal fertilisation in our branch of the tree of life with the invention of sex but, hey, at least it got reported). However, it does mean that in order to keep the fossil fish hype-ometer at a steady level we’re going to have to go really underwhelming in this month’s exploration of underwhelming fossil fish to even it out.
I think I’ve done it though. Be prepared for the dullest underwhelming fossil fish of the month ever. It’s less exciting than this image of the reverse of 2013’s Loganellia scotica. Yes, it’s duller than the fossil most notable for its similarity to a pavement slab. I’d recommend painting a wall and watching the paint dry after reading this because you’ll need something to get your heart racing again.
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By Jack Ashby, on 29 October 2014
ALTED Hydrozoa by Lan Lan, 2014.
From Subnature exhibition
Back in May this year we opened the exhibition Subnature by the UCL Slade School of Fine Art’s Lan Lan. The highlight of the exhibition were a series of extremely high quality prints, generated by digitally manipulating photographs of sculptures the artist had created from fish bone.
The resulting images resembled at once both marine creatures and galaxies.
At the end of the exhibition the prints were offered for sale. We are now very pleased to announce that the artist has kindly allowed us to significantly reduce the prices to assist with our raising funds for our major conservation project to preserve 39 of our large skeletons, including the world’s rarest skeleton, the quagga.
Details of the sale, and images of the stunning prints can be seen on the Subnature sale website.
The prints are available for a limited time only, until 23rd December 2014.
Jack Ashby is the Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology
By Dean W Veall, on 27 October 2014
Dean Veall here. My turn on SoTW has come round again and this week I have chosen a specimen that belongs to the group that is a favourite of museums to hang from ceilings, in fact one of my first museum memories was as a young curly haired child wandering around Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museums Wales (AC-NMW), National Museum Cardiff, and encountering one dangling from the ceiling. There’s a hint of my choice there, museums love to suspend things from the ceiling and the top favourites tend to be whales, seals and birds, (we like to break the mould here at the GMZ and have instead chosen to suspend our seal from the balcony). My specimen this week also comes from a group of animals that date back a phenomenal 220 million years. Some individuals of the group that this week’s specimen belongs to are the longest lived animals on the planet. You should be warned this week’s blog contains some cute images of young versions of this species. This week’s specimen is……..
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By Jack Ashby, on 24 October 2014
The Grant Museum is extremely excited to be a partner in the National Maritime Museum’s Travelers’ Tails project, which will involve this painting of a kangaroo by George Stubbs – the first ever western painting of Australian wildlife – coming to the Grant in March.
The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo), George Stubbs (1772). ZBA5754 (L6685-001). National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London*
Last month I was in Australia on zoological fieldwork. I decided to visit the places that Cook went on his first voyage of discovery, which resulted in Britain’s first kangaroo encounters and ultimately this painting being made. It very nearly didn’t happen, and Cook’s Australian expedition would have been a zoological disappointment.
I wrote this post for the National Maritime Museum’s blog. It begins…
The kangaroo painting that might never have been – following in Cook’s footsteps
The painting of the kangaroo by George Stubbs would never have existed if it weren’t for an extraordinary bit of bad luck in a very dangerous situation. Read the rest of this entry »
By Meg J Dobson, on 22 October 2014
Excited about Interstellar, the new sci-fi blockbuster by Christopher Nolan (who, incidentally, is an alumnus and honorary fellow of UCL)?
To get you in the mood, we are holding an evening of space exploration on 28th October at 8pm at Stratford Picture House with a special screening of Danny Boyle’s sci-fi epic, Sunshine, which will be accompanied by a talk by solar researcher, Jamie Ryan, from UCL’s space research facility.
Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle, starring Cillian Murphy.
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By Will J Richard, on 20 October 2014
Hello! Will Richard here. I’ve just started working in the Grant Museum and for my first ever Specimen of the Week I thought I’d kick things off with a real “teddy bear” of the treetops. Of course, it’s not actually a bear. And nor, in real life, would it enjoy a cuddle. Shame really.
So… why did I pick this imposter? Well firstly, I like underdogs. And you don’t get more underdog than this. Secondly, I’ve spent some time with them myself and I’ve always been told to “write about what you know”. And thirdly, of all the things I’ve come across so far in the Grant Museum, this skeleton just happens to be my favourite.
This week’s Specimen of the week is… Read the rest of this entry »
By Jack Ashby, on 16 October 2014
Despite the levels of pay and instability of the jobs at the lower rungs (at least) of this particular career ladder, working in the museum sector is incredibly competitive.
As a result, aspiring museum workers often face the question of how to position themselves as the strongest candidate in the pool. Should they take the plunge and stump up thousands of pounds to do a Museum Studies masters degree? It’s worth taking a second to consider that even being able to ask that question is a non-starter for the majority of people, who can’t afford it. Those people shouldn’t be excluded for the museum sector.
A real live collections management job requiring a Museum Studies Masters
The Grant Museum Curator Mark Carnall (who has a Museum Studies degree) gave his opinion on this last year, and I thought I should offer my own personal perspective, as someone in a reasonably senior museum role who doesn’t have this degree.
For me, there are very few circumstances when I would recommend someone did a Museum Studies degree. Obviously I am biased by own own experience, and so this is my own personal take on things. Read the rest of this entry »