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  • 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…

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    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… Read the rest of this entry »

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 211: A Cheeky Chappie – The Lowland Paca

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 26 October 2015

    Hi, I’m Paolo and this is my first blog post as Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology, picking up the reins from Mark Carnall. I’ve chosen this specimen of the week based simply on the fact that it has very interesting cheeks – or ‘zygomatic plates’ if you speak zoologese.


    Lowland paca skull Cuniculus paca LDUCZ-Z195

    This gnarly-cheeked Specimen of the Week is…

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    Introducing Museums and Wellbeing

    By Maria Patsou, on 22 October 2015

    Hallo! My name is Maria and I am the research assistant for the National Alliance of Museums, Health and Wellbeing based at UCL PACE. Funded by Arts Council England, we’ve launched the Alliance so that information about museums and health can be shared and to provide support for those individuals and organisations working in this area of activity. My main role is to map existing practice, literature, reports and evaluation on health & wellbeing activities in the museum sector in the UK. I also carry out research into health and social care structures and identify key contacts for museum people. I am having an amazing time in this role as I get to work on the wider categories of arts, culture and health, which I have been specialising on for the past few years, through clinical and academic work.

    My object at the Horniman Museum. A tiny Greek Orthodox priest.

    My object at the Horniman Museum. A tiny Greek Orthodox priest.

    Late September was very exciting for museums and wellbeing. I participated in a Horniman Museum training on the use of museum objects for creativity and learning. While going through the Hands-on Base gallery, I accidentally bumped into a Greek Orthodox priest miniature (Picture 1).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Francis Galton and the History of Eugenics at UCL

    By Subhadra Das, on 22 October 2015

    The shadow of Sir Francis Galton looms large over UCL.

    Francis Galton is the most famous and influential Victorian scientist you’ve never heard of. He coined the term eugenics and endowed UCL with his personal collection and archive, along with a bequest which funded the country’s first professorial Chair of Eugenics. Mahmoud Arif, a UCL student who attended “Why isn’t my Professor black?” questioned why, by holding this material and naming a lecture theatre after him, UCL appears to celebrate a known racist . Another student, Adam Elliot-Cooper, began his speech at a student protest in the summer by pointing to the Galton Lecture Theatre, which itself was the venue for the first ‘UCL Faces Race’ event last year where Galton and his work featured prominently.

    Sir Francis Galton

    Francis Galton (1822 – 1911) British scientist, statistician and eugenicist.

    As Curator of the Galton Collection, I’ll admit that when I first heard that Galton had been name-checked in these discussions, my first response was “Oh, God, they’re going to want to burn the collection.” (Some Museum Studies degrees can include up to a whole module on ‘Curatorial Paranoia’.)

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    Specimen of the Week 210: the fin whale foetus

    By Will J Richard, on 19 October 2015

    Hello! Will Richard here, bringing you your weekly dose of specimen. And this time it’s a real giant. I did a quick calculation and the average fully-grown version is equal to 875 of me. That’s 10 more than the “maximum capacity” of a District line tube train, 10 and a half packed double-decker buses or 175 full cars. So in conclusion… it’s lucky that fin whales don’t commute. This week’s specimen is…

    LDUCZ-Z527 fin whale foetus

    LDUCZ-Z527 fin whale foetus

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    Specimen of the Week 209: Mammoth tusk

    By Tannis Davidson, on 12 October 2015

    LDUCZ-Z2978 Elephantidae

    LDUCZ-Z2978 Mammuthus primigenius

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is one of the first objects to be seen upon entering the Museum. Majestically, it sits just behind the front desk cradled in a graceful arc of perfect balance and symmetry. It is the largest fossil in the Grant Museum’s collection and although incomplete, measures over 1.7m in length.  What a beaut!  This week’s specimen is…


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    All hands on deck: the Petrie team welcome term

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 9 October 2015

    The rhythm of life in a University museum like the Petrie is set by the academic year. As of 28 September, with the return of large numbers of students, the tempo shifted up a notch. Several notches in fact. Needless to say it is all hands on deck.

    There are lots of new faces to meet in the Petrie at the start of term.

    There are lots of new faces to meet in the Petrie at the start of term.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Fun with Minerals

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 8 October 2015

    This is a guest post by Nadine Gabriel, a UCL student and volunteer with UCL Museums. All photos by the author.

    Hello there, I’m Nadine Gabriel and I’ve been working with the UCL Geology Collections for just over a year. Towards the end of the summer holidays, I was given the chance to audit the thousands of mineral specimens in the Rock Room to ensure that we have a record of what is (and isn’t) in the collection. While auditing the collection, I handled a wide variety of specimens and learnt about new minerals and their classification – I’ve come across so many minerals that I’ve never heard of, even after doing two years of geology. But the best thing about working with the collection was saying ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ every time I saw a nice shiny mineral.

    Heart Minerals - calcite and malachite.

    Heart Minerals – calcite and malachite.

    When I first started working with the geological collections, my audits involved working with Excel spreadsheets and paper catalogues filled with entries from way before I was born. Read the rest of this entry »