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  • Specimen of the Week 204: The ringtail skeleton and tail skin

    By Jack Ashby, on 7 September 2015

    The ringtail skeleton. Bassariscus astutus. LDUCZ-Z1116

    The ringtail skeleton. Bassariscus astutus. LDUCZ-Z1116

    For the past couple of weeks we’ve been closed to the public while works began to replace our ancient heating system. This means that my favourite parts of the Museum (basically where the marsupials are) have been out of bounds, and so I’ve had to branch out somewhat beyond my usual cabinet to select my Specimen of the Week.

    I’ve kept it topical, to link with recent zoological (specifically genital) social media trends, and also to an animal that shares its name with a group of marsupials.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    A Conservation inspection of Jeremy Bentham’s Mummified head

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 6 September 2015

    I’ve wanted to write blog specifically about Jeremy Bentham’s head for a while now. ‘Can I see the head?’ is one of the most common questions I get asked. I’m not sure why it has such fascination for people – perhaps as our manager of the Grant Museum recently tweeted when he met him, ‘Face to face with one of the world’s greatest philosophers’, how often do you get to say that? Is it that we want to be able to look someone famous in the face, even if they’re dead? Or is it just that a mummified head is unusual?

    Side view of the head of Jeremy Bentham.

    Side view of the head of Jeremy Bentham.

    Last week Bentham’s head came out from the safe it is usually stored in for a full inspection by one of our conservators, Emilia Kingham. We regularly inspect the head, to ensure it remains stable. It’s survival for the future is our main concern! The inspection (and Buzzfeed story) generated a lot of interest and questions. For the story Emilia and I were sent a list of questions, which I thought were all very interesting and worth posting on our blog. The answers are from us both.

    Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

    Behind the Mask – Research into the Noel Collection

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 2 September 2015

    This is a guest blog written by Bryony Swain, a UCL Student Volunteer who spent most of the last academic year (2014/15) cataloguing the Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks.

    Hello, I’ve been volunteering with the UCL Museums and Collections department and loving it!

    Dr. August Friedrich Gunther.  Photo courtesy of Alan Taylor.

    Dr. August Friedrich Gunther.
    Photo courtesy of Alan Taylor.

    I have been cataloguing the excellent Robert Noel phrenological collection, which contains a large selection of plaster life and death masks from the mid 19th century. Phrenology studies the theory that skull configurations can determine character traits, and Noel made his collection to test and demonstrate the validity of this theory and wrote a book with measurements and biographical summaries to accompany them. Today, phrenology is considered a discredited pseudoscience, but in the 19th and early 20th century it was taken very seriously. Noel ordered the masks into different categories to prove that intellectual and moral individuals had a different skull shape to criminals and suicides.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 203: Mastodon jaw fragment

    By Dean W Veall, on 31 August 2015

    Fragment of mastodon jaw with molar

    Fragment of mastodon jaw with molar

    Hello Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here. Unfortunatley we had to be closed over the last week (and also this coming week) for some essential heating works. As part of the process we needed to empty some of our cupboards, (I say we, mostly Tannis Davidson, Curatorial Assistant), in the emptying I came across this week’s specimen of the week and what a treat of a specimen it is with a great name and backstory. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…….

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 August 2015

    And now. The end is near. It’s time to face. The final curtain. Lallaalala. De da da da de dada da. De dada dadada of which I’m certain. Hmmm hmm hmmm hmm hmm. Dah dah de dah dah da da. Da de de de and then a highway. BUT MORE, MUCH MORE THAN FISH, WE DID IT OURRRRRR WAY!

    This is a very special underwhelming fossil fish this month, not normally something I do here given the aim of this monthly series of blogs about the Grant Museum’s overwhelmingly underwhelming fossi fish collection is to keep it low key and on the underwhelming side. Even if the series did recently feature on VICE magazine’s Motherboard channel, with bonus IN DRAWER photographs. However, this is my last underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post as the curator of the Grant Museum. I’m off to pastures new with far less in the way of fossil fish, underwhelming or otherwise.

    But that’s no reason to get too sentimental. So stiff upper lip, wipe away those fake allergy tears and let’s unceremoniously take a look at this month’s underwhelming fish fossil. Stretch your eyes and try to stay awake through this… Read the rest of this entry »

    A UCL Museums Murder Mystery

    By Dean W Veall, on 25 August 2015

    Dean Veall here. UCL Museums, comprising of UCL Art Museum, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Teaching and Research Collections and us, teamed up for an evening of dark noir, intrigue and subterfuge in celebration of Museums at Night 2015. A crime had been committed on campus and with prizes to be won we invited visitors to solve this museum murder mystery.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 202: The preserved coconut crab

    By Will J Richard, on 24 August 2015

    Hello! Will Richard here. Turning my mind (and now yours) to specimen of the week once again. And it’s back to the world of invertebrates, but certainly not microscopic ones. In fact, this invertebrate is bigger than most animals full of backbone. If we use the “Richard theoretical comparison of interspecies violence” (RTCIV) (something which I’m hoping will soon be adopted by the wider scientific community) I’m not sure I could beat it in a fight. This week’s specimen is…

    LDUCZ-H272 Coconut crab (Birgus latro)

    LDUCZ-H272 Coconut crab (Birgus latro)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Please can I see the Fossil Lady?

    By Celine West, on 19 August 2015

    This is a guest blog written by Alison South, volunteer for UCL Museums.

    The dayroom on Ward 12 at UCH (University College Hospital) is bright and spacious with views west along the busy Euston Road. Here patients at the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit relax with their families and friends, putting aside illness, treatments, sickness and drugs for a while, chatting or enjoying a game or other activity. Over the last year I’ve become a regular visitor, bringing with me a bag of museum objects from the Touching Heritage handling collection at UCL Museums.

    I vary my choice of 8-10 objects each week, but always include some fossils and rocks from the Geology collections, natural history specimens and Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Some on the ward refer to me as the ‘fossil lady’ or the ‘museum lady’ – I prefer to think of myself as a sort of therapeutic ‘bag lady’ holding tight my precious possessions. Read the rest of this entry »

    The Great Grant Knit-a-Thon

    By Dean W Veall, on 18 August 2015

    12 hours in the Museum knitting – why – I hear you ask? Dean Veall here and another installment of Museum Events. As part of the Strange Creatures: The art of unknown animals exhibition events series we decided to run an event that took inspiration from co-curator Sarah Wade’s research, and the display of artist Ruth Marshall’s knitted skin of a Thylacine. We set the knitters of London the challenge of knitting some of the strange creatures from our collection. Visitors could bring their own knitting needles to ‘stitch one purl one’ for an hour over lunch or come after work and join in over a glass of wine.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 201: The African bullfrog

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 August 2015

    This week’s Specimen of the Week was chosen from the thousands of possible contenders in a method designed to faciliate a more efficent decision-making process.  Rather than highlighting a personal favourite or an unsung hero, the selection was left entirely to fate – regardless of the consequences.  As it is Week 201 of this blog, why not (roll the dice) choose specimen W201 and see what happens? Will it be fluid or skeletal? Part or a whole? Cute or monstrous? As it turns out, W201 is all of these and more.  This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    Read the rest of this entry »