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  • Through the Looking Glass Sponge

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 18 November 2014

    Since joining the Museum as artist in residence last month, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through glass. I’ve looked through the plate glass cabinets protecting the specimens, the thickly blown glass of the specimen jars, and finally the specimens themselves: glass sponges. These creatures are 90% silica, formed of threads of glass spicules. They are usually found in the dark depths of the ocean, but up in the spotlights of the Museum they glow – a bright shelf of organic glass. Their structure is so intricate that I have to use even more layers of glass to be able to see them: reading glasses, magnifying glasses, and my recently acquired endoscope (excellent for getting round those awkward sponge corners). With all these layers of glass, reflection becomes an issue – in photographs, my face or the camera lens can appear, and viewed at certain angles even the specimen seems to be looking at its own reflection within the glass jar.

    Last week I put together a pinhole camera for one of the specimens. Pinhole cameras are made of a light-sealed box with photosensitive paper inside, and a small pinhole on the opposite side. The pinhole acts like the shutter of a camera – you aim the pinhole at whatever you want to capture and the light travels through the pinhole to the photosensitive paper inside the box, which is then developed in the darkroom and the image appears. I wanted to try putting the specimen inside the pinhole camera, with photosensitive paper surrounding it. I hoped that by doing this I would get a 360 degrees photogram of the glass sponge. However, the glass sponge and its jar had other ideas.

    Here are some photograms I took of the Museum’s Walteria leuckarti. (more…)

    Mystery Blob Sponge: It crawls! It creeps! It eats you alive!

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 14 October 2014

    Day four of my sponge exploration (I’m here for ten months as the Museum’s Artist in Residence). There’s one specimen on the shelf that I’ve been saving as a particularly special treat… it looks like an onion, it’s not sealed in a jar, and it doesn’t have a label. It’s in the glass sponge cabinet, but it doesn’t look like the other specimens. Instead, it has a grey doughy appearance, covered in small holes, and it tapers at the top into a dark red spiral. I take it back to my desk for a closer look.

    The Mystery Sponge

    The Mystery Sponge

     

    One of the (many) great things about spending time in the Grant Museum is that I share a room with people who not only know a lot about zoology, but also want to keep finding out more. I like to distract them from their work with questions like, ‘How do things, erm, grow?’. They are very patient. But today, I had a new question: ‘What is this oniony pointy sponge that has no label?’ Was it, perhaps, the broken base of a glass rope sponge? No – a glass sponge is too thready. Was it a fossil?  No – a fossil would be heavier. Then we had a closer look at its pointy top: (more…)

    First day with the sponges

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 1 October 2014

    Close up of Venus' flower basket glass sponge. LDUCZ-B39

    Close up of Venus’ flower basket glass sponge. LDUCZ-B39

    Today I begin an artist-in-residency position at the Grant Museum of Zoology, funded by The Leverhulme Trust. I’ll be working with the Museum’s collection of deep-sea sponges, focusing in particular on their calcareous and glass sponges. These extraordinary animals (not plants, as the Museum’s founder Robert Grant discovered back in the nineteenth century) are composed of calcium carbonate and silica – limestone and glass.

    I will be spending the next ten months here studying the sponge collection with the aim of creating art from the same materials that the sponges use to build themselves. (more…)

    Work Experience at UCL Art Museum

    By Martine Rouleau, on 14 July 2014

    This blog was written by Ellie who is in year 10 at Kingsmead School. She was on work experience at UCL for a week between 7th-11th July. She spent a day shadowing Dr Martine Rouleau, Learning and Access Officer at UCL Art Museum.

    LDUCS-2176_IMG1 - TurnerAs I’m on work experience here, I didn’t know anything about UCL Art Museum. I’ve been here for 2 days and I now know a lot of information about the history and collections at the art museum.

    I’ve learnt that there are over 10,000 pieces of art here created by a variety of artists, some that are very well known and some that aren’t. They’re very different and they all have different meanings and explanations of why they were produced. However, they have one thing in common and that is being under the same roof.

    UCL has the artwork of Turner, de Wint, Cox and Rowlandson. They also have work by students that have won competitions such as best art work in their year at University (the William Coldstream Memorial Prize).

    (more…)

    Pottery Project Guest Blog: Ceramic Inheritance

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 6 April 2014

    Guest Blog by Sisse Lee Jørgenser.

    In our fourth in the series on different perspectives on Egyptian pottery Sisse Lee Jørgensen, a student studying ceramics at The Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design Bornholm, Denmark, reveals how Petrie’s Sequence Dating inspired her recent installation.

    I was introduced to Petrie’s pots for the first time by the BBC4 program: “The Man Who Discovered Egypt”,  and it was through this documentary that I learnt about sequence dating.
    As a craftsperson today I found this  chronological ordering of ceramic vessels especially interesting, particularly the very striking development of form and design over time. Petrie’s findings illuminated crafting, culture and history, not just in the past but also  prompted me to reflect upon ceramic traditions today and the way in which old crafts are transformed and passed on, yet retain elements of the old ways.

    Flinders Petrie's classification of pottery. Frontispiece of Diospolis Parva (1901). Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

    Flinders Petrie’s classification of Predynastic pottery. Frontispiece of Diospolis Parva (1901). Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

    (more…)

    The Art of the Grant

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 February 2014

    At the Grant Museum both staff and our visitors are very lucky because we do not have quite the same level of red tape as most non-university based museums. Our collections are historically for teaching only, and even now are still used heavily in undergraduate courses at UCL, which means that physical access to specimens is much more possible than in non-teaching based collections. It is for this reason, as well as the shining personalities of the Grant Museum staff no doubt, that our Museum is extremely popular with artists. The ability to choose a specimen (within reason… the mounted donkey skeleton is a little heavy) and have it placed on the table in front of you for you to gaze at and draw to your heart’s content, is surely nearing unparalleled levels of excitement. (more…)