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  • Is the auto-icon wearing underwear?

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 30 March 2015

    A year or so ago a colleague drew my attention to a Jeremy Bentham related sketch by the ever excellent Horrible Histories BBC programme. Amongst the many Bentham inventions it highlights (including words such as ‘maximise’, ‘minimise’, ‘international’ and appropriately enough ‘eccentric’) was one I’d never heard of before – Jeremy Bentham invented underpants.

    Jeremy Bentham's auto-icon.

    Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon.

    As you can imagine, this is popular with school groups visiting the auto-icon, and along with his mummified head tends to be the fact school kids remember.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 181

    By Tannis Davidson, on 30 March 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineAt the Grant Museum we have nearly 68,000 specimens – and each, in its own way, has a story to tell.  Some are historical specimens dating back to the earliest days of the Museum such as Professor Grant’s thylacine skeleton  and the popular walrus penis bone.

    Others tell more modern tales of use in the collection for teaching (SOTW 178), undergoing conservation work (Return of the Rhino), or being featured in exhibitions (SOTW 180).

    This week’s Specimen of the Week has several stories to tell and as such,  I’ve always thought it one of the most interesting specimens in the collection.  It is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 175

    By Tannis Davidson, on 18 February 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-Nine Less than two weeks ago, the first batch of newly-conserved skeletons from our Bone Idols project returned to the Grant Museum after their completed restoration work.

    Reg the Rhino -the largest skeleton in the Museum – was treated in this group and has now been remounted in fine form back on his plinth.

    Homecoming celebrations continued with the unpacking of several smaller primate skeletons such as the juvenile orang-utan, one of the chimpanzees, and this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    The Return of the Rhino: Conserving our biggest skeleton

    By Jack Ashby, on 10 February 2015

    In November, we announced that Reg the (hornless) Indian one-horned rhino skeleton was being dismantled and taken away for an extreme make-over (read Dismantling Reg the Rhino in Ten Easy Steps). Now he has returned in much better shape (specifically, rhino-shaped), prepared for a long and prosperous future in the Museum.

    The rhino after treatment. We hope you'lll agree he is much more rhino shaped.

    The rhino after treatment. We hope you’lll agree he is much more rhino shaped.

    Reg, a Bone Idol

    The rhino was among the first specimens included in our huge conservation project Bone Idols: Protecting our Iconic Skeletons, which will secure the long-term future of 39 of our biggest, rarest and most significant specimens. Some will be cleaned of 180 years of particulate pollutants, some will be repaired, some have new cases built, and some, like the rhino, will be completely remounted.

    What was wrong with the rhino?

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 172

    By Tannis Davidson, on 26 January 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineIt’s that time of year when the Christmas tree has been taken down, gifts have been put away, and all holiday food finally consumed. Folk head back to work, kids return to school and everyone gets on with the business of the new year.

    However, for the young (and young-at-heart) January is prime time for the continued enjoyment of new toys and games. Instructions are now understood, multi-piece sets have finally been assembled and a new level of obsessive play-enthusiasm occurs. The post-Christmas clean-up is duly hampered by the constant setting-up and putting-away of various toy sets, 1000 piece puzzles and assorted crafty-painty-arty bits and bobs.

    As a tribute to the toy-players and gamers out there, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 170

    By Jack Ashby, on 12 January 2015

    Scary MonkeyA well known technique in making things desirable is to make them appear unattainable. You want it because you’ve been told you can’t have it. This week I’m employing this strategy to make you fall in love with a specimen. Obviously you can’t have any of our specimens as we’re an accredited museum avowed to care for our collections responsibly, which more or less rules out giving them to the public.

    Not only can you not have this week’s Specimen of the Week, you can’t even see it, and there isn’t much more unattainable than that. This isn’t because it’s invisible to the naked eye (though it is small), it’s because it isn’t here.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 169

    By Dean W Veall, on 5 January 2015

    Scary MonkeyDean Veall here.  A very Happy New Year to all our readers. I thought I would start 2015 BIG, 26ft and 6in BIG to be quite exact. This specimen belongs to the group containing the biggest animals to have ever lived. It is also part of the BIGGEST ever fundraising campaign the Museum has ever run, Bone Idols: Protecting our Iconic Skeletons

    The Bone Idols project involves a series of interventions on 39 of our largely uncollectable specimens which includes re-casing some, completely remonting others and  cleaning of these specimens that have been on open display since the 1820’s. This week’s Specimen of the Week is……

    (more…)

    On the search for the Scaly-tailed possum: Wet and Wildlife

    By Jack Ashby, on 11 December 2014

    A scaly-tailed possum caught on a camera trap in AWC's Artesian Range. (C) Australian Wildlife Conservancy,

    A scaly-tailed possum caught on a camera trap
    in AWC’s Artesian Range.
    (C) Australian Wildlife Conservancy,

    Over the past few years I have been spending my spare time in a remote area of the Kimberley, on the northwest corner of Australia, helping a conservation NGO – the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) – to do ecological fieldwork. AWC are Australia’s largest private owner of land for conservation, and their mission is to manage it based on scientific research. In the northwest their big long-term projects involve determining the effects of cattle and different fire management practices on tropical savannah ecosystems. And in my most recent two trips I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the detection of super-scarce species in extremely remote pockets of rainforest and monsoonal woodland.

    A few years ago AWC acquired an amazing patch of the Kimberley called Artesian Range – monsoonal savannah criss-crossed with sandstone ranges, gorges of vine-thickets and rainforest pockets. I remember going through the first set of remote camera trap images that came back from Artestian in 2011 and being amazed at the species that were being detected.

    An endemic Kimberley rock rat being re-released

    An endemic Kimberley rock rat being re-released

    The haven from extinction

    It seems that Artesian Range is the only place in mainland Australia not to have suffered any mammal extinctions since European colonisation. A community of amazing endemics has clung on – scaly-tailed possums, golden-backed tree rats, monjons, golden bandicoots and Kimberley rock rats. When I was analyzing those camera trap images in 2011 I was a couple of hundred kilometres south of Artesian, on AWC Northwest’s main home sanctuary, Mornington. Artesian Range is in one of the least accessible parts of Australia, requiring a combination of propeller-plane, serious 4WD and helicopter to get to. As amazing as it was to see these species on the screen, I instantly knew I had to go and see them in the flesh. For me, the scaly-tailed possum had become the holy grail.
    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 165

    By Jack Ashby, on 8 December 2014

    Scary MonkeyWhen Specimen of the Week first arose from its fossil ancestors in the Early Blogocene, the niche it originally occupied was to shed light on the darkest corners of our stored collections.

    Over time, there has been some descent with modification. Specimen of the Week maintains its ancestral characters and still has the ability to show the world what museums have in their drawers; but it has also acquired some new adaptations where something amazing is revealed about well-known specimens. Some suspect sexual selection is at work.

    This week, a new mutation has arisen. Instead of lifting the lid on stories from the stores, this Specimen of the Week will shed light on glimpses of horror in a specimen’s database records. Time will tell whether this adaptation will become fixed in the Specimen of the Week population.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Dismantling Reg the Rhino in Ten Easy Steps

    By Jack Ashby, on 27 November 2014

    On 10th November the Grant Museum team took on the giant task of dismantling the largest specimen in the Museum – our huge (hornless) one-horned rhino skeleton. This is one of the first steps in our massive conservation project Bone Idols: Protecting our Iconic Skeletons (click the link to read more about it and how you can support it).

    In this previous post I described the the history of this specimen and what conservation work will be done to this invaluable specimen. We also set a Twitter competition to #NameTheRhino – he shall now be known as Reg. Full details about that at the bottom.

    How to take apart a complicated massive skeleton, in ten easy steps.

    This was all coordinated by skeleton conservator Nigel Larkin.

    1)  Label every bone and photograph everything so Nigel knows where to put them when Reg gets rebuilt.

    2) Set up a time-lapse camera to record the whole thing:

    (more…)