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  • Glass delusions from the ancient Egyptian world

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 4 November 2015

    This post is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    We often visualize ancient Egypt in sandy hues against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, or the watery Nile framed by green vegetation. Yet there was a much wider palette of colours used in the adornment of palaces, temples and decorative objects. The Egypt world was brightly, sometime garishly, vibrant with colour. Glass was one of the luxury materials that came to be used for decoration during the period Egyptologists call the New Kingdom, around 1500 BC.

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology. 18th Dynasty, Amarna, UC22911 - UC22920

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology.
    18th Dynasty, Amarna, From the Petrie Museum collection (UC22911 – UC22920)


    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. (more…)

    Rock Room Slade School Takeover – Part 3

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 May 2015

    One of the art works from the  Slade event in the Rock Room.

    One of the works from a previous Rock Room Slade event.

    This Friday (May 8th) between 1 – 5pm the Rock Room will host its annual Slade School takeover. This is the third instalment of the joint UCL Museums and Slade School of Fine Art project (see a blog on the last one here) which has seen staff and students from the Slade install art works that include sculpture, painting and various mixed media (including cheese, fish and other foodstuffs) into the Rock Room.

    As with past years I have no idea what the artists will be bringing to display in the Museum. (more…)

    What kind of animal is a Yoshi?

    By Mark Carnall, on 15 April 2015

    Our current exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals features images, specimens and objects all related to how animals are represented through time. The exhibition is centered around George Stubbs’ painting of a kangaroo, an iconic image despite the fact that he never saw a kangaroo first hand. From dodgy taxidermy, dinosaur toys, glass models and wildly inaccurate images of animals which were claimed to have been studied from life, the exhibition explores how we make sense of a newly discovered animal species from first encounters with living animals through to reconstructions made from written accounts and sketches. Initial encounters with kangaroos drew comparisons with more familiar mammals such as jerboas, greyhounds, mice and deer, the creature so strange to European explorers it didn’t fit within existing classifications.

    What happens if we start from an animal that we only know from a reconstruction? In the past (and today) mermaids, unicorns, giants, cyclopses, goatsuckers and deathworms have all been speculatively described either due to pervasive myths, hoaxes, delusions or confusion with other animals. To help with the process of working out how we identify animals we know from reconstructions alone, let’s see if we can work out how we’d classify a well known fictional animal, Nintendo character Mario’s companion and steed Yoshi*, this one acquired in a Happy Meal and currently on display in our exhibition.


    Adventures in disposal: Sawdust & Threads

    By Subhadra Das, on 17 February 2015

    Today sees the opening of Sawdust & Threads: an exhibition, residency and art installation which will be based at UCL’s North Lodge on Gower Street for one week until Monday 23rd February 2015.

    Sawdust & Threads exhibition in the UCL North Lodge on Gower Street

    Sawdust & Threads exhibition in the UCL North Lodge on Gower Street

    Sawdust & Threads is an exhibition that takes objects disposed of from museum collections as its material. After drawing the objects, artist Caroline Wright will carefully deconstruct them, reducing them to their component parts. UCL Museums & Collections is one of three museums – along with Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Polar Museum in Cambridge – collaborating with Caroline by contributing objects to this Arts Council Funded project. Her drawings will be on display in the North Lodge, and Caroline will be deconstructing the objects from UCL’s Teaching & Research and Ethnography collections in the North Lodge and at the Institute of Making from today.


    One Day in the City Festival

    By Helen R Cobby, on 12 June 2014

    One Day in the City Festival at UCL

    Balloons in the south cloisters UCLOne Day in the City Festival taking place on Friday 13th June brings together a celebration of literature, art, music and culture in London. The framework is broad. Nick Shepley, the founder and organiser of the festival, and Teaching Fellow in English Literature at UCL, acknowledges this and says he has not tried to narrow it down to specific themes: “It is about opening out and trying to bring people to something that is a simple celebration of the city, its literature and art, and its cultural richness.” These are areas people work on everyday across various departments at UCL with their own audiences. Nick wants to harness this, and “break down the potential separation of audiences with the One Day festival, encouraging a wider demographic to come along.”

    The festival’s centre will be in the UCL South Cloisters, decorated with a fun and artistic skyline created through lighting and architectural constructions. There will also be a multitude of balloons lining the Cloisters and leading the way to various events. These events will include a debate about taboo language with Inda Knight (journalist and author), Will Self (novelist) and Tim Clare (poet), a Caribbean carnival and seminars on topics related to creativity in London. In the UCL Art Museum there will be a talk by one of the Slade students, Helena Hunter, a poetry workshop and live performances as well as Slade students distributing prints of their work. For a full list, see the One Day website here.

    'Fonte' by Maxima Smith

    ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith

    The UCL Art Museum is located in the South Cloisters, so it will be at the hub of the festival’s activities. The remit of ‘One Day’ also links the artwork in the current exhibition at UCL Art Museum to the festival. This exhibition, called ‘Second Person Looking Out’, is the result of this year’s annual UCL Art Museum and Slade collaboration. It features an eclectic range of artwork from time-based media pieces to bronze sculpture and slate engravings. Have a look at my previous blog posts, reviewing the exhibition and talking to Ling the co-Curator, to find out more. (more…)

    ‘Second Person Looking Out’: The Sixth Annual Slade School of Fine Art / UCL Art Museum collaboration

    By Helen R Cobby, on 29 May 2014

    'Getting close but then again not close at all' by Olga Koroleva

    ‘Getting close but then again not close at all’ by Olga Koroleva

    The themes, materials and presentations of the annual collaborations have varied immensely, and this year there is a great diversity within the exhibition itself. The range of media is particularly striking, as is the way digital technologies have been used and portrayed to give new experiences of space – particularly the spaces of the UCL Art Museum itself.

    There are four time-based media works and one beautifully crafted light box installation, giving emphasis to technological media within the show. However, an array of oil paintings, intricate drawings, etchings and even a bronze cast are also part of this exhibition.


    'Entombment' by Lara Smithson

    ‘Entombment’ by Lara Smithson

    Glowing at the back of the UCL Art Museum, in between the cupboards storing prints, is one of the most enchanting works of all. This is the light box, which constitutes the installation entitled ‘Entombment’ by Lara Smithson. It cleverly depicts the somewhat hidden UCL Art Museum painting store, giving us a glimpse of the racks of paintings mostly by former Slade students. This image has been overlaid with a painting by the artist herself, which results in a merging of different types of artistic spaces and temporalities. ‘Entombment’ seems to reveal things behind the surface (most notably the UCL painting store), while also reflecting on the (literal) surface of painting and the material properties – or potentials – of glass.

    Another work that interrogates the materiality of its medium alongside its processes of production is a bronze cast work called ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith. This artwork achieves this using the word ‘fonte’ as both the subject matter and form of the work. In this way, the work prompts investigation into the etymology of the word ‘fonte’. The meanings include ‘to spring’ and ‘to pour’, actions that can be linked to the process and discourse of bronze casting itself.

    'Fonte' by Maxima Smith

    ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith

    A play with words is also immediately apparent in Katja Larsson’s hand carved slate, entitled ‘Hullmandel 4:3’. Here the artist has decontextualised a phrase she has taken from Charles Joseph Hullmandel’s 1835 lithography manual. Using this lithographic manual as a source is both a subtle and pertinent reference to the main body of the UCL Art Museum’s collection of artworks, which are prints. The artist’s chosen words are beautifully carved onto the slate – a process that mirrors the processes of printmaking. Using slate as the medium also reminds us of the lithographic process, being a traditional tool and material in lithographic production. This emphasis on process and action reflects one of the dominant themes in the entire exhibition.

    ‘Second Person Looking Out’ is on show at the UCL Art Museum weekdays 1-5pm until 13 June. On Friday 13 June the exhibition will become part of the One Day Festival in the City with several of the artists from the exhibition extending ideas from their work to engage visitors in interactive installations and other creative activities. More information on this to follow, so check this blog again soon. 


    Helen Cobby is a volunteer at UCL Art Museum and studying for an MA in the History of Art at UCL

    War, Love and Coal: New Exhibition from UCL Museum Studies Students

    By Mark Carnall, on 8 May 2014

    Image of Voices of War Postcard

    Every year Museum Studies Masters students have to create an exhibition as part of their course. This is a guest post by Maya Makker and Sarah McKeon two of the curators of this year’s exhibition Voices of War: UCL in World War One opening in the Institute of Archaeology.

    This term, the UCL Museum Studies students have been developing an exhibition entitled “Voices of War: UCL in World War One”. We decided to ask the question: What was the involvement of UCL students and alumni in the First World War? Our goal was to profile UCL affiliates and use objects to tell their World War One stories. From the onset, one of our primary objectives for the exhibition was to include the voices of women who lived through the war. As we began researching, our content team quickly realised that numerous women at UCL made significant contributions to the war effort in an array of capacities. One such woman was Marie Stopes—scientist, activist, and UCL alumnus.


    In the Making: The UCL Art Museum and Slade Collaboration Exhibition

    By Helen R Cobby, on 6 May 2014

    Art Museum ExhibitionThis is the sixth year of the Slade/UCL Collaboration. It started in 2009, encouraging Slade students to submit work inspired by art in the UCL Art Museum collection for an exhibition within the Museum’s space and the Strang Print Room. Initially, this involves Slade students attending meetings with the Art Museum staff and booking appointments to see certain works from the collection. The artists can also create pieces that are inspired by the tools, spaces, traditions and methodologies that the Museum offers. A good working relationship between the two institutions has been built up over the years.

    The Slade students enter the project out of their own choosing. It is a rich opportunity, allowing these students to learn how to produce work for outside of the studio and how to present their work to curators, which includes writing an in-depth proposal. The collaboration also enables a chance to work with a professional archive. In return, the project helps to introduce new audiences to the Art Museum, to change and develop the use of its spaces, and encourage creative engagement with the collection.  (more…)

    Curating, collections and two postcard albums

    By Mark Carnall, on 25 April 2014

    Guest post by Stefanie van Gemert (Dutch and Comparative Literature) one of the curators of the current Octagon Gallery exhibition, Collecting: Knowledge in Motion.

    In this time of new media, we are all curators. We pin our interests on digital gallery walls and make collages out of faces on ‘the Book’. Tweeting and status-updating, we display our collections of Instagrams. I find this idea of self-styling through collecting fascinating. And this is only one of the many reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed working as co-curator on the current Octagon Exhibition Collecting – Knowledge in Motion (#uclkimotion) with Prof Margot Finn and Dr Kate Smith (History), Dr Claire Dwyer (Geography) and Dr Ulrich Tiedau (Dutch department).

    What Moves Collections

    Our curatorial team applied for a bid called ‘Movement’ in Spring 2013. We were invited to explore the many collections at UCL and to display our findings in the new Octagon space. The Octagon Exhibitions are meant to show interdisciplinary research at UCL. As Claire explained in her previous blog: our bid spoke of our mutual interests in material cultures, in colonial heritage and global migration.  But when we saw UCL’s vast collections, our ideas took a different direction. What is on display in the UCL Museums is only the shiny tip of a glorious iceberg of objects, stored in the basements of our campus. We felt spoilt for choice, quickly becoming enchanted by stories of movement related to the objects and collections at UCL.