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  • Look Again…UV Been Mistaken: A Case of Collection Mis-labelling

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 4 February 2016

    This is a guest blog by Felicity Winkley, one of the student engagers who work with UCL Museums. To find out more about the student engagers project please visit their website. 

    Last term, the UCL Student Engagers used objects from across the UCL collections to curate a six week exhibition at the North Lodge, called Stress: Approaches to the First World War.

    The project, as we’ve discussed previously on our own blog, was an interdisciplinary, co-curated effort, approaching the topic of the First World War through four interpretive themes: physical stress, mental stress, cultural or societal stress, and stress on the landscape.

    One of the objects we chose to highlight the mental stresses caused by the conflict and, by association, the improvements in the way mental health was approached by the end of the war, was a ‘strobe machine’. As part of the physiology collections, catalogued alongside objects like an auditory acuity tester and a set of keys for tapping multiple-choice responses, it was assumed that this light had similarly been used in psychiatric experiments to test participant responses. From our point of view, it also helped that it looked good.

    Physio-40: labelled ‘Strobe Machine’

    Physio-40: labelled ‘Strobe Machine’

    For several weeks of the exhibition’s run, the object was a successful talking point. (more…)

    UCL students identify mystery specimens in the Grant Museum

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 February 2016

    Mystery specimen displayHave you ever seen something in a museum and suspect that the curators have got it wrong? If so, I hope you haven’t been too shy to let the museum know. Speaking for the Grant Musuem at least, we love it when visitors add to our knowledge of the collection, and we don’t ask for “expert” credentials before hearing an opinion. Indeed, a 11 year boy spotted that a specimen labelled “marine iguana” was in fact a tuatara (a lizard-shaped reptile from New Zealand (that is in fact not a lizard)). And couple of years back, a visitor noticed that our famous anaconda skeleton was in fact an African rock python. Some museums might be embarrassed by the idea that some of their objects have been mis-identified, but not us.

    In fact every year we give our UCL bioscience students the chance to challenge our identification as part of the fantastic “Vertebrate Life and Evolution” module. We have just created a display of “mystery specimens” identified by these students.

    (more…)

    Look, draw, scan, invert, colour in. REPEAT.

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 December 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.

    Sketch 3 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Sketch 3 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    I have a pile of drawings and sketches of sponge specimens made during my residency at the Grant Museum, which aren’t exhibited in the Glass Delusions exhibition. Looking closely and following the lines of these animals with my eyes and hand was a way of getting to know them, particularly as I couldn’t touch them directly. They were also a way of thinking, of letting forms and ideas develop between the specimens and me. (more…)

    Letting things draw themselves

    By Jack Ashby, on 4 December 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.

    Emerging #5, Photogram, 2015 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Emerging #5, Photogram, 2015
    (C) Eleanor Morgan

    During my artist’s residency at the Grant Museum I wanted to record the way light travels through the glass jars and specimens that fill the space. My first thought was to try cyanotypes. This is a type of contact print in which an object is place on paper and exposed to light. Where the light hits, the resulting image is a deep blue colour. The astronomer John Herschel developed cyanotypes in the nineteenth century for creating blueprints of diagrams and notes, but it is the cyanotypes of his contemporary Anna Atkins that are particularly celebrated. By placing seaweeds and ferns on prepared paper, Atkins’ cyanotypes are beautifully detailed and create a sculptural effect on the paper.

    (more…)

    When your head is made of glass

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 December 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.

    The sponge man, 2015. Print on Ilford Galerie FB digital, mounted on MDF. (C) Eleanor Morgan

    The sponge man, 2015. Print on Ilford Galerie FB digital, mounted on MDF.
    (C) Eleanor Morgan

    My current exhibition ‘Glass Delusions’ is about things transformed from living to non-living materials and back again. One of the ideas that particularly interested me was the history of humans believing that they were made of glass, a disorder known as the ‘glass delusion’ that I describe in a previous blog post. Those suffering from glass delusion believed that their heads were made of glass and could shatter at the slightest touch.

    In the exhibition are various heads, glassy or shattered. On one wall is an antique fragment of leaded glass of a figure bending down. His hand is outstretched and he seems to stroke at the ground beneath his feet. The stained glass panel where his head should be is missing, only the lead outline remains. (more…)

    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…)

    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.

    (more…)

    Glass Delusions opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 October 2015

    Photogram #2 by Eleanor Morgan

    A photogram created by exposing photo-sensitive paper with the Grant Museum’s glass sponge specimens sat directly on it. (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Glass Delusions is a new exhibition at the Grant Museum featuring works by the Museum’s Artist in Residence, Eleanor Morgan. Using prints, drawings, videos and objects Eleanor explores the slippery boundary between living and non-living materials.

    Over the past year, Eleanor has been drawing inspiration from our collection of glass sponges. These are intricately formed deep-sea animals that naturally build themselves out of glass – the are 90% silica, which they draw out of the sand in their environment.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 207: Threetoothed pufferfish

    By Dean W Veall, on 28 September 2015

    LDUCZ-V1552 Triodon macropterus

    LDUCZ-V1552 Triodon macropterus

    Hello Specimen of the Week readers. Dean Veall here. I’ve chosen a specimen that’s often caught my eye but I was never too sure about what type of fish it actually was. It is possibly the specimen in the Museum with the least representative name. I give you this week’s Specimen of the Week …. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 185

    By Jack Ashby, on 27 April 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineThis week I’m honouring a mammal that we can link to two significant factors in my life recently. First, it’s an Australian hopping marsupial, as are kangaroos. Our current Strange Creatures exhibition centres around Europe’s first painting of a roo – by George Stubbs. Secondly, I’ve been in Australia for the last few weeks doing fieldwork with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and my first task was to help test a mechanism for surveying this Critically Endangered mammal.

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