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  • A stuffed Hippopotamus of 1829 at large at UCL

    By Mark Carnall, on 12 November 2014

    Hippo at large at UCL

    Hippo at large at UCL, a poorly photoshopped one too which is a much rarer subspecies. Artist’s reconstruction (also available for palaeontological reconstructions)

    Part of my job at the Grant Museum is to document and inventory the collection we have here. With over 68,000 specimens (a modest collection when it comes to natural history) this is no small task given that creating a catalogue of the collection only began some 70 years into the collection’s history and the attempt to document the collection to current museum standards only began in the 1990s. A lot of the frustration is that the collection was very much a teaching and research collection for most of it’s life and the core data about the who’s, what’s, where’s, and why’s – information that is invaluable to make the most of the collection today – was inconsistently recorded if at all.

    Recently, whilst looking through our paper archive excavating information for a scientific research request, I found a fantastic document, a summary of all the benefactions in kind made to UCL between 1828 and 1914, right from when the University was first founded. I thought I’d struck gold finding this itemised list of objects and specimens benefacted to UCL and perhaps this would hold some key information about who gave what to UCL, some of which ended up in the Grant Museum. What was shocking however was how much seems to have… ahem… been mislaid  between then and now. Not just the odd bones or shell here and there but whole stuffed hippos and more…

    (more…)

    From the Archives: A Camel Head from London Zoo

    By Mark Carnall, on 8 October 2014

    Here at the Grant Museum, we have a large collection of documents, photographs, negatives and other ephemera which make up the archive of the collection. Part of my ongoing role as the curator of the Grant Museum is to ensure that all of this archival information is attached to the relevant museum specimens so we have as much as a history of possible of the lives and after lives of our specimens. This marks the first post in what will be occasional series highlighting interesting finds about the museum and the specimens from the archive.

    This first post contains some rather grim imagery so the images are after the jump but whilst rifling through the archives I found images of a bactrian camel head which had been sent to UCL from London Zoo. POTENTIALLY DISTURBING IMAGES HERE ON IN.

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    The History of Varsity

    By Edmund Connolly, on 17 March 2014

    The last weekend saw some fantastic weather and some even more celebratory UCL sport. From the 7th March UCL has been part of the London Varsity Series playing against the rival London College, Kings, in a series of six sporting events. For many, sports and college varsities evoke an idea of elitism and aggressive competition, but I must say I disagree and support the idea as a way of encouraging inter-collegiate relations and development.

    Varsity teams, copyright UCLU

    Varsity teams, copyright UCLU

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    From the vollies: Loose ends and key information

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2013

    This is a guest blog from one of the Grant Museum’s volunteers, Geoffrey Waller. Geoffrey has been volunteering for the Museum for a number of years undertaking the diligent collections care work that helps us to function as a museum and make the most of our collections here. Recently, Geoffrey has been going through one of our many series of card indices cross-referencing information with our current catalogue, enriching  data we have about our specimens which make them significantly more useful for teaching and research. Here are some of the highlights.

    For the last 18 months I have been working on a long-term cataloguing project at the Grant Museum. The project has involved sorting a large collection of some 1500 hand-written record cards into appropriate categories and numerical order. Each card (known technically as an MDA card*) bears the specimen’s accession number – the unique identifying number given to specimens on the Grant Museum collections database. It is therefore possible to cross-check the specimen data on the MDA card with the data already held on the database.

    Image of examples of MDA cards from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    Three of the 1500 MDA cards now added to the collection catalogue.

    Mining the Data

    During this cross-checking, I could add any new information recorded on the MDA cards to the existing database entries, making it available to anyone accessing the records. (more…)

    Flinders Petrie: An Adventure in Transcription

    By Rachael Sparks, on 3 September 2013

    What could be nicer than to spend your day off measuring things with a stick?

    What could be nicer than to spend your day off measuring things with a stick?

    Flinders Petrie began his autobiography by warning that “The affairs of a private person are seldom pertinent to the interests of others” [1]Fortunately for both us and his publisher this proved no impediment, and Petrie went on to write about himself, his thoughts and his life’s work at great length.

    Petrie was a prolific writer, both in the public and private arena, and we are not short of material to help us learn about his life. But not everything he wrote was wordy. I’d like to introduce you today to a more unexpected side of his penmanship: his personal appointment diaries. (more…)

    666: Better when you know your devils

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 6 June 2011

    Just after 6am this morning, on the 6th day of the 6th month, I received a panicked phone call from the security guard on night-watch at the museum. Evidently ‘strange noises’ had been coming from behind the locked doors and he had gone to check it out. Here is his statement… (more…)

    What’s in the box?

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 January 2011

    The Grant Museum of Zoology is currently relocating premises and during the removal, packing, storage, return and unpacking of our specimens there are always a couple of new discoveries made. Boxes which have sat at the back of cupboards or on top of shelves. Sometimes, boxes are cryptically labeled or disappointingly completely empty. For a curator, these boxes can be a wonderful surprise or in some cases a curatorial nightmare. Here are two such boxes.

    Image of a Grant Museum box labeled Specimen Labels

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