UCL Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • Unpacking UCL’s Magic Lantern Slide Collections

    By Margaux Bricteux, on 9 July 2014

    Grant Museum magic lantern slide LDUCZ 299 showing craters on the lunar surface

    Grant Museum magic lantern slide LDUCZ-299 showing craters on the lunar surface

    The UCL Grant Museum and the Science and Engineering Collections currently have several thousand magic lantern slides that relate to subjects as diverse as telegraphy, astronomy or Australian coral reefs; but which for the most part have been consigned to gathering dust in splintering wooden boxes. I, however, have spent the last few weeks sorting, auditing and cleaning hundreds of these slides, and I am now rather well acquainted with these little glass squares.

    Example of a 19th century magic lantern slide projector from the UCL physics collection. This example was used as a sort of overhead projector but others were designed to project across a lecture theatre or hall

    Example of a 19th century magic lantern slide projector from the UCL physics collection. This example was used as a sort of overhead projector but others were designed to project across a lecture theatre or hall

    Magic lanterns were first developed in the 17th century as one of the earliest image projectors. While the device itself has evolved, the concept has remained the same: A combination of lenses and a light source are used to enlarge the images found on glass slides (each about the size of a Post-it) and project them onto a wall or screen. Magic lantern slides, hence, can be described as a kind of ancestor to the Kodachrome slides used in slide projectors, or even present-day PowerPoint slides. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2014

    It’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month again. That wonderful time of the month where we take a look at one of the underwhelming fossil fish specimens in the Grant Museum collection. By staring at and reading about unloved, unspectacular fossil fish specimens I hope to increase global fishteracy as well as explore the question, why do we have material like this in museums? What is the point? What is the value? Maybe we also learn something important about ourselves. Something like, ‘I don’t find bad fish fossils particularly fascinating’. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s the journey not the destination that matters right?

    That’s enough my-little-pocket-book-of-zen. It’s time to unveil this month’s specimen. The sound of anticipation is absolute silence (is it still a sound?). Some of the recent entries have been labelled in the national press* as ‘slightly whelming’ and ‘not as bad as I’d imagined’ so I dug deeper into the fossil fish drawers to bring you something particularly unspecial. No thanks needed, I thank YOU.

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 May 2014

    It’s been a full year since this monthly blog series, exploring the uninspiring and underwhelming fossil fish in the Grant Museum’s collection, featured what scientists call a ‘pretty boy’ specimen. Back in April last year, I featured this astonishingly handsome specimen that kicked up a media storm. The museum was inundated with flowers and fan mail being sent in (please don’t send live flowers to the museum they are an integrated pest management nightmare). I anticipate that this month’s fossil fish will also set hearts a fluttering. I recommend that those of you susceptible to swooning and screaming uncontrollably at a beautiful fossil prepare yourselves accordingly. Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: April 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 April 2014

    Underwhelming fossil fish: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the monthly underwhelming fossil fish blog. Its mission: to explore strange forgotten fossils, to seek out the uninteresting and the frankly plain, to boldly go where no palaeontologist has gone for hundreds of years.

    DO DO DOO DOO DO DO DOOOOOOO. DO DO DO DO DO DO DOOOOOOOO. Etc.

    This month’s underwhelming fossil fish has nothing to do with Star Trek at all. I just always wanted to open a blog like that. This month’s fossil fish, umm fished out of the fossil fish drawers at the Grant Museum, is distinctly uninteresting if I say so myself. It’s only my commitment to the mission of shining the spotlight on underwhelming fossil fish specimens that got me through writing this one. I cried a single glistening tear for the fossil that time and everybody, probably quite rightly, forgot. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: March 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 March 2014

    I’ve sectioned the otoliths of 2014 and determined that it is March and there’s just enough time for this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month.

    For those of you new to the series, all of which can be found in this link, here’s how I’d introduce the TV series, walking slowly through a museum storeroom, gesticulating wildly and oddly emphasizing words (in caps below) in the way that you only see in science documentaries.

    “Join me, MarK CArnall as I eXplore the aMazing WOrld of fossil fish. IN this SERIES we look at the AMAZING, comPLEX worLd of the unsung, unINspiring fossil fIsh that FILL the storeROOMs of the WORLD’s aMazing museums. We’ll look at the WEIrd, the WONderful and the aMazing fossil fish to dRive up the wOrld’s gLObal fishteracy. ONE fossil fish at a time.”

    CUT TO SHOT OF MARK PEERING AT A FOSSIL FISH THEN LOOKING OFF TO THE HORIZON.

    I’ve got a real doozy of a fish for you this month. Prepare to be disappointed. Steel yourself for disdain. Turn that apathy up to 11. (more…)

    Underwhelming fossil fish of the month: February 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 February 2014

    It’s often said that seasons come and seasons go but fossil fish are forever*. However, sadly this isn’t as robust as it is commonly believed. Fossil fish, like Hollywood stars and small children need attention and that’s what this entire series is about, turning the spotlight on the nearly-made-its, the also-rans and the generally undistinctive. The mediocre, normal shaped and average sized. The fossil fish consigned to museum drawers and storerooms, their ‘heyday’ 100-odd years ago, consisting of a dry description in an obscure journal by a palaeontologist. Shed no tears for them for they are but rock. They shall go on to the end. You can find them in France, you can find them under the seas and oceans. You can find them on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets,  in the hills; they shall never surrender. Here is yet another, especially underwhelming fossil fish of the month.
    (more…)

    Collecting: Knowledge in Motion

    By Mark Carnall, on 7 February 2014

    Guest post by Claire Dwyer one of the curators of the current Octagon Gallery exhibition, Collecting: Knowledge in Motion.

    What do crocodile skin handbags, ‘Agatha Christie’s picnic basket’, an overstuffed Bosc’s monitor lizard, a fourteenth century Jewish prayer book and a cabinet of keys have in common? All can be found in the latest exhibition in the Octagon Gallery, which opened on January 21st 2014. Collecting: Knowledge in Motion is the outcome of a collaboration by a group of UCL academics who responded to a call to curate an exhibition which reflected the theme of ‘movement’. As one of the academics who curated the exhibition in this guest blog post I offer some personal reflections. Other members of the team will offer their own comments in subsequent posts.

    (more…)

    Underwhelming fossil fish of the month: January 2014

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 January 2014

    It’s the first underwhelming fossil fish of the month for 2014 and in order to usher in the new year I’ve picked a particularly unspecial fossil fish for your eyes only. If you want to be underwhelmed even more then all the UFFoTM posts can be found under this handy tag. First up though, what does this look like to you?

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BFvhevMmi1Q/TPr116uuHQI/AAAAAAAAAOI/wg6S_ZMH444/s1600/rorschach-test-dog.jpg

    A pretty butterfly?

    Wow. Well from your response I can tell you have some serious psychological issues that need dealing with. The above image isn’t actually a fossilised Rorschach inkblot (named after the comic book character with the same name in the Watchmen). The keen eyed amongst you will have spotted that it’s actually this month’s fossil fish of the ahem month albeit digitally tweaked. You know you’re in for a treat when the most interesting aspect of it is that it resembles an amorphous splodge and tenuously at that. Read on in the vain hope that it gets better than this. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: December 2013

    By Mark Carnall, on 19 December 2013

    Twas the night before ChristmasUnderwhelming Christmas of the year

    When all through the Grant Museum

    Not a creature was stirring

    Because it was a zoology museum and all the animals had stirred their last a long time ago

    Doubly so for fossil fish.

    It has long been assumed that Christmas is a very mammalian celebration. 2013 years ago Santa invented Coca-Cola and ever since humans have been celebrating by writing each other cards, giving each other presents and eating too many Twiglets. However, there’s compelling evidence that Christmas has its origins deep in the geological past. (Christmas) puddingstones date back to the Pleistocene. Christmas Island is over 100 million years old. Christmas trees evolved back in the Carboniferous. Christmas songs celebrate Rocking around the Christmas Tree. Surely it’s no coincidence that many fossil fish are composed of rock today. It’s entirely possible (plausible is a stretch) that the-yet-unfossilised fossil fish celebrated Christmas in Devonian seas and possibly even further back.

    However, the origins of Christmas in the fossil record have been poorly studied. More research is needed to confirm a non-mammalian origin of Christmas hypothesis. Until then, let’s take a cold hard festive stare at yet another Underwhelming Fossil Fish from the Grant Museum’s collections. This month I’ve got nothing particularly special lined up for you. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: November 2013

    By Mark Carnall, on 22 November 2013

    How are the cockles of your heart? In need of some warmth? Here’s the latest Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month (all the others are here). Eagle-ray eyed readers won’t be able to read this with both eyes because eagle-rays have monocular vision. Eagle eyed readers will have no doubt spotted a slight change. As this is the 13th month of uninspiring amorphous rocks resembling, organisms which were formerly fish, I’ve added a date after the blog title because Akheilos forbid you get confused between ‘seasons’ denying yourself the available UFFotM goodness.

    To kick off season 2, I’ve prepared nothing special. Fossil fish don’t discriminate between or celebrate such arbitrary occasions, it is in their honour that we maintain that composure. Prepare to lose five minutes of your life. No returns or resales. (more…)