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  • Magic Lantern Slides and Historypin

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 12 July 2016

    This is a guest post by Bethany Gugliemino, a Museum Studies MA Student carrying out her placement with the UCL Teaching and Research Collections.

    Hello! In my last post, I told you a bit about my work with UCL’s magic lantern slide collection and shared some of my favourite slides. Today, I want to show you where you can see more of this collection and even help us identify some of the more mysterious content.

    As I’ve been cataloguing the slide collection over the last few months, I’ve created a separate list of slides that show an identifiable (or potentially identifiable) location somewhere on earth. This is a shorter list than you might think, since so many of the slides are lecture notes, graphs, and diagrams of scientific equipment. Working with this list, I’ve begun uploading images of these slides to the website Historypin. This site allows users to upload historic images and pin them to a specific location and to create collections and tours of different subjects.

    You can see UCL’s collection of images on Historypin here. Zoom in or out on the map on the left and adjust the date range to filter the slides that appear in the gallery on the right.

    UCL’s slide collection on Historypin

    UCL’s slide collection on Historypin

    So far, there are images ranging from Alexander Graham Bell’s family home in Canada to officers inspecting a wireless radio installation in St. Petersburg. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2016

    It has been a month. That is for sure. But I tell you who won’t be worrying about their future, or screaming into a brown paper bag, or asking if anyone competent is actually in charge of anything at a time when that kind of thing seems very important. Underwhelming fossil fish in museum drawers that’s who.

    That’s right, we’re back with our monthly series, taking time away from the chaotic world to look at and if you’re feeling sassy perhaps shrug a shoulder or two at an underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology’s collections. The worst a fossil fish has to look forward to is nothing as fossil fish cannot contemplate anything. They are made of stone. Those lucky fishy fossily fellows.

    This month’s fossil fish, out of pure chance, is from John o’ Groats. John o’ Groats used to be a man but it is now a village in Scotland. John o’ Groats currently lies on Britain’s northeastern tip and is famous for being one end of the longest trip you could take between two British settlements, the other end being Land’s End in Cornwall. This fossil was once a complete fish but sadly the taphonomic processes have ‘made it great again’ meaning it is now fragmented, no longer whole and far less interesting for it too, fortunately for us.

    This month we’ve got overlabelling highlighting historical less-than-best practice in museum labelling which I know is at the forefront of all of our minds at the moment. Let’s have a look shall we?

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 May 2016

    WARNING, WARNING! We got a looker this month boys and girls. Underwhelming fossil fish come in all shapes and sizes, some are virtually nothing, others inspire great works of art but once in a while we get one that is surprisingly and distinctly fish shaped. It’s still not very interesting to anyone but the most love blind of the fossil fish fanatics and for that we shall dutifully analyse, precisely and scientifically, via the well established ‘Top Trump categories’ method the ways in which it is uninteresting.

    For those of you unsure as to how you got to this part of the Internet and still not quite sure what’s going on, you’ve arrived at the latest entry of Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. Fossil collections are full of specimens of animals you won’t have heard of, can’t really imagine and even if you could imagine them, they weren’t really worth the effort in the first place. We could sex them up a bit by making up animals like those naughty fossil reptile palaeontologists but this is not the fish way. Instead we’ll celebrate them the only way we can, with an analysis of their rather dry and esoteric history.

    If you are of a delicate fortitude or can’t handle too much fossil fish at once, I’m going to ease you into this month’s let down specimen… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: April 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 April 2016

    Since the last Underwhelming Fossil Fish, we’ve been betrayed comrades. Last month, one of our own, a hitherto underwhelming fossil fish got interesting, as hacks reported. Of course, nobody remembers this news now but the underwhelming fossil fish of the month community was rocked so hard by this betrayal, et tu Tully Monster?, that there wasn’t an underwhelming fossil fish of the month for March 2016, the first ever break in the series. In a touching act of solidarity, appropriately for the series, nobody even seemed to notice. This month, there haven’t been any more turncoats so we can get back to the business of this blog series, that is to celebrate the unremarkable fossil fish in museum collections precisely for their distinctive uninterestingness.

    This month, widely heralded on the Twitter as #TheReturnOfFossilFish, I’ve got a specimen that’s appropriately uncommemorating in any way, unless slightly resembling a bald person’s head whilst they are frowning, is at all commemorative. (more…)

    Some favourite magic lantern slides

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 14 March 2016

    This is a guest blog written by Bethany Gugliemino, a Museum Studies MA Student on a work placement with the UCL Teaching and Research Collections. 

    Hello! My name is Bethany and I’m a museum studies student here at UCL. I’m currently completing my work placement with the UCL Science and Engineering Collections, specifically working on the collection of magic lantern slides held in the Electrical Engineering collection. You may remember reading about these slides before on the blog when a previous intern began cataloguing the collection. Since those posts covered what lantern slides are and how they’re made and an overview of the main contents of the collection, I thought I would give you some examples of my favourite slides I’ve found so far.

    Slide EE1497, Electric Light on Thames Embankment

    Slide EE1497, Electric Light on Thames Embankment

    This slide shows an illustration of spectators marvelling at the installation of electric lighting on Victoria Embankment. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: February 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 26 February 2016

    February 2016 won’t be remembered as the beginning of the end because nobody will be here to remember it. The plankton are a-shufflingthe seabirds are a-vanishingthe seas, they are arising and the Arctic is a-heating. Was it this bad growing up? It is getting worse and worse. Did we pass the point of no return already? Are we already in the Age of Stupid? Did our children volunteer for this? Can you honestly kiss them goodnight knowing that they’ll grow up with the same liberties and freedoms we enjoyed or will it be a fight for basic survival like so many already endure today?

    [Note to editor. If the intro is ‘too real’ I could change it to something about croissants being straightened but that’s a harder segue.]

    I tell you who won’t be fighting for survival anymore and that’s underwhelming fossil fish, the ‘stars’ of this monthly series, where we take a break from the harsh realities of life to focus on the uncelebratable fishy fragments of the Grant Museum fossil drawers. Why, you ask? Well. It passes the time if nothing else, the most precious resource you have. But who are you kidding? You got this far, you clearly don’t have much pressing on.

    This month’s fossil fish is technically naked so I’d advise having a spreadsheet open in another window that you could Alt+Tab to, to save the blushes of passing colleagues. (more…)

    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…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: January 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 January 2016

    January 2016 was a big month for palaeontology in the media. This month you may have caught a programme on fossil Mesozoic vertebrate finds featuring one of the most beloved natural historians, some might go as far to say, ‘National Treasure’. No, I’m not talking about David Attenborough and some big dinosaur, that’s the easy route to media coverage. I’m talking about our very own underwhelming fossil fish on Radio 4’s Inside Science programme. If you’re new to this blog series, the humble goal is to increase global fossil fishteracy one underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collections at a time.

    You might expect that with the boost in coverage, we’d have some timely underwhelming fossil fish merchandise to shill, a calendar perhaps or a pack of underwhelming fossil fish Top Trumps cards. However, as I’ve told numerous producers this week who tried to secure the underwhelming fossil fish of the month film rights, this is not the UFFotM way. We’re going to be ploughing on ahead with yet another uninteresting fossil fish, not one that’s any more or less underwhelming, just another un-noteworthy, comme ci, comme ça fossil. No fuss and especially no muss. (more…)

    The Robert Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks – what we know now.

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 15 January 2016

    Cast of a murderer - Noel-34 - Irmscher. Photo courtesy of Alan Taylor.

    Cast of a murderer – Noel Head 34 – Irmscher.

    The Robert Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks consists of 37 plaster casts made in Germany in the 19th Century. As the name suggests the plaster casts were taken of both the living and the dead, and were collected by Robert Noel (a distant relation of Ada Lovelace) to show the ‘truth’ of phrenology, which simply put was the study of the lumps and bumps in people skulls in the belief that this gave insight into a person’s character. In this blog I aim to tell the story of the collection (as we know it now) and gather links to the various blogs, videos, articles that are available online. Enjoy!

    When I started working at UCL 4-ish years ago we knew almost nothing about the Robert Noel Collection of Life and Death Masks. In its life at UCL it had been on display in the Galton Eugenics Laboratory, the Slade School of Fine Art and (reportedly) at one point it’s been fished out of a skip. Now, thanks to the work of a number of UCL students, we know so much more – the names of the people represented in the collection, what Noel thought of them and the background to Noel himself. They have also been properly conserved and looked after, so they will survive for another 150 years or so. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: December 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 December 2015

    Underwhelming Christmas of the yearSilent drawer, lowly drawer!

    All is calm, all is poor(ly preserved).

    Found yon fossil fish, maybe a skull.

    Fragments of scales, so broken and dull,

    Unidentified piece,

    U-hun-identified piece.

     

    2016 is nearly upon us, but before it is, let’s take some time to reflect on the highly disappointing year of underwhelming fossil fish that has passed. If this is your first dip into this blog series then you’re out of luck. This series is an exploration of the frankly dull and uninteresting fossil fish that are found in museum collections the world over. Are they destined to a…erm…. a destiny in a museum drawer? Yes probably. Are they justifiably destined to an eternity in a museum drawer though? Yes, probably. But this series aims to celebrate them because they’re underwhelming because life shouldn’t be all about biggest, brightest and boldest.

    This year has been the least whelming year so far.

    (more…)