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  • The trace is the appearance of nearness

    By Martine Rouleau, on 30 May 2017

    Blog post written by Liz Rideal, Leverhume artist in residence at UCL Art Museum and Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art

    Installation view of Terme Di Diocletian by Liz Rideal

    Installation view of Terme di Diocleziano by Mike Dye

    The trace is the appearance of nearness, however far removed the thing that left it behind may be. The aura is the appearance of a distance, however close the thing that calls it forth. In the trace, we gain possession of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.

    Walter Benjamin

    All of the UCL Museums exist in compact spaces, the Art Museum is no exception with John Flaxman‘s (1755-1826) sculptural bequests crowding the walls, leaving small gaps for temporary exhibitions. The advantage here is that the plethora adds to the excitement around what is available to see, and the Legacy exhibition of Richard Cooper Jnr (1740-1822) makes an unusual eighteenth century complement to the permanent display. Cooper Jnr’s prints are exhibited so that one can compare, contrast and appreciate their repetition of landscape format and small scale. We can recognise the tropes made familiar by his precedents, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Claude Lorraine (1604/5-1682) and lesser known but more famous in his day, Herman van Swanevelt (c.1603-1655) with their reiterated Italianate views made popular by print and available in albums. It emerged that the museum curatorial assistant George Richards’s Masters was on The Dutch golden age. A landscape print of Richard Cooper Jnr’s ‘after Swanevelt’ was in the display, consequently I was able to expand his knowledge of this artist through sharing art historian Sue Russell‘s research into Swanevelt, thus making further connections – another unimagined benefit of my Leverhulme research grant.

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    Francis Galton and the History of Eugenics at UCL

    By Subhadra Das, on 22 October 2015

    The shadow of Sir Francis Galton looms large over UCL.

    Francis Galton is the most famous and influential Victorian scientist you’ve never heard of. He coined the term eugenics and endowed UCL with his personal collection and archive, along with a bequest which funded the country’s first professorial Chair of Eugenics. Mahmoud Arif, a UCL student who attended “Why isn’t my Professor black?” questioned why, by holding this material and naming a lecture theatre after him, UCL appears to celebrate a known racist . Another student, Adam Elliot-Cooper, began his speech at a student protest in the summer by pointing to the Galton Lecture Theatre, which itself was the venue for the first ‘UCL Faces Race’ event last year where Galton and his work featured prominently.

    Sir Francis Galton

    Francis Galton (1822 – 1911) British scientist, statistician and eugenicist.

    As Curator of the Galton Collection, I’ll admit that when I first heard that Galton had been name-checked in these discussions, my first response was “Oh, God, they’re going to want to burn the collection.” (Some Museum Studies degrees can include up to a whole module on ‘Curatorial Paranoia’.)

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