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  • Specimen of the Week 208 (Four years!): The four-eyed opossum

    By Jack Ashby, on 5 October 2015

    Preserved four-eyed opossum.  LDUCZ-Z1596

    Preserved four-eyed opossum.

    As those of you who can divide 208 by four – or have read this post’s title – will have realised, four years ago this week Specimen of the Week was born.

    The main aim of this series is to shed light on parts of the collection that you might not spot among the thousands of specimens in our dense displays. Occassionally we do want to give extra attention to a “hero” specimen, but by and large it’s the also-rans that get featured.

    Some might think that this honour should be reserved for animals at the lower end of the human-centred pecking order (fish and invertebrates, for instance), but there are many mammals that go unloved too. This one is no exception. It is so unloved that its Wikipedia page comprises of only five lines.

    This week I’m featuring the first animal that came to mind when I tried to think of something related to the blog’s age: Four.

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

    Specimen of the Week: Week 147

    By Jack Ashby, on 4 August 2014

    Scary monkeyMuseums are full of mysteries (particularly when you are as cursed with historically challenging documentation, as many university museums are). For example, why do we have a plum in a jar? Why don’t we have a wolf, one of the world’s most widespread mammals? Who ate our Galapagos tortoise? Why do we only have the heart and rectum of a dwarf cassowary? Why is scary monkey (pictured) so scary?

    Not to mention, why did we put all those moles in that jar?

    After ten years of working here, I am confident that there is no greater mystery in the Grant Museum than this one: why would you stick a battery in a dead animal?

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

    Specimen of the Week: Week 112

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 December 2013

    In a life changing move of progressionism, I have decided to do something a little different this week. I know, I know, “Noooo Emma, don’t do it, continuity is key!” I hear you cry. But do not fear my loyal follower (Mum) and other people who have come across this blog by accident, I promise you this is going to. rock. your. world. Rather than look at a single species, we are going to go on a journey of poisonings, lies, and masters of subterfuge. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 110

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 18 November 2013

    When people come into the Grant Museum for the first time I frequently hear the question “Is it just this one room?” When I say “Yes”, I always hastily follow it up with the factoid that we have more zoological specimens on display in ‘just this one room’ than in the whole of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. It’s not that I’m trying to start some rivalry (although the idea of science nerds and museum geeks having a show down does amuse me) but the point I am making is that we display our specimens in such a way that you have to look with your eyes rather than your feet. Due to the density of our specimens, it inevitably means that some will get frequently overlooked, and I want to bring one such, huge, specimen to your attention from the back corner of the Museum. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety-Eight

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 26 August 2013

    Two blogs away from the big 1-0-0! In the run up to the 100th blog I will bring you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…

    1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.

    2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)

    3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.

    With that in mind, at Number Three, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    I found this… Mexican Plateau Horned Lizard

    By Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh, on 17 October 2012

    I found this… is a new mini-installation by the entrance to the Museum. In each of the six cabinets one member of our team has selected one object which they have uncovered something new about. Today…

    Mexican Plateau Horned LizardMexican Plateau Horned Lizard

    Part of my role involves looking after the adoption scheme, which means that I get to research the specimens in order to prepare their adoption certificates. Just today I used some of my adoption knowledge when a visitor asked about the pink fairy armadillo.

    I enjoy the opportunity this gives to learn more about each specimen, especially when I come across the most bizarre facts that I could never have imagined. Take the Mexican Plateau Horned Lizard, it may appear cute and feeble, but it has the ability to squirt foul-tasting blood from its eyes forcing its canine and feline predators to drop it. Facts like these are guaranteed to make it into an adoption certificate!

    Specimen of the Week: Week Forty-Nine

    By Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh, on 17 September 2012

    Scary MonkeyEmma is away this week, and in her absence I have volunteered to write Specimen of the Week as the now not-so-very-new newbie (I started two months ago…). The specimen I have chosen was brought to my attention when a visitor came into the Museum to make an adoption. After much deliberation they chose the said specimen. The words ‘pink’ and ‘fairy’ make up part of its common name, which I feel is enough justification on its own. Did I mention it’s pink? And it has a furry belly, so what’s not to like?


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

    Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Three

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 March 2012

    Scary Monkey Week Twenty-ThreeIt was the edge of the Amazon rainforest, and I was working at a sanctuary for injured animals. In the dead of night, the entire room lit up as lightening streaked across the sky and thunder boomed down the corridor. In the morning we discovered that a rescued ocelot had escaped from its enclosure and gone on a rampage, killing several birds and seriously wounding a monkey nicknamed Lucia.

    The nearest vet was a six hour drive away. With serious gashes all over her tiny body, the manager and I rushed her to the nearest hospital and literally begged the staff for help. We went through three doctors before we found one who would perform surgery. As Lucia’s screaming quietened and her eyes began to close, the doctor started to carefully stitch up her wounds. Although she should now by rights be called Scarface, she healed and recovered. Although a free ranging monkey, Lucia is now a regular visitor to the sanctuary. In her honour, this week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Two

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 12 March 2012

    Scary Monkey: Week Twenty-TwoI want you to guess a location. If I say ‘marsupial’, you say…
    Survey says…
    ‘Eh ehhhh’.
    Modern marsupials are in fact also found in both North and South America. North America has only acquired one modern species but South America has plenty. To celebrate this exciting fact of the day, the specimen of the week this week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Fourteen

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 16 January 2012

    Scary MonkeyThere has been lots to discover at the museum this week due to a renovation project that saw us decanting nearly a thousand specimens from the wall cabinets and making a mosaic carpet of organisms on the floor in the middle of the museum. (Read more here).


    The new scenery was a welcome change for most specimens, however there was one left bitter by the whole affair. Normally he enjoys a view of the museum from a high shelf, shared with no-one. Until he was put on the floor. Now I assure you he was placed there with delicate loving care. However, what we neglected to do was face him in the right direction. So instead of a sea of both new and familiar animal faces to amuse him, he had a brown cupboard door, about an inch away from his nose. For two weeks. Whoops.


    Feeling bad about this oversight (or subsequent undersight… as it were) I placated him by making him specimen of the week. The specimen of the week therefore is…  (more…)