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  • Specimen of the Week 194: The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 29 June 2015

    The pinned Death's-head hawkmoths. LDUCZ-L1438

    The pinned Death’s-head hawkmoths. LDUCZ-L1438

    I stand before you to beseech absolution. I confess to my unholy bias in favour of the darker and somewhat supernatural beings of the museum, yet I seek no forgiveness. I will endeavour to one day improve this, and talk about some adorable abomination with darling little eyes and a twee silken coat, but to be honestly forthright, I recoil at the thought. I’ve always found delight in those lacking in vertebral column, often simply regarding the spine itself as excess baggage, hence I rejoice to formally announce that I’m keeping with the creepy invertebrate vibe.

    This week’s specimen is most agreeable to the palate of those with a less cute-inclined disposition; with the markings of a demon and the scent of bees, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 193: A very confused anemone

    By Mark Carnall, on 22 June 2015

    Image of LDUCZ-C1445 Amphianthus dohrnii on  Eunicella verrucosa from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    Image of LDUCZ-C1445 Amphianthus dohrnii on Eunicella verrucosa from the Grant Museum of Zoology UCL

    Specimen of the week is the Grant Museum’s weekly blog series focusing on one of the 68,000 specimens in the collection. When it comes to my turn to write one, I normally try to choose a specimen that otherwise might be overlooked within the crowded cases. Whilst looking for a specimen to focus on this week, I found these lovely specimens, labelled as a fossil ostracod (an amazing group of crustaceans) and on display with the peanut worms and brachipods, whilst resembling anemones. What’s the story here? Hopefully this blog post will cure the case of mistaken identity.

    This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 192: The Harvestman

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 15 June 2015

    Dried harvestman LDUCZ-J416

    Dried harvestman LDUCZ-J416

    Case 11: the final resting place of those that once scuttled and dashed between the shadows. Many eagerly feature in our lives, brushing softly against the unaware’s skin, only to dart off as they are noticed, leaving a split second image of many a shambling leg to return as a parting gift at night when the lucidity of dreams kick in. Staring out from the dim stillness a dour creature resides, and an eternal watch it holds.

    It was at first the near-symmetry of this specimen that drew me to it while bumbling around the Grant Museum; but after doing a little research, only then did it become apparent that this creature is far deserving of a week-long bask in the limelight. These critters are easily mistaken for spiders, both having eight spindly legs, but in fact they are far cuter, and much to the ire of arachnophobes. Many aspects of their biology and their cultural influence make them the spider’s rather well-appreciated cousin, and rightfully so.

    So thus begins my job to convince you, dear literary companion, of this creature’s cause, lest it be cast off back to the tenebrous corners where the resting beasts of Case 11 do creep and surge. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 191 : Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 8 June 2015

    LDUCZ-X842 Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    LDUCZ-X842 Rhamphorhynchus wing cast

    One of my favourite pastimes is to do a bit of research – on just about anything.  I enjoy investigative work and the process of discovery.  Luckily, the nature of my work at the Grant Museum ensures that there are plenty of opportunities to do museum-detective work.  It could be a case of matching up an archival record with an unaccessioned specimen or figuring out a valid taxonomic name for a mysterious beast in a jar.

    It is both a burden and a blessing to work with historic collections which have varying degrees of documentary information: while it would be preferable to have more/most/all information about an object, gaps in the data allow for additional research and new discoveries.

    Recently I was doing some research on another Grant Museum Rhamphorhynchus specimen and one thing led to another…and another…and another.  It turns out that there is a lot of history behind this week’s SOTW – and although it is ‘only’ a plaster cast – it is part of a famous lineage of one of the most famous fossil finds!

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

    Specimen of the Week 190: The Platypus Tooth

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 June 2015

    A slide showing a fragment of platypus tooth from the Grant Museum Micrarium

    A slide showing a fragment of
    platypus tooth from the
    Grant Museum Micrarium

    I have to admit that when I first encountered this object I didn’t recognise what it was until I read the label, which is scratched into the glass slide that houses it. I don’t feel too bad about that as it is essentially microscopic, and very few people have ever seen one of these specimens. It is among the very smallest objects in the Museum.

    Unsurprisingly then, it is on display in the Micrarium – our place for tiny things. This beautiful back-lit cave showcases over 2000 of the 20,000 microscope slides in our care – it broke the mould for how museums display their slide collections.

    I first wrote about the species featured on this slide in my first ever Specimen of the Week, but that was taxidermy – a real A-Lister compared to the miniscule, obscure fragment I have selected here. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 189: Actinia equina

    By Rachel H Bray, on 26 May 2015

    Image of a marine specimen represented in glass

    LDUCZ – C373 – All seems peaceful in this bell jar…

     

     

    We have had both an ethics and an art angle during the last week at the Grant Museum which you might have noticed if you attended some of our events. The Strange Creatures Late featured live, ethical taxidermy with Jazmine Miles-Long and the Great Grant Knit-A-Thon included talks from History of Art PhD student and Strange Creatures c0-curator Sarah Wade about craftivism, poaching and habitat destruction. And so, it seemed particularly appropriate to have an aesthetically pleasing, ethically sensitive representation of a specimen this week!

     

     

     

     

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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    Specimen of the Week 188: Spirorbis worms

    By Mark Carnall, on 18 May 2015

    Close up of LDUCZ G105 Spirorbis preserved in fluid

    LDUCZ-G105 Care to guess what it is. A sea pen, barnacles?

    If you check our specimen of the week widget, where you can see all past specimens of the weeks the vertebrates, in particular mammals, still dominate despite being a comparatively small group of animals. This week I’m going to focus attention on a far less furry or ferocious invertebrate animal because let’s face it they just don’t get the PR the Hollywood Animals do.

    If you ever whiled away an afternoon at the beach rockpooling, you’ve undoubtedly come across these animals but may not have noticed or recognised them.

    This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 187: The Tamandua Hand

    By Will J Richard, on 11 May 2015

    LDUCZ-Z2745 Tamandua manus

    LDUCZ-Z2745 Tamandua manus

    Hello! Will Richard here, bringing you another Specimen of the Week.

    This month I’ve decided to start with a reading from one of my poems.

    I call this “Specimen”.

    Ahem ahem.

    The hand is in the jar.

    The hand of a tamandua?

    It might seem quite bleak as my choice for this week

    but read on and you might just say “ahhh!”

    Or you might not.

    Either way, this week’s specimen of the week is…

     

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 186

    By Tannis Davidson, on 4 May 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineSometimes a specimen can tell you a little. Sometimes it can tell you a lot. There has been much written on this blog about the perils and pitfalls of museum documentation. Sometimes there is no information with a specimen – no accession record, no acquisition information, no species name and (occasionally) no specimen. Objects get lost and misplaced. Historical records are incomplete or indecipherable. Specimen labels become separated from their object.

    Alternatively, some specimens may have (dare I say it) too much information which may include multiple numbers, several differing records, erroneous taxonomic information or questionable identifications.

    Caring for a collection entails many things but first and foremost is to identify the collection itself – through all possible means including the consolidation of any (and all) associated information. When luck prevails, one may find a scrap (literally) of information which ties it all together – a word or two which allows a specimen to be given a name, a record, a life!

    Recently while going through the bird drawers, I came across an unaccessioned skull and mandible together with its associated information (unclear object number, outdated taxonomic name) including a  small piece of paper with two words: “El Turco”. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 185

    By Jack Ashby, on 27 April 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineThis week I’m honouring a mammal that we can link to two significant factors in my life recently. First, it’s an Australian hopping marsupial, as are kangaroos. Our current Strange Creatures exhibition centres around Europe’s first painting of a roo – by George Stubbs. Secondly, I’ve been in Australia for the last few weeks doing fieldwork with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and my first task was to help test a mechanism for surveying this Critically Endangered mammal.

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