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  • Teaching in the Grant Museum

    By Tannis Davidson, on 15 October 2018

    Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL

    Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL

    At UCL, Term 1 is now fully underway – ID cards have been issued, classrooms have been located and routines have been established. Object-based teaching has also begun at the Grant Museum where students from UCL and throughout the London area will have the opportunity to use museum specimens in their practicals.

    During a typical academic year, around 2500 university students use the Grant Museum collection as part of their formal coursework on a wide range of courses including zoology, palaeontology, the history of art, geography, museum studies, communication and even dance. The Museum and its collection is also used by students for project work and postgraduate research or as a testing ground for museum engagement, new technologies and visitor research.

    The Grant Museum invites use of its collection for teaching to any faculty at UCL. We’re pretty good at what we do (if we do say so ourselves), because we’ve had 190 years of practice… (more…)

    New Grant Museum exhibition ‘Agonism/Antagonism’ is open

    By Tannis Davidson, on 21 September 2018

    The Grant Museum is delighted to announce the opening of  Agonism/Antagonism, a new exhibition exploring evolution and genetics through the stunning artworks of multidisciplinary artist Neus Torres Tamarit and computer scientist Ben Murray – the art and science duo known as Phenotypica.

    Acrylic Sculpture. Neus Torres Tamarit

    Acrylic Sculpture. © Neus Torres Tamarit.

    The exhibition is the result of Neus’ residency with the Max Reuter laboratory at UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, where she has been immersed in the research, techniques and tools used to study the genetic evolution of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

    Dr. Max Reuter and his team use fruit flies to conduct research into the evolution of sexual dimorphism. In sexually reproducing species, the genetic needs of the two genders are often in direct conflict; a phenomenon known as sexual antagonism. The tension between the genders is eventually broken by mutations that decouple the traits in males and females, resulting in new differences (dimorphisms) between them.

    Acrylic Sculpture. Neus Torres Tamarit

    Acrylic Sculpture. © Neus Torres Tamarit.

    Reflecting the aesthetic environment of the laboratory and exploring the uneasy alliance that exists between males and females of a species, Agonism/Antagonism is the intersection between art, science and technology. Artworks include bioplastic sculptures which float among the skeletons, digital art and projections, animated explorations of genetic antagonism in virtual reality and CT scans of fruit flies.

    Gender A - Gender B. Neus Torres Tamarit.

    ‘Gender A – Gender B’. Neus Torres Tamarit. 2018.

    Neus and Ben are interested in how artworks about genetics interact with the subject and with the audience, and how accurately such artworks present their scientific concepts. The aim of their work is to remove the boundaries that often separate science from the rest of human activity and reveal the creativity and beauty in scientific research and discovery.

    Agonism/Antagonism runs until 22nd December 2018. Full details on the exhibition’s website.

    The Grant Museum of Zoology is open from 1–5pm Monday to Saturday. Admission is free and there is no need to book.

    Tannis Davidson is the Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology

     

     

    Specimen of the Week 350: The Plastic Fantastics

    By Tannis Davidson, on 6 July 2018

    Four fantastic plastic moulds Australosomus merlei: Clockwise from top left: LDUCZ-V1685, LDUCZ-V1696, LDUCZ-1697, LDUCZ-V1698

    Four moulds of Australosomus merlei: Clockwise from top left: LDUCZ-V1685, LDUCZ-V1696, LDUCZ-1697, LDUCZ-V1698

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a celebration of diversity, fashion and fabulousness. It pays tribute to all the specimens who have suffered discrimination or denied equal status for not being considered ‘real’ specimens. Yes, I’m referring to the casts and particularly the moulds in natural history collections which are too seldom given pride of place on museum display shelves despite contributing an incalculable value in the transmission of scientific ideas and knowledge.

    Casts in natural history museums are often considered second-class museum specimens; their primary function to exemplify the original specimen for comparative purposes. The moulds which produce the casts are arguably even lower down the ladder of regard – transitional objects used in the creation of offspring specimens (casts) and rarely displayed or considered accessionable objects in their own right.

    Apart from their value as conduits of reproduction, moulds are also a resource illustrating both innovation in technique and the fashions of their time. Without further ado, this week’s Specimen of the Week salutes… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 345: The Pikermi Casts

    By Tannis Davidson, on 1 June 2018

    LDUCZ-Z3259 Amphimachariodus giganteus

    LDUCZ-Z3259 Amphimachariodus giganteus

    Back in January, this blog featured four specimens nicknamed ‘the fancy casts’ which were chosen by UCL Museum Studies students as a research project for their Collections Curatorship course. The casts are of extinct species of horse and sabre-toothed cat which lived in the Miocene – Pliocene epochs around 23-3 million years ago. These four casts are unique in the Grant Museum because they are beautifully detailed, hand-painted and mounted upon bespoke ceramic bases.

    I’m pleased to report that the students discovered that the fancy casts are indeed rather special. Thanks to the brilliant efforts of Kayleigh Anstiss, Anna Fowler, Pamela Maldonado Rivera, Rachael Rogers and Hollie Withers, these casts are no longer such a mystery. Here they are again, this week’s newly titled Specimens of the Week are… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 340: The Gross, the Bad and the Ugly Part II

    By Tannis Davidson, on 27 April 2018

    Disposal?

    Disposal?

    Back by somewhat popular demand, this week’s Specimen of the Week says goodbye to another batch of fluid specimens which were beyond salvation. Last time the disposed specimens were equal parts sludge, rot and mould. This second batch of disposals also has plenty of murky fluid, active decay and rotting carcasses for your viewing displeasure as well as several less-queasy ‘phantom’ specimens that had already made their final journey into oblivion. Please join us to pay our respects to…

     

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    Specimen of the Week 333: The Coal Ball Slides

    By Tannis Davidson, on 9 March 2018

    D.M.S. Watson Coal ball slide

    D.M.S. Watson Coal ball slide

    In celebration of International Women’s Day and the 100 year anniversary of the first women having the right to vote in the UK, the Grant Museum is highlighting specimens in the collection related to women in natural history as well as showcasing female specimens and exploring topics such as gender in zoology.

    As part of UCL vote 100, this week’s Specimen of the Week blog focuses UCL alumna Marie Stopes – campaigner of women’s rights and pioneer of family planning. She is widely known for her controversial and influential book Married Love (1918) – a sex manual for women which popularised the taboo subject of birth control and for establishing (with her second husband Humphrey Verdon Roe) Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921.

    Stopes’ first passion, however, was science and the Grant Museum is home to a group of specimens associated with Marie Stopes’ significant palaeobotany career… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 327: The Fancy Casts

    By Tannis Davidson, on 26 January 2018

    It’s that time of year when a very lucky specimen gets the research equivalent of the red-carpet treatment. Each January, students in UCL’s Collection Curatorship class (as part of their MA in Museum Studies) choose objects from across UCL’s collections to research in a practical project to introduce them to the core skills of a curator: to understand objects and how to research them.

    Last year’s natural history group successfully cracked the mystery of the wax models and were able to not only identify them in their own right (as a developmental series of the freshwater leech Hemiclepsis marginata) but also revealed their place in the history of embryology as a rare surviving series made to illustrate Charles Otis Whitman’s 19th century pioneering work on cell lineage.

    This year, the specimens chosen from the Grant Museum are a set of four beautifully-made painted plaster and ceramic casts which are unique in the Museum… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 322: The Primordial Skull

    By Tannis Davidson, on 22 December 2017

    Season’s greetings! As presents appear under Christmas trees, the anticipation and excitement grows as recipients wonder what treasures lie wrapped among the dropping needles. In the spirit of mystery giving, this week’s Specimen of the Week is one to puzzle over in curiosity: what could it be? It is already unwrapped, stripped down, revealing all. However, even when seen, it is not obvious what it is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 315 : The Red Ancients

    By Tannis Davidson, on 3 November 2017

    Back in September, a Specimen of the Week blog post The Gross, The Bad and The Ugly featured a number jarred specimens which were, in part due to their dreadful condition, disposed of. They were all fluid preserved specimens which had over time deteriorated and disintegrated and could not be salvaged by conservation.

    But not all specimens in jars have this potential to turn nasty. There are thousands of fluid specimens in the collection which are in excellent condition. The Grant Museum also has specimens in jars which are not fluid preserved at all and, by the virtue of their jarred-ness, have been shielded from the effects of deterioration and look as lively and colourful as they did on their last living day.

    So, as a counterpart to the uglies, this week’s blog is showcasing some lovelies… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 310: The Gross, the Bad and the Ugly

    By Tannis Davidson, on 29 September 2017

    Ah, Specimen of the Week. The weekly showcasing of specimens from the Grant Museum. Over the years this blog has featured the furry, the fluid, the skeletal, the dangerous, the poisonous, the new, the old, the damaged, the conserved, the plentiful, the endangered, the extant, the extinct, the big, the beautiful, the tiny, the hideous, the lost and the found.

    The specimens are meticulously selected each week to offer a bit of fun, insight and enjoyment to the reader. This week however, is a somber affair. Rather than a celebration of life, this week’s Specimen of the Week is an obituary. Say goodbye to… (more…)