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  • A stuffed Hippopotamus of 1829 at large at UCL

    By Mark Carnall, on 12 November 2014

    Hippo at large at UCL

    Hippo at large at UCL, a poorly photoshopped one too which is a much rarer subspecies. Artist’s reconstruction (also available for palaeontological reconstructions)

    Part of my job at the Grant Museum is to document and inventory the collection we have here. With over 68,000 specimens (a modest collection when it comes to natural history) this is no small task given that creating a catalogue of the collection only began some 70 years into the collection’s history and the attempt to document the collection to current museum standards only began in the 1990s. A lot of the frustration is that the collection was very much a teaching and research collection for most of it’s life and the core data about the who’s, what’s, where’s, and why’s – information that is invaluable to make the most of the collection today – was inconsistently recorded if at all.

    Recently, whilst looking through our paper archive excavating information for a scientific research request, I found a fantastic document, a summary of all the benefactions in kind made to UCL between 1828 and 1914, right from when the University was first founded. I thought I’d struck gold finding this itemised list of objects and specimens benefacted to UCL and perhaps this would hold some key information about who gave what to UCL, some of which ended up in the Grant Museum. What was shocking however was how much seems to have… ahem… been mislaid  between then and now. Not just the odd bones or shell here and there but whole stuffed hippos and more…

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    Boxing Clever

    By Dean W Veall, on 2 October 2014

    Dean Veall here. In my role as Learning Officer I am responsible for our exciting adult events programme, and I thought I would share our next event coming up this term, it’s the return of the brilliant Focus on the Positive. Focus on the Positive is an event developed by UCL’s Public Engagement Unit where UCL’s researchers pitch their ideas for projects to the audience in order to secure their vote with the successful pitch walking away with £2,000 prize money to make it a reality. Here at the Museum we jumped on the opportunity to host a Focus on the Positive back in February and the winners Philipp Boeing and Bethan Wolfenden are back to share with us how their project has been developing.

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    A year in Show’n’Tell

    By Dean W Veall, on 24 July 2014

    Dean Veall here. This year we have given researchers from across UCL the chance to rummage through our drawers and delve into our cupboards as part of a brand new series of lunch time events, Show’n’Tell. The researchers had one task, to  find just one object out of our 68,000 to show audiences and tell them all they know about it. Through these events we aimed to showcase the amazing research that is going on here at UCL and the passions driving some the people who work here. Some of the specimens chosen by researchers have directly related to their work whilst other have been a bit more left-field. As I get ready to host our last Show’n’Tell before the Summer break I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on the specimens that we have had so far this year.

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    One Day in the City Festival

    By Helen R Cobby, on 12 June 2014

    One Day in the City Festival at UCL

    Balloons in the south cloisters UCLOne Day in the City Festival taking place on Friday 13th June brings together a celebration of literature, art, music and culture in London. The framework is broad. Nick Shepley, the founder and organiser of the festival, and Teaching Fellow in English Literature at UCL, acknowledges this and says he has not tried to narrow it down to specific themes: “It is about opening out and trying to bring people to something that is a simple celebration of the city, its literature and art, and its cultural richness.” These are areas people work on everyday across various departments at UCL with their own audiences. Nick wants to harness this, and “break down the potential separation of audiences with the One Day festival, encouraging a wider demographic to come along.”

    The festival’s centre will be in the UCL South Cloisters, decorated with a fun and artistic skyline created through lighting and architectural constructions. There will also be a multitude of balloons lining the Cloisters and leading the way to various events. These events will include a debate about taboo language with Inda Knight (journalist and author), Will Self (novelist) and Tim Clare (poet), a Caribbean carnival and seminars on topics related to creativity in London. In the UCL Art Museum there will be a talk by one of the Slade students, Helena Hunter, a poetry workshop and live performances as well as Slade students distributing prints of their work. For a full list, see the One Day website here.

    'Fonte' by Maxima Smith

    ‘Fonte’ by Maxima Smith

    The UCL Art Museum is located in the South Cloisters, so it will be at the hub of the festival’s activities. The remit of ‘One Day’ also links the artwork in the current exhibition at UCL Art Museum to the festival. This exhibition, called ‘Second Person Looking Out’, is the result of this year’s annual UCL Art Museum and Slade collaboration. It features an eclectic range of artwork from time-based media pieces to bronze sculpture and slate engravings. Have a look at my previous blog posts, reviewing the exhibition and talking to Ling the co-Curator, to find out more. (more…)

    In the Making: The UCL Art Museum and Slade Collaboration Exhibition

    By Helen R Cobby, on 6 May 2014

    Art Museum ExhibitionThis is the sixth year of the Slade/UCL Collaboration. It started in 2009, encouraging Slade students to submit work inspired by art in the UCL Art Museum collection for an exhibition within the Museum’s space and the Strang Print Room. Initially, this involves Slade students attending meetings with the Art Museum staff and booking appointments to see certain works from the collection. The artists can also create pieces that are inspired by the tools, spaces, traditions and methodologies that the Museum offers. A good working relationship between the two institutions has been built up over the years.

    The Slade students enter the project out of their own choosing. It is a rich opportunity, allowing these students to learn how to produce work for outside of the studio and how to present their work to curators, which includes writing an in-depth proposal. The collaboration also enables a chance to work with a professional archive. In return, the project helps to introduce new audiences to the Art Museum, to change and develop the use of its spaces, and encourage creative engagement with the collection.  (more…)

    Focus on the Positive

    By Dean W Veall, on 11 March 2014

    We’ve hosted a variety of events (film nights, game shows etc) in the Grant Museum

    Voting

    Voting

    but none have been quite like Thursday 27th February’s event. That event saw our speakers talking about Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, London’s bats, faecal digesters and molecular biology all trying to cajole, convince and in one case bribe the audience to win the £2,000 prize. The event in question was Focus on the Positive.

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    An un-noble argument over a Nobel subject

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 February 2014

    After a few drinks last weekend, my sister, who is doing a Ph.D at a ‘different’ university, and I got in to a friendly ‘my horse is bigger than your horse’. I gloated that UCL has tentacles that reach around the world, is ranked within the top four universities within the UK, and most importantly (because this is how I measure university performance) we have several Nobel Prizes. Well as it turns out, so does her university, but the important thing is that we have more.

     

    Although the conversation was entirely (ok, mostly) in jest, it made me curious as to how justified my claims of ‘having a bigger horse’ actually were and I set about some googling. As luck would have it, even after calibrating the data for variables such as my university is around 130 odd years older than hers, and also taking into consideration the fact that the Nobel Prize only began in 1901 whereas we were founded in 1827, UCL are still higher achievers. Mwah hah hah. According to the website www.nobelprize.org, there have been 487 Nobel Prizes given out worldwide since its inception. Well let me hear an ‘oooo’ for the fact that 21 of those belong to us. As in UCL, not my sister and myself. (more…)

    Reflections on Kevin Guyan’s work and Black Bloomsbury events at UCL Art Museum

    By Helen R Cobby, on 6 December 2013

    Kevin Guyan speaking with participants on his Bloomsbury walking tour, outside Paramount Court

    Kevin Guyan speaking with participants on his Bloomsbury walking tour, outside Paramount Court

    Throughout this term, Kevin Guyan, PhD candidate at the UCL history department, has been working with the Art Museum to create events that compliment the current ‘Black Bloomsbury’ exhibition. His own research has allowed him to take themes from the exhibition in thoughtful and unusual directions for these workshops at the Museum. His events have included interactive investigations around 1940s music and dance, and exploring ideological boundaries within the Bloomsbury area through a walking tour.

    Kevin’s own research explores how domestic spaces impacted upon the production and reproduction of masculinities in the post war period (c.1945 – 1966). Although this work focuses on a different time period to ‘Black Bloomsbury’, (1945-1966 rather than 1918-1948), he has drawn upon common themes running through both eras, including space and identity, and methodologies of how historians perceive and ‘see’ into the past. For a more detailed analysis of his research and its links to the ‘Black Bloomsbury’ exhibition, please see his article ‘Engaging with Black Bloomsbury’, published on the Student Engagers website here.

    Curious to hear more about his work and the way he thinks up – and thinks about – the nature of his events with the Art Museum, I asked him a few questions.  (more…)

    Working [in Museums] Wednesdays #1

    By Edmund Connolly, on 22 May 2013

    Students and aspiring museum workers frequently ask about employment in the arts, so popular is this topic, I have now spoken about this at my old school and universities  (to varying levels of success). I am in no way a specialist, nor even a veteran, of this discipline, in fact the only reason I seem to get asked to do these things is because I am one of the most recent employees, thus, in theory, can recant what it was like for me.  A few visitng A-level students asked if I had any opinions on the merits of a single vs. a joint honours degree for working in museums; I may as well answer them here.

    I have 2 degrees, only the BA is a joint hons. proper (English and Classics) my Masters was multi-disciplinary (Comparative Art and Archaeology), so you can probably guess my opinion on the matter. I like joint honours. Arguably not such a ‘traditional’ degree, but they are a fantastic way to get more for your money (quantitatively speaking) and a unique take on both of the accredited disciplines.

    Advantage of joint honours: double graduation

    Advantage of joint honours: double graduation = double funny hat and Harry Potter robes

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    The Archaeology of Race

    By Edmund Connolly, on 1 April 2013

    guest blogger: Chris Webb

     

    In recent history there are few contentious subjects that are as notorious as eugenics. There are not many areas of discussion that can illicit such heated debate. Indeed, even the simple task of blogging becomes a semantic minefield, my inclusion of the word ‘contentious’ above, inferring (erroneously) that there are two sides to ‘argue’. However, research into the concept of eugenics, its founding and articulation, is the focus of a new book by Dr Debbie Challis who asks ‘How much was archaeology founded on prejudice?’

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