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  • Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: September 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 September 2015

    I’M BACK! Last month’s rumours of the end were nought but a dramatic device! I may have left UCL and although it was easy to turn my back and walk away from colleagues I’d worked with over the last decade, I couldn’t leave the underwhelming fossil fish behind so this communiqué comes from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

    For first time readers, the mission of this blog series is to turn our attentions to the spectacularly unspectacular fossil fish in the Grant Museum each month. These fish, like so many others in museum collections, are uncelebratable, unrelatable and originally collected for research no longer referenced or cared about. Every museum has specimens like these. Are they useless? Why do we have them? Why should you care? None of these questions will be answered here, instead I ask that you clear your mind, read on, and one by one we’ll improve global fishteracy, one underwhelming fish fossil at a time.

    This month, in order to celebrate the return of the series I’ve been sent images and a description of personally hand-picked out something particularly unspecial in time honoured tradition for this series. Extra points for you if you stay awake/alive til the end of this one, it’s a slog.

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 August 2015

    And now. The end is near. It’s time to face. The final curtain. Lallaalala. De da da da de dada da. De dada dadada of which I’m certain. Hmmm hmm hmmm hmm hmm. Dah dah de dah dah da da. Da de de de and then a highway. BUT MORE, MUCH MORE THAN FISH, WE DID IT OURRRRRR WAY!

    This is a very special underwhelming fossil fish this month, not normally something I do here given the aim of this monthly series of blogs about the Grant Museum’s overwhelmingly underwhelming fossi fish collection is to keep it low key and on the underwhelming side. Even if the series did recently feature on VICE magazine’s Motherboard channel, with bonus IN DRAWER photographs. However, this is my last underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post as the curator of the Grant Museum. I’m off to pastures new with far less in the way of fossil fish, underwhelming or otherwise.

    But that’s no reason to get too sentimental. So stiff upper lip, wipe away those fake allergy tears and let’s unceremoniously take a look at this month’s underwhelming fish fossil. Stretch your eyes and try to stay awake through this… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: July 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 July 2015

    According to Wikipedia, the rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in three are inherently funnier, more satisfying or more effective than other numbers of things. However, in recent years, scholars have been unearthing a mountain of evidence to suggest that the rule be downgraded to, at best, a rule of thumb, with the more militant scholars going as far to say it should be the curse of three, citing Hobbit films,  the nephews of Donald Duck and Brontë sisters as key evidence. This month’s underwhelming fossil fish was once in three parts but has been stuck together using sticky back plastic and chewing gum expertly and still isn’t very interesting.

    Tentative introduction over, welcome to July’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month, a monthly foray into the deeply dull and noteunworthy world of fossil fish from the Grant Museum collection. If I were you, I’d recommend going and making yourself a tea or coffee. That’s a much better use of your time. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2015

    Fresh Prince of Nairnshire. LDUCZ-V1811 fossil masquerading as Will Smith from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

    LDUCZ-V1181. Fresh.

    Now, this is the story all about how
    My life got flipped-turned upside down
    And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there
    I’ll tell you how I became an underwhelming fish fossil.




    This might be how this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month would introduce itself, were it not a fossil fish and if fish could rap in the first place and if fish were keen fans of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and if the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was aired in the Devonian. But unfortunately it is, they can’t, they’re not and it wasn’t. So it’s down to me to introduce yet another monthly underwhelming fossil fish in my mission to increase global fishteracy and to temporarily shine a spotlight on unloved museum specimens.

    As you can tell from the flimsy preamble, there’s not much to say about this month’s specimen so back away from the edge of your seat and lower your expectations. We’re in for a uneventful ride.

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 May 2015

    It’s only taken a total of 30 months of monthly underwhelming fossil fish, but the series has finally received the overdue recognition that it deserves. The series, which stops to take a look at the less sexy, less interesting and generally underwhelming fish fossils that every natural history museum has in its stores, has been recognised as a tour de force in the museum/palaeo/biology blogosphere. There are so many people to thank but I deserve most of the credit to be honest. I am of course talking about the first ever Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month fan art*. That’s when you know you’ve really made it. Here it be:

    Fossil fish fan art by Jan Freedman

    (c) Up-and-coming-palaeo-cartoonist and Curator of Natural History, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, Jan Freedman

    This cartoon, showing a bald lady talking to Brian May about fossil fish was first unveiled at last week’s Natural Sciences Collections Association conference, Museums Unleashed, about the power of social media and sums up this blog series in one image. But that’s enough boasting about how underwhelming fossil fish transcend media, we all knew this to be true so without further ado let’s clamp our peepers on this month’s rough in the diamonds. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: April 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 April 2015

    As we know from the documentary The Devil Wears Prada, fashion is really important because the styles we see on the catwalk today are ridiculous things that nobody in their right mind would wear but then Anne Hathaway dresses nicely and that helps her write Harry Potter and get a boyfriend. How is this relevant to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month, our monthly journey through the museum drawers of uninspiring fossil fish? Well, I’m going to let you into a little secret, a lot* of fashion designers are also keen palaeontologists and if you pay close attention you’ll see a lot of styles from deep time come back into fashion time and time again.

    /Cue segue.

    This month’s fossil fish is no exception. Some scholars** speculate that this month’s fossil fish inspired the more over-compensatory codpiece design of the 15th and 16th centuries so if you’re prone to tittering or fainting then do brace yourself for disappointment in 5- 4- 3- 2- 1.


    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: March 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 March 2015

    After last month’s deeply underwhelming fossil fish of the month the head of the network has been in touch to ask if I can sex it up a bit for everyone’s favourite month, March. So normally in this bit I go on about how this blog series is all about completely underwhelming fossil fish, here’s where you can read all the old ones etc. etc.  However, today I’ll inform you to strap yourself into whatever undergarments you find yourself wearing because this month I’m going for it. This is the first ever actinisitian underwhelming fossil fish of the month (take that, fictional network heads). I know right? Hype-tastic. What’s even more exciting is that this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is a non-coelacanthiform, coelacanthid, Coelacanthus which is a coelacanth but not the coelacanth (pronounced see-la-canth). But no! I’ve said too much. I should have kept some of the excitement for below. Let’s have a look at the star specimen in question:


    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: February 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 27 February 2015

    Welcome one, welcome all to February 2015’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. For the uninitiated, this blog series is an exploration of world of underwhelming fossil fish. Natural history museums are packed with millions of specimens but most aren’t the celebrated, charismatic, blockbusting Hollywood specimens. Most are uncelebratable data points. Broken, ugly and altogether uninteresting. This series, the whole of which you can browse through here (READER DISCRETION ADVISED: reading too many in one sitting may put you in a permanent state of torpor), focuses on the Grant Museum’s fossil fish collection. Month by month we swivel the spotlight onto one of our fossil fish specimens and contemplate the borderline mediocre. Why do we have these specimens? Can we learn something about ourselves by trying to stay awake reading about them? No. No of course we can’t.

    Matchstick props to keep your eyes open recommended for this one, set phasers to underwhelm. For series fans you may be slightly excited to learn it’s a return of the SPOT THE FOSSIL FISH format that nobody has been clamouring for!


    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: January 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 January 2015

    Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages. The Grant Museum proudly brings to you, the monthly blog series nobody is talking about. The underwhelmingest fossil fish. Occasional photos of the reverse of fossils. The underwhelming fossil fish of the month! This month, as with every month we’ve got exclusive content right here for January 2015. Now, normally I like to keep it low key. A bit hush hush. A bit dress-down. Not too much to get excited over. A little bit, how shall we say, “meh”. However, rifling through the drawers to find this month’s fossil star I was stopped mid-rifle by this specimen. It’s going to be a real challenge to keep this one underwhelming. People of all persuasions and orientations, lock up your partners and significant others because this month we’ve got a real looker of a fossil fish to kick start the year.

    I’m excited. Are you excited? Steel yourself for a swoon, here’s this month’s underwhelming fossil fish.


    The Top Ten Grant Museum Blogs of 2014

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 January 2015

    Happy New Year!

    At this time of year, as well as looking forward to the exciting things we hope to do in the coming year, it is customary to look back at the past one. On Twitter over the past week I’ve been tweeting the best of 2014’s blog – the Top Ten most viewed Grant Museum posts of last year. Looking back, it’s certain that we’ve had a top year in terms of blogging, with 136 posts from Team Grant, and over 100,000 page views across the UCL Museums blog. But what were the best posts?

    I’ve announced those ranking at 10 to 2 in the charts, and exclusively revealing here that the most popular post of 2014 is… (more…)