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  • 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…)

    Ordinary Animals in the Classroom

    By Tannis Davidson, on 6 December 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Dr Brendan Clarke (UCL Science and Technology Studies)

    Some biological principles are hard to understand from words and images alone, because life exists in three dimensions. This is where museum specimens come in.

    However, some features are too small to observe in real life. Alongside microscope slides, wax models of enlarged embryos were widely used to teach biology between 1850 and about 1950. Most of the wax models in the Grant Museum collection represent exotic material – hard to obtain or to handle – like this series of human embryos produced by the Ziegler studio in Germany c1880:

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    LDUCZ-Z430 Ziegler Studio wax model series showing the development of the external form of human embryos

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 291: Leech Embryo Models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 12 May 2017

    Back in January, this blog featured a set of 36 wax models which were chosen by UCL Museum Studies students as a research project for their Collections Curatorship course. At that time, the models were a complete mystery. They were unidentified, undocumented and unaccessioned.

    I’m thrilled to report that we now have answers! Due to the brilliant efforts of students Nina Davies, Clare Drinkell and Alice Tofts the wax models are no longer a mystery. Here they are (again) – this week’s Specimens of the Week are the…

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 286: The Notebook Models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 7 April 2017

    Practical Zoology Notebook

    Student Notebook 1911

    As is often the case, it is difficult to choose a single specimen to highlight in this blog. The Grant Museum has 68,000 specimens and each one has a story to tell. Sometimes the stories are connected and link specimens together in unexpected ways, which is why this week’s focus is on a quartet of specimens, rather than one.

    At first glance the four specimens may not appear to have much in common. One is a glass jellyfish, two are wax models of different parasitic worms and the other no longer exists. What they do share is a common history of use, artistic beauty and legacy. This week’s Specimens of the Week are…
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    Specimen of the Week 275: Mystery wax models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 20 January 2017

    In a departure from tradition, this week’s blog will focus on what we don’t know about a specimen, rather than what we do know. The reason being is that the specimen in question is rather mysterious. All of the usual pieces of information which can help identify a specimen are lacking  – no number, no entry in the accession records, no associated documentation and no taxonomic information.

    A perfect candidate for some major research which is why it was ‘auctioned’ as a mystery object to this year’s students taking part in the Collection Curatorship class as part of their MA in Museum Studies at UCL. The aim of this course is to introduce students to the core skills of a curator : to understand objects and how to research them.  Luckily for us, the ‘natural history’ group chose this specimen and are about to flex their collective research muscles in order to help identify this specimen…

    Grant Museum of Zoology Mystery wax models

    Grant Museum of Zoology Mystery wax models

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    Specimen of the Week 250: Model of a crayfish embryo

    By Tannis Davidson, on 29 July 2016

    In honour of the 250th Specimen of the Week, as well as the new wax model display in the Museum, it seemed fitting to choose a show-stopper of a specimen which is so fabulously bizarre that you might describe it as being out of this world.

    This odd ball regularly puzzles the onlooker as to its identity and often reminds folk of a certain ‘perfect organism’ whose ‘structural perfection is matched only by its hostility’ *.

     

    The wait is over, science fiction fans. This week, we pay tribute to the most magnificent, perfectly evolved predator to scare us from the silver screen… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 244: The historic wax flatworm

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 June 2016

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    Since its inception in 1828, the Grant Museum of Zoology collections have always been used for teaching. This continues in the present day and the Museum welcomes students from across UCL for a wide variety of specimen-based practicals, course work and research projects.

    Today we maintain detailed lists of specimens which are used in classes but I’ve often wondered what the early object-based teaching practicals looked like and which specimens were used.

    Fortunately, the Museum has some relevant archives which have identified an extraordinary specimen that had been used in teaching at UCL 130 years ago. It is not only one of the oldest specimens in the collection, but also one of the most beautiful.

    Take a journey back in time with this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    (more…)