Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • Whales on the Road

    By Ruth Siddall, on 6 July 2017

    This weekend, 8th and 9th July, the Grant Museum is running an event of massive proportions – the Whale Weekender – when the public is invited to come and rebuild and clean their whale skeleton. Long before it came to the Grant Musuem, the whale in question begun life-after-death, in 1860, when it was sold to be toured around the country as a whole carcass. That particular venture did not go very well for anyone involved.

    This post is about dead whales touring the country on the back of lorries. There are not many things these days that provide pretty much no hits when Googled, but this subject seems to be one of them. You may well be asking why I would be Googling ‘Whales’ ‘Lorry’ ‘Supermarket Car Park’. Here is the answer…

    I was talking to my colleague Jack Ashby, Manager of the Grant Museum, about their upcoming #WhaleWeekender extravaganza, and he mentioned the incredible history of their specimen and its intended national tour. I told Jack that I remembered seeing a whale in the back of a truck when I was a kid in Salford in the early 1970s. Jack looked at me like I had said 1870s. On reflection there is certainly a circus side-show, freak-show element to this experience. Until speaking to Jack, I have not thought about this for years. (more…)

    Help us build and clean a whale skeleton

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 July 2017

    Some of the whale's backbone, in one of our stores.

    Some of the whale’s backbone, in one of our stores.

    This weekend we will be attempting to rebuild our largest specimen – a northern bottle-nosed whale skeleton. And we would like you to help us do it.

    The specimen’s story begins in 1860 when it was originally collected in Somerset, when an expedition set off across the Bristol Channel in pursuit of “two great fish” (as they were described by the local newspaper – whales are, of course, mammals) – one of which was brought back to land. After a period “on tour” as a whole carcass, the prepared skeleton was displayed hanging from the ceiling of the Weston Super-Mare Museum. It eventually came to the Grant Museum in 1948, but it had been dismantled into its separate bones. (Its full, remarkable story, including the use of entirely inappropriate whale-murdering equipment, misguided entrepreneurship, rancid carcasses, financial ruin, and the unusual tasks the wife of a 19th century curator might find herself doing, can be read in a previous post).

    At over eight metres long in life, different parts of the skeleton have been stored in different cupboards and cabinets across the Museum and its storerooms. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 273: The Narwhal Tusk

    By Jack Ashby, on 6 January 2017

    Happy New Year. It’s the start of January and we are all now staring face-first into the maw of 2017. Let’s hope it’s a good one. When the animal-owner of this week’s Specimen of the Week stares into anything, it has to do so at a distance. That’s because it has one of these giant straight tusks sticking horizontally out of the front of its face. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    Narwhal tusk. LDUCZ-Z2168

    Narwhal tusk. LDUCZ-Z2168

    (more…)

    Bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size – Vol. 1

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 March 2016

    The other day, two skulls were next to each other on the trolley – a capybara and a hyena. One is the world’s largest rodent, from the wetlands of South America, the other is a large carnivore from Sub-Saharan Africa, and as such are not often found together in museums.

    Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

    Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

    I was amazed that they were the same size. This inspired me to find other bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 210: the fin whale foetus

    By Will J Richard, on 19 October 2015

    Hello! Will Richard here, bringing you your weekly dose of specimen. And this time it’s a real giant. I did a quick calculation and the average fully-grown version is equal to 875 of me. That’s 10 more than the “maximum capacity” of a District line tube train, 10 and a half packed double-decker buses or 175 full cars. So in conclusion… it’s lucky that fin whales don’t commute. This week’s specimen is…

    LDUCZ-Z527 fin whale foetus

    LDUCZ-Z527 fin whale foetus

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 169

    By Dean W Veall, on 5 January 2015

    Scary MonkeyDean Veall here.  A very Happy New Year to all our readers. I thought I would start 2015 BIG, 26ft and 6in BIG to be quite exact. This specimen belongs to the group containing the biggest animals to have ever lived. It is also part of the BIGGEST ever fundraising campaign the Museum has ever run, Bone Idols: Protecting our Iconic Skeletons

    The Bone Idols project involves a series of interventions on 39 of our largely uncollectable specimens which includes re-casing some, completely remonting others and  cleaning of these specimens that have been on open display since the 1820’s. This week’s Specimen of the Week is……

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 108

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 4 November 2013

    There is a lot to celebrate around this time of year. Halloween was just a few days ago, bonfire night is tomorrow, and there were plenty of sparklers and fireworks over the weekend (my hamster wasn’t impressed). Plus there is the changing of the seasons, the onset of brown and orange leaves, and it’s reaching the time to dig out the very thick jumpers rather than the medium thick jumpers I’ve been wearing for the last month. It is tempting to write a blog about a species connected to any one of these festive events, so many creatures could be both realistically and tenuously linked to such times as this. But I’m not going to do any of that. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-Two

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 6 May 2013

    Scary MonkeyThe sun is here!! Wow, I had genuinely forgotten what being warm outdoors felt like. Other than the sweaty sort of warmth that comes from running for buses. Being rather more reptilian than the average Homo sapiens I am very much a hot weather person. My DNA decided at an early stage of my life to go against the grain of our hominid evolutionary path, the result of which is that I am a shockingly inefficient endotherm. Over the years I have spent any moment I am able, out of the UK, inserting myself wherever possible into a country with greater levels of UV. One of my favourite placements was at the Florida Museum of Natural History where I worked on a shark exhibition. Whilst there I saw and fell head over heels in love with a certain species that unquestionably warrants the use of words such as ‘beautiful’, ‘awe-inspiring’ and ‘breath taking’. We happen to have a foetus of this species in the collection, which makes for a good excuse to tell you all about this magnificent animal. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    Pinocchio’s not the only one who’s been inside a whale

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 November 2012

    WhaleFest 2012

    The entrance to WhaleFest 2012

    The entrance to WhaleFest 2012. Image by Emma-Louise Nicholls

    The sounds you hear in the main hall are those that would be heard on any SCUBA diving trip. The main difference being that every few seconds in this particular extravaganza of acoustic delights, whale songs and dolphin clicks break through the background noise. With very little imagination you could believe you really were underwater as a large number of life size whales and dolphins surround you and blue and green streams of crepe paper hang from the ceiling, looking like waves in the dimmed lights. This was WhaleFest, making an exquisite entrance into my life. (more…)

    A Tale of A Whale

    By Simon J Jackson, on 19 October 2012

    Earlier this year Mark Carnall, the Grant Museum Curator, and I uncovered a whale in our collection — well, actually the ‘long-dead’ skeleton of a whale. Initially, we were confronted with boxes of huge vertebrae mixed with ribs — specimens several times the size we are used to dealing with. After putting our detective caps on, we ascertained that most of these bones belong to the same animal as does the huge skull we have in our balcony collection area in the Museum. Going back to the historical records, there is an interesting story behind this specimen, which I thought would be nice to share with you … (more…)