The Grant Museum of Zoology re-opens, 17th March 2011
By Carly Schnabl, on 21 March 2011
After months of disarticulating, packing, measuring, heaving crates and boxes with priceless specimens around, unpacking, rearticulating and redisplaying the Grant Museum was officially opened last Thursday reports Mark Carnall, Curator, Grant Museum of Zoology.
Watch a film of the move here:
UCL colleagues as well as colleagues from the ZSL, former Grant Museum staff and museum curators from across the United Kingdom were in attendance. As part of responding to the invitation, guests were some of the first people to engage with the Grant Museum’s new initiatives to change the way natural history is ‘displayed’ in museums. Rather than providing visitors with information to passively absorb, we’ve tried to show that in fact there are a lot of tricky issues in biology and we want visitors to be empowered to contribute to how we organise the museum.
The first question which guests had to respond to with their invites was ‘pets vs. wildlife’. The pets that we keep, although they have positive benefits for wellbeing, are massively destructive to wildlife and the environment so although people may like both, a choice for one has effects on the other.
Wildlife proved to be the most popular but the voting continues…..
The evening began with an introduction from UCL Provost Professor Malcolm Grant to another Grant (no relation), Robert Grant, the founder of the collection.
Professor Steve Jones then officially opened the museum, highlighting that current biological research is merely an extension of historical research and previous techniques. Molecular research today is exactly the same as whole animal dissection, albeit to a finer level but with the same spirit of curiosity and with far less skill (soliciting some vocal responses from molecular biologists in the room).
Sally MacDonald, Director of UCL Museums, Collections and Public Engagement rounded off the introductory talks with a note of thanks to the dozens of UCL colleagues, volunteers and wider museum sector members who helped not only to move the museum but to transform it.
Anxieties about whether we’d done a good job with the new museum were quickly swept aside, the response from new visitors and old friends was overwhelmingly positive. We’d managed to retain the charm of the dense display of animal diversity within a much bigger space with much better accessibility and introduced new elements to the museum. Fellow museum professionals expressed interest in building on partnerships in the future with the new museum and already the diary is starting to fill up with seminars, workshops and other events working with our academic staff at UCL. In addition, the museum now has flexible display spaces specifically to highlight and interpret current research at UCL to a wider audience.
A number of new comments appeared on the museum’s interactive iPad digital displays, developed with colleagues in the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Digital Humanities with funding from the Public Engagement Unit on topics as diverse as whether it’s acceptable for museum to use casts, replicas and models through to issues on discussing the biology of race.
Now that the museum is officially opened the really hard work begins in maximising the use of the space and juggling the demand. The launch event showed that the museum makes for an excellent events space as well as a space for engaging activities, practical classes, seminars and lectures and the fantastic collection finally has a space it deserves.
Many thanks go to the team of people from Events who organised the evening and hopefully this will be the first of many great events in the new space!
Listen to speeches here:
Professor Malcolm Grant, Provost and President, UCL
Professor Steve Jones, UCL Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics
Sally MacDonald, Director, UCL Museums, Collections and Public Engagement