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UCL events news and reviews


Lunch Hour Lectures on Tour: A book by any other name would smell as sweet

By James M Heather, on 28 June 2012

The UCL Lunch Hour Lectures, currently on tour to the British Museum, offer the free chance to break up a busy working day with a thought-provoking mini-lecture. I went along to the third instalment on 21 June, which was given by Dr Matija Stlic from the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage.Go on, give it a sniff

Dr Strlic’s job is one of those that you never found out about in career days at school; he uses applied chemistry to protect our cultural heritage. This week’s talk was all about his work on paper and the importance of its smell.

There’s nothing quite like a smell for triggering memories. Like many other people, I think the smell of old books takes me back to many happy places; finding old family documents in the back of my grandparents’ cupboards, wandering through old libraries with my parents, or rooting through second-hand bookshops as a student.


Virtual visitors

By Ben Stevens H P Stevens, on 27 June 2012

The subtitle of Dr Melissa Terras’ Lunch Hour Lecture at the British Museum on 14 June asked an intriguing question: why would anyone want to visit the virtual British Museum (BM) collections online? After all, surely the allure of the Museum is seeing the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles or the spectacular Great Court in person?

The answer, as Dr Terras pointed out, largely depends on who you’re asking. The average tourist would undoubtedly say that they’d prefer to visit in person – hence why the BM received 5.8 million visitors in 2011.

However, when you look at traffic to its website in the same period, it received 10.5 million visits and 60 million page views. So, why the discrepancy?

As Deputy Director of UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities (UCLDH), Dr Terras is well versed in analysing this sort of online user data.

For this absorbing talk, she drew extensively on some analysis undertaken by two of her PhD students Claire Ross and Vera Motyckova, alongside colleagues at the Museum itself. They focused their study on the BM’s online collection database during the period 18 June 2009–17 June 2010.


At Home with the Neanderthals – Lunch Hour Lectures on tour

By Katherine Aitchison, on 12 June 2012

For the month of June 2012, the UCL Lunch Hour Lecture series has gone on tour to the British Museum and it was a sold out audience that awaited the first lecture of the series on Thursday 7June.

Most of the lectures are being held in the rather plush BP Lecture Theatre, which gives the event the feeling of a high-class university experience with its armed leather seats and its shiny red walls.

So, there was a real air of expectation as Dr Matt Pope of the UCL Institute of Archaeology took to the stage to tell us about his research into Neanderthal man’s living arrangements. And he delivered not only a fascinating insight into the development of Neanderthal dwellings but also into the very purpose and meaning of archaeology.

The invisible man
Dr Pope began by taking us back 600,000 years to the time of Homo heidelbergensis the suspected common ancestor of both us and Neanderthal man. He did so to demonstrate how “archaeologically invisible” Heidelberg man was.


The Mummy’s Curse: The Truth Behind an Edwardian Rumour

By Katherine Aitchison, on 29 May 2012

Anyone who knows anything about the horror genre will have heard stories of curses placed on tombs in Ancient Egypt to deter grave robbers and those who would plunder the graves of priests and pharaohs. But where do these stories come from and is there any truth behind them?

On 21 May Professor Roger Luckhurst of Birkbeck College presented the true story of a mummy’s curse to a packed Petrie Museum audience.

Or perhaps, I should say, he presented the truth behind the rumour as far as he could piece it together drawing from numerous different accounts. A little more convoluted as a turn of phrase, but much more accurate.

The mummy in question is, in fact, simply a coffin lid known as “The Unlucky Mummy”, or to give it its official name: British Museum object-22542.

This lid, once part of the last resting place of an unknown woman from a high-ranking family in the priesthood, was donated to the museum by the sister of Arthur F. Wheeler, the man who was believed to have brought it back from Egypt.

But the story surrounding the lid is full of intrigue, featuring a number of shooting accidents and suspicious deaths as well as a lost fortune and a picture of a ghostly face.