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UCL events news and reviews


Are museums failing us?

By news editor, on 9 March 2012

A distinguished panel of experts agreed that, in general, museums are failing the public they are intended to serve. That was the resounding opinion of four heritage professionals forming the panel for the UCL Institute of Archaeology’s debate entitled “Presenting the past” held on Monday 5 March.

David Clarke, former Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Scotland, complained that museums all display things the same way, slavishly sticking to a chronological walk through their exhibits, when the majority of visitors to a museum care little whether an artefact is 200 or 2,000 years old.

Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, described the majority of museum displays as “stultifyingly boring” and bemoaned the uniformity of approach. He highlighted the need for creativity in display in order to excite the public, in the same way that archaeologists and curators are excited by the past.


Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret; Screening and Q+A by the Petrie Museum

By Katherine Aitchison, on 7 February 2012

I’ll be honest; I was sceptical when I arrived at the screening of Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret on 31 January.

The programme detailed the mummification of a modern day man, Alan Billis, using Ancient Egyptian methods. I wasn’t sceptical that they could do it, although I have no real knowledge of the Egyptian embalming process, I thought it was probably quite straightforward – all you need is a lot of bandages right?

No, what I couldn’t get my head round was the purpose of the programme, what could we possibly learn from this experiment that could relate to everyday life today? With so few people leaving their body to medical science, I couldn’t help but see it as a waste of a great gift.

However, several minutes into the programme my first problem was resolved. Alan Billis left his body specifically for this project; it was his wish to leave a legacy that his grandchildren could relate to and could be proud of. A few minutes more and I could barely remember why I’d been so sceptical in the first place – I was fascinated.


The History of Collecting at the Petrie Museum

By James M Heather, on 6 December 2011

Nestled in between the Science Library and Medical Science buildings lies the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. This is a gem of a museum, an unexpected wealth of exhibits in the heart of UCL.

Last week it played host to Subhadra Das for her talk, ‘The Problem with Museums: A Case Study of the History of Collecting at the Petrie Museum’.

As the UCL Cultural Property Advisor and an ex-employee of the museum, Subhadra is well versed in the lore of the Petrie. Taking the Petrie as a case study, with specific reference to its namesake, the renowned Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, Das walked us through how this fascinating collection came to be, and how such collections might not be as glossy as they appear.


30 years and still counting: slowing the spread of HIV in a complex world – UCL Lunch Hour Lecture at the British Museum

By news editor, on 20 June 2011

This Lunch Hour Lecture by Professor Anne Johnson (UCL Infectious Disease and Epidemiology) took place at the British Museum on Thursday 16 June, poignantly almost thirty years to the day from when AIDS was first described writes Sarah Longair, Schools and Young Audiences Education Manager, British Museum.