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Find the mind’s construction in the face: an exhibition of life and death masks

Sophie EPleterski11 June 2014

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I have to admit that this was my first visit to the UCL Art Museum. After walking past it twice, I finally stumbled across the entrance to this carnivalesque little treasure trove and almost immediately part of me wished I hadn’t.

Surrounded by rows of the plaster life and death masks of poets and murderers, professors and highwaymen, child prodigies and medics, it wasn’t very clear where in this bizarre spectacle you might want to begin.

Thankfully, it was at this point that Dr Carole Reeves (UCL Science & Technology Studies) swooped in to put what felt like a macabre examination of someone’s final moments into its historical context.

The masks were collected in mid 19th-century Dresden by amateur phrenologist Robert Nole to illustrate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types of people.

Donated to UCL as part of the Galton Collection in 1911, they exemplify the trend in 19th century aristocratic circles for pseudo-scientific hobbies. Nole’s particular predilection was phrenology: the study of head morphology and the belief that it is intrinsically linked to a person’s character.

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Drawing over the colour line

newseditor22 October 2012

Florence Mills by Alexander Stuart-Hill, 1927.

Written by Henry Green, intern with UCL Communications

For the uneducated, and I would very much plonk myself in that sprawling mass, awareness of the story of black and Asian people in the UK is patchy at best: jumping from slavery to post war immigration without too much in between.

As such, it was a real treat to attend this lecture, in which Dr Caroline Bressey (UCL Geography) ably used photographs, artwork and letters to illuminate the role that Black and Asian people played in the changing social, cultural and political scenes emerging in interwar London.

Her research has made full use of UCL’s gargantuan collection of paintings, collages and sketches, and some of these works featured on beautifully printed postcards distributed outside the lecture theatre. These were a welcome change from the usual bundle of black and white lecture notes and set the tone for a fascinating and visually stimulating hour.

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Grant Museum wins Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence

newseditor17 May 2012

Last night a contingent from UCL including colleagues from Museums and Public Engagement, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and Heritage Without Borders headed down to the illustrious premises of 8 Northumberland for the 10th Anniversary Museums and Heritage Awards.

In total three UCL projects had been shortlisted; the move of the Grant Museum for Project on A Limited Budget, the Grant Museum’s QRator project for Innovations and Heritage Without Borders for The International Award. Did we bring home the silver (glass)? Well from the title of this post you can gather we did but you’ll have to hit the jump to find out more..

We won the Innovations award for QRator: Visitor Participation Through Social Interpretation. Here’s what the award looks like, complete with our grubby finger prints from last night. Some of them may even be comedienne and broadcaster Sue Perkins’ who presented the award.

There’s a whole raft of people who need thanking and who were instrumental in the QRator project. In no order they are: Andrew Hudson-Smith and the original team behind Tales of Things from UCL Centre for Advance Spatial Analysis, Steven Gray from CASA who developed the QRator app and has been our 24/7 helpdesk ever since, Claire Ross from UCL Digital Humanities who worked with me originally in trialling QR codes in the Grant Museum and who has been instrumental in researching, supporting and spreading QRator, Melissa Terras and Claire Warwick also from Digital Humanities who have given continuous feedback on the project as well as share the burden of the numerous published papers on the project, Susannah Chan from UCL Museums and Public Engagement for inventing the mounts for the iPads, Grant Museum Manager Jack Ashby who writes the content and designs the displays for QRator, Grant Museum colleagues Emma-Louise Nicholls and Simon Jackson who moderate the content day in and day out, UCL Public Engagement Unit for their funding and support of the project, Sally MacDonald Director of UCL Museums and Public Engagement who has been a huge driving force behind the project and key to realising it and of course the visitors of the Grant Museum who interact with QRator and interpret the Grant collections. Without them this project would literally be nothing.

Read more of Mark Carnall’s entry on the UCL Museums & Collections Blog

The Body in Pieces

DavidShanks24 October 2011

‘The Body in Pieces’ selectively displays fragments from the UCL Great Ormond Street Hospital archive. Occupying a gatehouse building and part of the North Cloisters, this exhibition renders visible a curious collection of artefacts as they become objects of broad academic significance, after a former life at the Hospital’s research facilities, the UCL Institute of Child Health.

Most striking are the plaster casts that fill the windows of the ‘North Lodge’, visible to passers-by on Gower Street. This assortment of disembodied limbs and torsos document a variety of bone conditions found in young patients. Beautifully executed around 1870, all troubled from within and sparsely labelled, they leave huge scope for fresh interpretation.

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