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  • Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 May 2015

    It’s only taken a total of 30 months of monthly underwhelming fossil fish, but the series has finally received the overdue recognition that it deserves. The series, which stops to take a look at the less sexy, less interesting and generally underwhelming fish fossils that every natural history museum has in its stores, has been recognised as a tour de force in the museum/palaeo/biology blogosphere. There are so many people to thank but I deserve most of the credit to be honest. I am of course talking about the first ever Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month fan art*. That’s when you know you’ve really made it. Here it be:

    Fossil fish fan art by Jan Freedman

    (c) Up-and-coming-palaeo-cartoonist and Curator of Natural History, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, Jan Freedman

    This cartoon, showing a bald lady talking to Brian May about fossil fish was first unveiled at last week’s Natural Sciences Collections Association conference, Museums Unleashed, about the power of social media and sums up this blog series in one image. But that’s enough boasting about how underwhelming fossil fish transcend media, we all knew this to be true so without further ado let’s clamp our peepers on this month’s rough in the diamonds. Read the rest of this entry »

    Re-Launch of UCL Art Museum HQ

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 28 May 2015

    UCL Art Museum Re-Launch Private ViewIt’s been an exciting few months for UCL Art Museum’s HQ with the completion of reburbishment work and the opening of our Re-Launch summer exhibition. Our main space may sit on a footprint that is just short of that of half a tennis court but for a space so small we have big ambitions and a wide reach. The room is designed on the model of a traditional Print Room with over 8,000 works on paper carefully stored in our cabinets, the earliest dating back to 1470’s and works are right up to the present day with Slade school of art prize winners being added, making our collection alive and current. We’re a little gem of a collection, hidden away to the right of the main portico in Wilkin’s neoclassical main building. The aim of the re-furbishment was to shine a light on this gem of a space collection and make it more accessible and practical to use for our audience, improve our teaching and research facilities and enable us to welcome more people into the Art Museum. A lot of the re-burbishement is invisible; electrical wiring behind walls and under floor boards, new security measures, improved use of space and some new lighting to show off our beautiful flaxman plasters.

    Janne Malmros' work The Hunt on paper

    The Hunt (with Origin of the Species), Janne Malmros, 2015

    At the same time as re-opening the space we launched our summer exhibition Re-Launch. This exhibition presents a selection of objects, prints and video made in response to our collections and the theme of re-launch. Its contributors hail from the Slade School of Fine Art and have participated as students in our celebrated annual Slade/UCL Art Museum collaborations over the course of the past six years. The exhibition’s run is from 27 April-12 June, Mon-Fri, 1pm-5pm.

    Participating artists in the exhibition are; Ian Giles, Jonathan Kipps, Katja Larsson, Nadine Mahoney, Julia McKinlay, Milou van der Maaden,Janne Malmros, Kate Keara Pelen, Cyrus Shroff, Printers’ Symphony

    UCL Art Museum Re-Launch exhibition

    Column, Jonathan Kipps, 2015

    UCL Art Musuem Re-Launch

    Another More Extended Sleight-of-hand, Cyrus Shroff, 2015

    We had over 400 people come to our Private View events in April and May and it was wonderful to welcome artists, supporters, students, colleagues, art professionals and academics to celebrate and share in our achievements with us. You can see more photos from the events on UCL News Flickr. Since opening we’ve had 1,300 people come and see the exhibition and have been getting lots of really positive comments back.

    Re-Launch exhibition Private View

    UCL Art Museum Re-Launch exhibition Private View

    As part of the public programme accompanying Re-Launch we have run a number of events including a lunchtime talk with artist Nadine Mahoney on 12 May about her work Once More with Feeling, included in the exhibition. She also talked about how she’d taken inspiration from the collection by taking on the daunting task of looking at every single portrait we have, paying particular interest to those portraits where the sitter is anonymous.

    UCL Art Museum Relaunch Private View

    Once More with Feeling, Nadine Mahoney, 2015

    We also worked in partnership with Zabludowicz Collection on a two day symposium Collecting the Emerging, which involved academics, curators, collectors and artists coming together to examine issues around collecting new and experimental art and what it means to be an emerging artist. It was a fascinating few days with over 200 people in attendance, some great speakers and some lively debates covering economic and aesthetic value in the emerging art market; emerging practice and its relationship to historical narratives and collections; and how the current enthusiasm for collecting contemporary art impacts on artists practices that are still at an early stage. Speakers included Edward Allington Professor of Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, Louisa Buck independent critic/Contemporary Art Correspondent, The Art Newspaper, Dr. Ben Cranfield Director, Doctoral Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies, School of Arts, Birkbeck and Sarah Thelwall Creative and Cultural Industries Strategist amongst others. Dr Tim Vermuelen, Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies and Theory at the University of Nijmegen gave the key note speech with highlights including anaologies of the art market being like the film Finding Nemo; in the sense that we’re all swimming in our own specific waters and this affects how we behave as artists, collectors, art professionals, to discussions around Nirvana, Tony Blair, consumeriam and the cultural state of the 1990’s compared to now, creating a comparison with our current cultural experience.

    Collecting the Emerging SymposiumOn the Friday evening we went to Zabludowicz Collection to have a guided tour of their 20 Years exhibition and to experience an amazing performance piece by artist Laura Buckley, commissioned especially for the symposium. Throughout the symposium, the conversations ranged from the academic, theoretical, philosophical, commercial to the very practical ways in which emerging artists can survice and keep their practice going. We were delighted to be able to partner with Zabludowicz Collection on this and hope that this will just be the start of a continuing relationship with them and a chance for us to programme similar events and collaborations where the Art Museum initates, hosts and engages in issues around contemporary art supported by a historical and collections based background of research and experience.

    Jenny Wedgbury is Learning and Access Officer for UCL Art Museum

    Finding meaning in the Thermionic valve

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 26 May 2015

    This guest blog has been written by Kelsey Svaren, a placement student who has been working with us over the past few months. 

    Hi, my name is Kelsey and I am current MA Museum Studies student here at UCL. As part of my program, I am required to undergo a placement where I work on a museum related project. I have spent the last month working closely with Nick Booth, curator of the Electrical Engineering Collections at UCL. I have spent this time researching the numerous thermionic valves in the collection.

    Before I started my placement, I had a vague idea of what a thermionic valve is. I knew that it could be used in technologies, such as radios and telephones, to receive and amplify radio signals. Other than that, I was pretty clueless. Since I have started my placement, I have learned more about thermionic valves than I ever thought I would!

    One of Flemings original experimental valves.

    One of Flemings original experimental valves.

    The thermionic valve is especially important to UCL, because it’s inventor, John Ambrose Fleming was a professor at UCL and helped to develop the Electrical Engineering Department that we see today.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 189: Actinia equina

    By Rachel H Bray, on 26 May 2015

    Image of a marine specimen represented in glass

    LDUCZ – C373 – All seems peaceful in this bell jar…

     

     

    We have had both an ethics and an art angle during the last week at the Grant Museum which you might have noticed if you attended some of our events. The Strange Creatures Late featured live, ethical taxidermy with Jazmine Miles-Long and the Great Grant Knit-A-Thon included talks from History of Art PhD student and Strange Creatures c0-curator Sarah Wade about craftivism, poaching and habitat destruction. And so, it seemed particularly appropriate to have an aesthetically pleasing, ethically sensitive representation of a specimen this week!

     

     

     

     

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 188: Spirorbis worms

    By Mark Carnall, on 18 May 2015

    Close up of LDUCZ G105 Spirorbis preserved in fluid

    LDUCZ-G105 Care to guess what it is. A sea pen, barnacles?

    If you check our specimen of the week widget, where you can see all past specimens of the weeks the vertebrates, in particular mammals, still dominate despite being a comparatively small group of animals. This week I’m going to focus attention on a far less furry or ferocious invertebrate animal because let’s face it they just don’t get the PR the Hollywood Animals do.

    If you ever whiled away an afternoon at the beach rockpooling, you’ve undoubtedly come across these animals but may not have noticed or recognised them.

    This week’s specimen of the week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Fish printing and reanimating the dead

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 14 May 2015

    IMG_1779

    Inking the fish

    How do you reanimate things that are dead? Since beginning my role as Artist in Residence at the Grant Museum I’ve been worrying at this question. My focus is on the Museum’s collection of glass sponges, but over the past six months these extraordinary animals have pushed me down other paths to explore. Some of these have led to very productive failures.

    I’m thinking in particular of my attempts at waterless lithography, which is printing technique that uses silicone (in the form of bathroom sealant) to repel ink. You draw an image on a piece of metal, cover it in bathroom sealant and then once it is dried you wash the metal and the sealant will come off the areas on which you drew your picture. You now have a negative of your picture, which you can ink up and put through a printing press. I thought this was an ideal technique and material with which to explore glass sponges, which are themselves formed of silica. However, the problem came when I looked closer at the bottle of silicone remover that I was using – printed on the back of the label was a drawing of a dead fish. These chemicals are deadly to sea creatures if they enter their ecosystem. It seemed particularly grim for me to pursue a method of making images that could potentially kill its subject.

     

    I’ve recently been exploring another fishy route. I had been told about an old Japanese technique called Gyotaku, which translates as ‘fish rubbing’. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 187: The Tamandua Hand

    By Will J Richard, on 11 May 2015

    LDUCZ-Z2745 Tamandua manus

    LDUCZ-Z2745 Tamandua manus

    Hello! Will Richard here, bringing you another Specimen of the Week.

    This month I’ve decided to start with a reading from one of my poems.

    I call this “Specimen”.

    Ahem ahem.

    The hand is in the jar.

    The hand of a tamandua?

    It might seem quite bleak as my choice for this week

    but read on and you might just say “ahhh!”

    Or you might not.

    Either way, this week’s specimen of the week is…

     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Rock Room Slade School Takeover – Part 3

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 May 2015

    One of the art works from the  Slade event in the Rock Room.

    One of the works from a previous Rock Room Slade event.

    This Friday (May 8th) between 1 – 5pm the Rock Room will host its annual Slade School takeover. This is the third instalment of the joint UCL Museums and Slade School of Fine Art project (see a blog on the last one here) which has seen staff and students from the Slade install art works that include sculpture, painting and various mixed media (including cheese, fish and other foodstuffs) into the Rock Room.

    As with past years I have no idea what the artists will be bringing to display in the Museum. Read the rest of this entry »

    The earliest Strange Creatures: Europe’s first meetings with marsupials

    By Jack Ashby, on 5 May 2015

    There is a popular British colonial narrative in which Captain James Cook “discovered” Australia in 1770, as demonstrated by this Google autofill:

    Evidence that James Cook discovered Australia

    Evidence that James Cook indeed discovered Australia

    In reality, not even Cook thought this was true. Australia had been known by the French, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch (hence its original European name “New Holland”, which Cook himself used) for at least two hundred years before Cook landed in the southeast of the country on his ship HMS Endeavour. Obviously Indigenous Australians and their neighbours also had been there for around 50,000 years.

    The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo), George Stubbs (1772). ZBA5754 (L6685-001). National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London*

    The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo), George Stubbs (1772). ZBA5754 (L6685-001). National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

    Our current exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals explores how newly discovered animals are communicated to the public back home. It is is centred around a painting that resulted from that voyage of Cook’s – a kangaroo by George Stubbs. This is the first painting of an Australian animal in Western art. As I wrote in the exhibition text:

    This painting helped begin Europe’s relationship with Australian wildlife. Commissioned by legendary naturalist Joseph Banks, painted by celebrated animal artist George Stubbs, and based on findings from Captain Cook’s famous voyage, this kangaroo truly captured the country’s imagination.

    Stubbs’ image became the archetype for representations of kangaroos for decades – reproduced and refigured prolifically. It may not be anatomically perfect, but this is how Britain came to know the kangaroo.

    It is an emblem of the age of exploration at the historical threshold of the European occupation of Australia. Nothing was ever the same again.

    Here I’d like to explore some of the meetings between Europeans and Australiasian marsupials that preceded Cook’s visit. Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 186

    By Tannis Davidson, on 4 May 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineSometimes a specimen can tell you a little. Sometimes it can tell you a lot. There has been much written on this blog about the perils and pitfalls of museum documentation. Sometimes there is no information with a specimen – no accession record, no acquisition information, no species name and (occasionally) no specimen. Objects get lost and misplaced. Historical records are incomplete or indecipherable. Specimen labels become separated from their object.

    Alternatively, some specimens may have (dare I say it) too much information which may include multiple numbers, several differing records, erroneous taxonomic information or questionable identifications.

    Caring for a collection entails many things but first and foremost is to identify the collection itself – through all possible means including the consolidation of any (and all) associated information. When luck prevails, one may find a scrap (literally) of information which ties it all together – a word or two which allows a specimen to be given a name, a record, a life!

    Recently while going through the bird drawers, I came across an unaccessioned skull and mandible together with its associated information (unclear object number, outdated taxonomic name) including a  small piece of paper with two words: “El Turco”. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
    Read the rest of this entry »