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  • Is it ever acceptable for museums to lie?

    By Jack Ashby, on 16 April 2014

    I ask this question to our Museum Studies Masters students every year, and last month put it to our new Bachelor of Arts and Sciences students. Despite the difference in the age, background and interests of these two groups, the reaction is the same – anger and horror. I am playing devil’s advocate in these debates, but my own opinion is yes, there are circumstances when everyone benefits from museums lying.

    The lectures I discuss this in focus on object interpretation, and I use a tiger skull as a prop for discussing how to decide what information to include in labels. The choice of a tiger isn’t important – I just need something to use as an example I can attached real facts about natural history and conservation to, but I spend the two hours talking about tigers.

    Lion (left) and tiger (right) skulls. Or is it the other way round? LDUCZ-Z1644 and LDUCZ-Z396

    Lion (left) and tiger (right) skulls. Or is it the other way round? LDUCZ-Z1644 and LDUCZ-Z396

    At the end of the lecture I reveal that the skull is in fact from a lion. Everything else I told them about tigers is true. Did it matter that I lied? Read the rest of this entry »

    Pottery Project guest Blog: Pottery on the move.

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 15 April 2014

    Guest blog by Margaret Serpico

    In our fifth in the series on different perspectives on Egyptian pottery Mararet Serpico, Curator of Virtual Resources at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, looks at the topic of transporting commodities.

    I never cease to be amazed by the lengths ancient Egyptians and their neighbours went to transport goods back and forth to each other around the Mediterranean. Especially when it involved moving small, delicate pottery containers or, alternatively, large pottery storage jars (which even empty weigh a lot!) over great distances. We are lucky in the Petrie Museum to have a number of these large jars in the collection. Not only did they make it around the Mediterranean, but they also made it here to England.

    Example of a Canaanite amphora. Preserved height, 55.0 cm.

    Example of a large, 55 cm-tall Canaanite amphora in the  Petrie Museum.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 131

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 14 April 2014

    I have some extremely sad news to share with you. After three years of loving every minute (not as much sarcasm as you’d think) of working at my beloved Grant Museum, I am moving up the ladder and on to another museum. This of course is super exciting news for the most part, but it means that I will be leaving the Grant Museum at the end of April and thus, alas, will no longer be writing Specimen of the Week.

    Do not worry my friends, for the legacy shall continue. From the 5th May onwards, SotW will be written by other members of Team Grant so you will still get your weekly fix of specimen and species information. But as for me, next week is my penultimate Specimen of the Week blog. So I shall try to make sure my last three (counting this one) are REALLY good (though, obviously, I have always tried to make them REALLY good). This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    On the Origin of Our Specimens: The Lawrence Months

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 10 April 2014

    ‘The Thirteen’

    The collection of specimens, known since 1997 as the Grant Museum of Zoology, was started in 1827 by Robert E. Grant. Grant was the first professor of zoology at UCL when it opened, then called the University of London, and he stayed in post until his death in 1874. The collections have seen a total of 13 academics in the lineage of collections care throughout the 187 year history of the Grant Museum, from Robert E. Grant himself, through to our current Curator Mark Carnall.

    Both Grant and many of his successors have expanded the collections according to their own interests, which makes for a fascinating historical account of the development of the Museums’ collections. This mini-series will look at each of The Thirteen in turn, starting with Grant himself, and giving examples where possible, of specimens that can be traced back to their time at UCL. Previous editions can be found here.

    Number Ten: Michael Lawrence (1971 ‘for a few months’) Read the rest of this entry »

    The Mystery of the Norwood Petrie Portrait

    By Debbie J Challis, on 9 April 2014

    Last year I went to view two paintings at the Harris Academy, South Norwood: one is of the inventor and philanthropist William Ford Robinson Stanley and the other is of the archaeologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie.  Stanley is the original founder of the Harris Academy (formerly known as the Stanley Technical College) and the Stanley Halls next door. I am a trustee of the charity The Stanley Peoples’ Initiative

    Petrie

    A portrait of Flinders Petrie? (close up)

    which is taking the Stanley Halls into community management. Obviously I work at the Petrie Museum and so was intrigued and somewhat bewildered to have two portraits of people closely connected to organisations I am involved in and care about on my doorstep.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Why Twitter is good for museums – making discoveries

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 April 2014

    Using Twitter as a way of building a community of support, engaging people in content and shedding light on life behind the scenes in museums (that we don’t just dust stuff) is too obviously demonstrated by the real world to be spending too much time discussing. Not to mention the power to market events and exhibitions quickly and cheaply – assuming don’t over-use social media as a marketing tool.

    On Monday I conducted two pieces of “research” on our collection which sprung up out of the blue and would have been very difficult to solve without turning to our Twitter followers to tap their collective brain to find a quick answer. Both of them were on specimens that begin with “H” and end with “Bill”. Weird.

    Tweeting Turtles

    Hawksbill turtle showing his interesting eyes LDUCZ-X1177

    Hawksbill turtle showing his interesting eyes LDUCZ-X1177

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week: Week 130

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 7 April 2014

    I didn’t chose this week’s specimen, a friend did. But it is still a good one. Because all of our specimens are good. Not necessarily in terms of aestheticism, or durability, or say, smell… but all 68,000 are good. In one way or another. Unfortunately for both of us, I can only write about one at a time, but here it is. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… Read the rest of this entry »

    Pottery Project Guest Blog: Ceramic Inheritance

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 6 April 2014

    Guest Blog by Sisse Lee Jørgenser.

    In our fourth in the series on different perspectives on Egyptian pottery Sisse Lee Jørgensen, a student studying ceramics at The Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design Bornholm, Denmark, reveals how Petrie’s Sequence Dating inspired her recent installation.

    I was introduced to Petrie’s pots for the first time by the BBC4 program: “The Man Who Discovered Egypt”,  and it was through this documentary that I learnt about sequence dating.
    As a craftsperson today I found this  chronological ordering of ceramic vessels especially interesting, particularly the very striking development of form and design over time. Petrie’s findings illuminated crafting, culture and history, not just in the past but also  prompted me to reflect upon ceramic traditions today and the way in which old crafts are transformed and passed on, yet retain elements of the old ways.

    Flinders Petrie's classification of pottery. Frontispiece of Diospolis Parva (1901). Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

    Flinders Petrie’s classification of Predynastic pottery. Frontispiece of Diospolis Parva (1901). Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    11 Museum Blogger Questions for #MuseumWeek round 2

    By Mark Carnall, on 4 April 2014

    best-blogYou may have read my colleague Emma’s answers to 11 Museum Blogger Questions at this link. I’ve been nominated to answer 11 questions as a museum blogger by the formidable Jake McGowan-Lowe, author of Jake’s Bones, and you can read his answers at this link. The idea is to answer 11 questions about writing a museum blog and then like Kevin Spacey, passing it on. Here are my 11 answers to 11 questions.

     

     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    On the Origin of Our Specimens: The Mahoney Years

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 3 April 2014

    ‘The Thirteen’

    The collection of specimens, known since 1997 as the Grant Museum of Zoology, was started in 1827 by Robert E. Grant. Grant was the first professor of zoology at UCL when it opened, then called the University of London, and he stayed in post until his death in 1874. The collections have seen a total of 13 academics in the lineage of collections care throughout the 187 year history of the Grant Museum, from Robert E. Grant himself, through to our current Curator Mark Carnall.

    Both Grant and many of his successors have expanded the collections according to their own interests, which makes for a fascinating historical account of the development of the Museums’ collections. This mini-series will look at each of The Thirteen in turn, starting with Grant himself, and giving examples where possible, of specimens that can be traced back to their time at UCL. Previous editions can be found here Read the rest of this entry »