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  • Specimen of the Week 293: The Cockchafer

    By Rowan J J Tinker, on 26 May 2017

    The common European cockchafer, Melolontha melonlontha. LDUCZ-L239

    The common cockchafer. LDUCZ-L239.

    Behold. What divine wings of clumsy bumbletude are brought in on the wind? Mitchamador
    Hark. Who buzzes and squeaks betwixt the trees? An Oak-wib
    Prod? It is I who takes rest beneath this loamy soil. The Snartlegog

    This week’s specimen is…

     

     

     

     

     

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    Specimen of the week 292: the horned lizard

    By Will J Richard, on 19 May 2017

    LDUCZ-X86 horned lizard

    LDUCZ-X86 horned lizard

    The Mexican plateau horned lizard (Phrynosoma orbiculare) is a small reptile native to the high plateau of Central Mexico. They are almost spherical, about the size of a 50p coin, and have two characteristic horn-like projections on their snout. They seem pretty harmless… THIS IS NOT THE CASE. As a last resort the tiny lizards can shoot streams of pressurised blood from the corners of their eyes, spraying predators over a metre and half away. At first this seemed the single grimmest thing I’ve ever read about any animal but it got me looking at other disgusting ways species choose to defend themselves. These are a few of my “favourites”…

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    Spotlight on the Slade: New findings

    By Martine Rouleau, on 17 May 2017

    UCL6602 Portrait of a Man, 1939 by Nancy Dorothea Craig-Barr. Name inscribed at upper right.

    Portrait of a Man by Nancy Dorothea Craig-Barr, 1939, UCL 6602. Name inscribed at upper right.

    Blog post written by Helen Downes, Paul Mellon Centre Research Curator

    Exciting findings continue to emerge from UCL Art Museum’s Spotlight on Slade, the research and cataloguing project generously supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
    Recent findings have unearthed new information about Slade artists and have focused attention on the cataloguing process itself and how artists, subjects and meanings can be subsumed and potentially lost through the process of cataloguing.
    As I work through the Slade Drawings collection, looking at each work, checking and updating title, date and artist information, I am also recording the numerous inscriptions on the works. These can range from artist signatures to notes by the student or the tutor, a scribbled record of a prize won or a subject drawn. Many record the old ‘Slade No.’ which corresponds with the original Slade record slip detailing the artist, title, subject and prize awarded. A whole group of works have been carefully inscribed by Randolphe Schwabe (Slade Professor 1930 – 1948). Interesting itself is how the ink has faded and its constituency altered, now appearing as if pencil has been meticulously and precisely overwritten in ink.

     

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    Specimen of the Week 291: Leech Embryo Models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 12 May 2017

    Back in January, this blog featured a set of 36 wax models which were chosen by UCL Museum Studies students as a research project for their Collections Curatorship course. At that time, the models were a complete mystery. They were unidentified, undocumented and unaccessioned.

    I’m thrilled to report that we now have answers! Due to the brilliant efforts of students Nina Davies, Clare Drinkell and Alice Tofts the wax models are no longer a mystery. Here they are (again) – this week’s Specimens of the Week are the…

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    Specimen of the Week 290: The awful Bosc monitor lizard

    By Jack Ashby, on 5 May 2017

    Taxidermy Bosc monitor lizard. LDUCZ-X1314

    Taxidermy Bosc monitor lizard. LDUCZ-X1314

    Taxidermy appears to being going through a period of popularity at the moment. Hipsters and fans of geek-chic have realised what many of us already knew – natural history is cool. Gastro-pubs and boutique coffee shops are widely using it as decoration (I wonder whether they know that it’s probably been covered in arsenic to stop it being eaten by moths and beetles – not the best things to have around food and drink), there are excellent museum installations exploring it, and there are taxidermy classes being offered all over the place. However, some of it is truly awful (perhaps that’s part of the charm?), including this week’s Specimen of the Week… Read the rest of this entry »

    Curiosities from UCL’s Cabinet

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 May 2017

    Guest post by Rebecca Reynolds

    ‘Curiosities’ seem to be popping up a lot on TV, radio and the web recently – such as in Radio 4’s Museum of Curiosity, where guests donate objects to a vast imaginary museum, and Professor Hutton’s Curiosities, the Discovery Channel’s 2013 series exploring quirky museums from around the UK (including the Grant Museum).

    As many will know, these titles take their cue from cabinets of curiosities, collections kept by physicians, naturalists, explorers and wealthy amateurs throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Surviving objects from these cabinets are still on show – one is the Chaucer stone, a piece of flint broken open to show the shape of the poet’s face, in the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery; another is Powhatan’s mantle in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford; yet another is ‘the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary’ in the Natural History Museum, a dried fern which people loved to believe was half animal, half plant.

    Egyptian cat goddess Bastet from the Petrie Museum. UC30384

    Egyptian cat goddess Bastet from the Petrie Museum. UC30384

    Three objects from UCL Museums ended up in my own cabinet of curiosities, a book published in February this year. Read the rest of this entry »

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month April 2017

    By Mark Carnall, on 2 May 2017

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the monthly union of a fossil fish and the acknowledgement of how underwhelming this fossil fish is, in holy blogimony, which is an honourable estate, that is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and soberly.

    This month’s fossil fish, is what we call in the palaeontological trade “a bit of alright”, that is, it is aesthetically rather on the ‘girl you gonna make me sweat’ end of the fossil fish scale. Don’t claim you haven’t been warned as this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is revealed before you as it will be in three, two, one… Read the rest of this entry »

    Specimen of the Week 289: Proavis Wax Model

    By Hannah Cornish, on 28 April 2017

    This week we bring you a charming and slightly mad model of an animal that never was. Look, up on the shelf! It’s a bird! It’s a dinosaur! No, specimen of the week is…

    Proavis wax model LDUCZ-X1180

    Proavis wax model LDUCZ-X1180

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    How did it get like that?

    By Will J Richard, on 26 April 2017

    Grant Museum Visitor Services Volunteer Nicole Barber answers a question often put to her by the museum’s visitors…

    How did it get like that?

    Surrounded by the Grant Museum’s many exciting specimens, it’s not often you think of the painstaking preparation that went into each one before they were put on display. (Or at least I don’t, I’m usually far more interested in what’s in the case rather than how it got there.) The process of preparing zoological specimens is a lengthy one, involving some complicated and often quite gory techniques. The specimens in our collection have been pickled, taxidermied, pinned, stained, disarticulated, and re-articulated to make them educational and interesting to both researchers and the general public. We’ve previously explored some of the more unusual display techniques such as staining with red alizarin, or (and don’t pretend you don’t know which specimen this is) cramming things into jars, but what about our more traditional skeletal specimens?

    LDUCZ-Z2701 baboon skeleton

    LDUCZ-Z2701 baboon skeleton

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    Specimen of the Week 288: Pipistrelle bat skull

    By Dean W Veall, on 21 April 2017

     

    Pipistrelle sp. LDUCZ-Z617

    Pipistrelle sp. LDUCZ-Z617

    Hello Specimen of the Week fans, Dean Veall here. This week I have chosen a specimen that requires some very delicate handling as it’s a tiddler. The specimen is beautifully delicate and I would say demonstrates expert skills in preparation. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

     

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