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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for February, 2011

Labels, labels, labels

Mark Carnall7 February 2011

Well where does one go from the heady heights of boxes in museum collections? Well of course, it’s labels. I have a big pile of labels now made even bigger by last week’s discovery.  Some labels are all we have left of specimens which have since left the collection, other labels provide a key piece of information that can transform the ‘value’ of a specimen. However I’ve kept these to keep me sane in those days when nothing seems to be going right. I’ve been holding onto these two for quite a while so please indulge this cathartic post. the images have been slightly tweaked with so the writing is legible on a screen.

A post it note which reads Some none data none identified specimens not transferred onto paper record at this stage as ID required zill come back to at end

This first label gives a valuable insight into how a curator works. There’s some data? No, there’s no data? No actually there’s no data that I can find right now.  “Will come back to at end” is a fine epitaph for all walks of museum professional that I might well steal. (more…)

Poisoning cats – Week 2

Jack Ashby3 February 2011


Radio tracking in the Fitz

A delayed account of zoological fieldwork in Australia – Part 2

From April 2010 I spent about five months undertaking several zoological field projects across Australia. I worked with government agencies, universities and NGOs on conservation and ecology studies ranging from Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, the effect of fire, rain and introduced predators on desert ecology and how to poison cats. This series of blog posts is a delayed account  of my time in the field. (more…)

After the event: Would Darwin get a job in science today?

Mark Carnall2 February 2011

Darwin as a modern scientist

Darwin as a modern scientist?

Last night the Grant Museum hosted an event discussing the merits of ‘old school’ science based on observation and studying real things against ‘modern science’ in the lab using computer models and the like. This is a gross simplification but essentially strikes at the heart of last night’s event. Annoyingly, the idea for the event and one of our speakers was poached for the Today Programme on Radio 4 broadcast yesterday morning, which normally we wouldn’t mind, we even helped put them in touch with some of our panelists but the museum didn’t even get a credit. We have a very small team here and I hope our learning and access manager, Jack Ashby doesn’t cringe when I say he works very hard to schedule some really great events. This is unfortunate because for better or worse, media coverage does go a long way to justifying our existence as a cultural institution but sadly not getting credited does happen with some frequency. Anyway, on to the event itself. (more…)

Who is ‘the Man from Mitanni’?

Debbie J Challis1 February 2011

Museum research can be like detective work – like Sherlock Holmes in a filing cabinet. (If there are any Benedict Cumberbatch fans reading this, don’t get distracted by that image). A vital part of clue finding is not to trust what you are told by museum databases.

At the moment I am working on an exhibition and events programme around a series of photographs that the archaeologist Flinders Petrie took for ‘The Committee appointed for the purposes of procuring, with the help of Mr Flinders Petrie, Racial Photographs from the ancient Egyptian Pictures and Sculptures’. In actual fact, Petrie only received £20 from them. The scientist Sir Francis Galton gave almost £300 from ‘his own pocket’ towards the expedition in 1886-87. (More on Galton in future posts. . .). (more…)