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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


An itch I cannot scratch

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 14 June 2011

Adoption posterWhen I started my job at the Grant Museum of Zoology one of my roles was to sort out the adoption scheme that, due to an eight month period of closure, needed some… attention.

Now as anyone who knows me personally will attest, when I do a job, I like to do it well. During my A-Levels I was the first person in my particular recruitment batch to achieve all five gold stars at McDonalds. By quite some weeks. This work ethic definitely applies to a job I actually care about. However there is one not at all subtle difference- at McDonalds I didn’t have an arch nemesis thwarting my every attempt to achieve my goals. Unlike at the Grant Museum…


The offenderThe new museum is spectacular and if you haven’t visited yet I suggest you take a look back through your calendar and consider what on earth you have been doing with yourself. The room we are now in was originally a medical library and is a grandiose mix of cupboards and cubby holes in uber numbers, crannied walls, intricate railings and shelves up to the exquisitely high ceiling. However, the builder who placed the foundation stone on the 11th June 1906, clearly lacked the foresight to know that one day this room would have the ultimate honour bestowed upon it and become the domicile of the Grant Museum. As such, amongst other things, the shelves lack doors, meaning the specimens are effectively in no-man’s land. As all specimens (especially small… in particular jeans-pocket-sized-specimens) are agoraphobic, this is an issue. The temporary solution appeared in the form of perspex.


Unobtainable adoption labelThese sheets of perspex were the best we could do at the time and a somewhat genius temporary solution to the problem. Unless of course, you want to get to the specimens. There are several adoption labels behind the perspex that are out of date, and several new ones champing at the bit to go in. But the perspex, like a near-invisible force field, stands between me and a state of serene perfection for my beloved adoption scheme. I am left to helplessly paw at the sleek and mockingly thin sheet of may-as-well-be-steel and gaze forlornly at the specimens that I need to re-label. They look back at me with an expression of nonchalance but I know they feel my pain and their emotions are in a state of mirrored anxiety.


DesperationSo onwards we travel. Until a solution can be found, the perspex will remain and my pain will continue. Like an itch I cannot scratch, the perspex quietly mocks me as it gathers dust thrown up by the incessant early morning building work next door which it viciously collates on its diabolically magnetic surface to slowly but surely thicken its width and increase the distance between my quarry and me. I’ve started to have dreams about breaking in at night and tearing it down but I fear they would know it was me?

7 Responses to “An itch I cannot scratch”

  • 1
    Chris Allen wrote on 14 June 2011:

    Ah, so this is obsession. When a simple change is impossible due to an factor beyond your control rendering you completely impotent. Madness this way lies.

  • 2
    Viktor S. Poór wrote on 14 June 2011:

    Can’t you install hinges and locks? It might not look professional, but you could open cabinets.

  • 3
    Daniel Morse wrote on 14 June 2011:

    I don’t know how it would stand with the public H&S regulations but as a temporary measure multiple strips of adhesive-backed velcro arranged around the edges should be strong enough to hold the perspex sheet securely in place whilst allowing a removal procedure that doesn’t involve repeatedly loosening screws from Grade I listed cabinets. Velcro is also noisy enough to provide its own alarm system.

  • 4
    Celine West wrote on 15 June 2011:

    What you need is magnetic tape. I may even have some at the back of a cupboard.

  • 5
    Emma-Louise Nicholls wrote on 15 June 2011:

    Wow, that’s a great response! Thank you so much for your suggestions everyone!

    Viktor- Yes, this would be absolutely fantastic and is a highly coveted solution. Unfortunately, a quote for that exact thing came to £70’000!!! Which is sadly about 1000 years worth of museum budget!

    Daniel and Celine- both superb suggestions, thank you for the inspiration! Both Mark and Jack are away until the middle of next week so I will forward these great suggestions and see what we can do

    The powers that be are working on resolving the situation with a permanent solution, though in the mean time:
    Chris- “Madness this way lies”?? Hmmm, I fear you may be on to something…

  • 6
    Table wrote on 28 March 2012:

    you feel helpless about the situation. You have got an itch, that you cannot scratch its way down on your back now but you are itching that scratch all night and day. You are always trying to find a way to make it end but it’s like a persecussion. You need to find a cure because it became an obsession and you seem to be held in a trap in which it is difficult for you to escape. In the previous posts, someone already suggested a magnetic tape, I thinks it can help you. These permanent solutions could be useful while waiting to find a radical one.

  • 7
    Jobs In Darlington wrote on 21 November 2013:

    I know it’s a bit late but I was looking through some of the archived posts and saw this one (I read a lot of blogs). Did you ever manage to get it sorted? I saw the magnetic tape comment, I’d be interested to see if it actually worked.


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