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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for July, 2011

So how was your day?

RachaelSparks30 July 2011

There was a bit of a buzz in the archaeological community last Friday, as an ambitious project known as the Day of Archaeology took place. Well, there’s lots of days out there: International Days for Peace, Mother Languages, Biological Diversity, Midwives, or World Days for Water, Mountains, Human Rights, and strangely enough, Television (Does it need its own day? Hasn’t it already taken over the world?). Not to mention the International Day of Awesomeness. So why not one for us archaeologists?

A curator's office - think of it as a work in progress.

The event was scheduled to coincide with the Festival of British Archaeology, and encouraged archaeologists from all around the world to write blog posts describing their day. A perfect solution, perhaps, to those people who ask –  ‘So you’re an archaeologist? But what exactly is it that you do?’. Well for one day, the answer was clear, with the chance to shadow some 400 archaeologists across all kinds of careers.

My own day centred around assisting researchers who had come to the Institute of Archaeology Collections to look at pottery, seal impressions, fakes and pastiches and Ptolemaic jewellery, while I wrestled with reboxing archives and European flint – you can see the full details of it all here.


All the news that fits

CelineWest28 July 2011

I read a tweet this morning which said something along the lines of “hey BBC, the London Olympics being one year away is Not news.” What makes news and how to get hold of it has been in the news recently (metanews?) and that’s made me wonder, what makes interesting news from a museum?

I edit our monthly online newsletter, which has two or three short articles each month and a list of upcoming events. The newsletter goes to whoever wants it and a list of people who signed up at the student freshers’ fair. (more…)

How not to impress your boss

Emma-LouiseNicholls21 July 2011

Erinaceus europaeus; European HedgehogI have just installed my very first exhibition at the Grant Museum (at any museum actually!) and I am very excited about it! We have a set of pigeon holes in the entrance. On an average day, we use them for the highly sensible and well thought out idea of collaborating with UCL staff and students to display exhibitions of their most recent accomplishments. However, outside of term time- we can freestyle!


Previously, we have installed an A – Z of animals to match the alphabet on the pigeon holes; ‘aardvark, brittlestar, cobra, dragonfly’… etc. Rather than repeat this, I decided to stick my oar in and ask to do a brand spanking new exhibition. I have dreams of researching and designing temporary exhibitions for natural history museums, so this was the perfect opportunity to set out on that particular yellow brick road of museum career omniscience. (more…)

Things people post to museums

JackAshby14 July 2011

On occasion, people like to send things to people who work in museums. You might guess that I’m talking about objects that people want to donate to the Museum – I’m not. This isn’t that common and for that we are grateful – we have a very strict acquisitions policy and are able to take on very few specimens from the public for ethical and administrative reasons.

My postcard

My postcard

Instead, I’m talking about things specifically meant for me. Myself and a colleague have both received the Atlas of Creation in the past – a spectacular book that must have cost a fortune to produce. It is filled with stunning pictures of fossils, and text saying “Here is a 100 million year old fish fossil. We still have fish, so evolution is a lie”. And is filled with inaccurate and misleading “information” about what evolutionary biologists think, and how silly they are to do so. Similar “gifts” have included DVDs about creationism surreptitiously left on my desk after a school workshop about natural selection. (more…)

The Grave of Francis Galton

Debbie JChallis7 July 2011

Occasionally I leave the museum bunker to give talks about the museum, exhibitions and my research. A few weeks ago I went out to the lovely village of Claverdon in Warwickshire to give a talk on Francis Galton.

2011 is the centenary of the death of the scientist Sir Francis Galton. Francis Galton's Grave in Claverdon GraveyardLast year the churchwarden Jonathan Evans got in touch with UCL Museums and Collections as they had received funding from the Galton Institute to clean up and conserve Galton’s grave in Claverdon church’s graveyard. (more…)

C4’s Four Rooms: Fun but unethical

JackAshby4 July 2011

Is it acceptable to sell natural history objects?

Several months ago I had a number of phone and email conversations with a researcher developing a new TV programme in which people sell unusual possessions to art dealers in a Dragon’s Den style format. She wanted my help in finding objects or people with collections that could appear on the show to be sold. I shuddered.

I explained that, according the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics, museums selling their collections into private is very much frowned upon. She changed tack – she had hit upon the entirely correct notion that people who work in museum are themselves extremely fond of collecting. As I say – this is true – we are terrible at throwing things away, and what’s more, being expert curators in our fields, we know what things are worth keeping (and I don’t just mean financially). In the end I told her that none of UCL Museums would contemplate selling things in such a forum, but eventually agreed I would send her email on to my colleagues “in case they knew anyone who had something unusual in a cupboard at home”. (more…)