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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Things people post to museums

By Jack Ashby, on 14 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.

This week, however, I was quite pleased to receive a completely anonymous postcard, with a postmark from Denver, simply saying: “I have met a living dodo bird there’s no longer a need for your old bones“.

This week also I got an email with file entitled “An Urgent Message to the Population of Earth from the Human Population in Andromeda” but daren’t open it for obvious reasons, although nothing else about it looked like spam. I hope I haven’t endangered the human race by deleting an important message.

On the same day, my colleague was given a two-headed teddy bear by a visitor.

So, what is it about museums that some people feel so driven to connect or donate?

Are there other museum folk out there who have received unusual gifts? I’d be interested to hear.

Jack Ashby is the Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology.

3 Responses to “Things people post to museums”

  • 1
    ucweswa wrote on 14 July 2011:

    By the power of google, I bring to thee:


    Very curious…

  • 2
    Daniel Morse wrote on 14 July 2011:

    I suspect this is just one manifestation of the general public perception of museums and museum curators. Whilst the larger museums like the NHM can feel more like a shopping mall or department store with their vast spaces, “modern” interiors and uniform-teeshirted public-facing staff distancing the public from the museum workings, physically smaller museums like the Grant, with its lovely old and elegant interior, still retain an identification in the slow-to-change public subconscious “mind” as a home for the old, dusty, weird and strange. (Ahem – nothing personal. ;o) ) It lowers the inhibitions of some people to indulge their kooky side – after all, that’s how some of the collections now in museum hands got started. I believe that people wouldn’t bat an eyelid, and indeed would feel strangely reassured, if you were to potter about the museum dressed up like Professor Branestawm.

  • 3
    Andrew Foster wrote on 14 July 2011:

    Is that the Atlas of Creation that features a fishing lure, complete with hook, as an illustration of a supposedly Darwin-busting fly?

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