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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for December, 2011

Specimen of the Week: Week Nine

Emma-LouiseNicholls12 December 2011

Scary MonkeyWell now my dedicated and trusted readers (I choose to believe that you exist in this format), I am currently in sunny Mexico trampling across Mayan and Aztec ruins, filling my brain with more knowledge than its natural capacity, and hopefully chasing a spider monkey troop or two.


I do not want you to feel as though I have abandoned you in a capricious bout of neglect and so I have found a most genius way to make you feel as though you are still with me. Our specimen of the week is a Mexican species and I promise that if I should be lucky enough to see one, I will take a snapshot for you and post it here upon my return for your much sought approval. This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Should we clone extinct animals?

JackAshby8 December 2011

Gone for Good display…is the latest question we are asking on our iPad displays. So far many living species have been cloned, for various reasons (just to see if we can and replacing lost pets being two of them. Resurrecting extinct species in this way has also been attempted, with very limited success. The question is, are they gone for good?

The technology may soon exist to clone recently extinct animals using DNA from museum specimens, but usable and complete DNA sequences are hard to find. Should we try and bring back animals that humans have driven to extinction? What would you do with a handful of cloned individuals? Would the money be better spent on animals we still have? (more…)

Fish in Science: Zebrafish at UCL

JackAshby7 December 2011

green and red tomography image of an adult zebrafish (Credit: Dr Paul Frankel, UCL Division of Medicine and Ark Therapeutics plc and Professor Paul French, Photonics Group, Physics Department, Imperial College London)We have a few weeks to go for our current exhibition, co-curated with the Fish Facility here at UCL, exploring the role of zebrafish in scientific research. It’s in the Museum’s pigeon holes until we close for Christmas on 23rd December.

George Wigmore from UCL Communications came along to give a write-up of the installation on the UCL Evens Blog – it begins…

“Related to the much-maligned minnow, many are unaware that zebrafish are in fact one of the giants of the genetics world. While more-well known, and controversial, model organisms continue to dominate the limelight, the humble zebrafish continues to plod along in the background. But a current exhibition at UCL’s Grant Museum on zebrafish and their role in science aims to change all that.

Well-understood, easily observable, and with many similarities to mammalian physiology, it should be no surprise that zebrafish studies have resulted in such a huge number of advances in a plethora of different fields. Ranging from development biology, to toxicology and evolutionary theory, its composition makes it an ideal model organism for studies of vertebrate development and gene function.”
Read the rest here…

Image credit: Dr Paul Frankel, UCL Division of Medicine and Ark Therapeutics plc and Professor Paul French, Photonics Group, Physics Department, Imperial College London

Can museums lie?

JackAshby5 December 2011

Accuracy or Information?

Accuracy or Information?

Can we lie about what a specimen is or where it came from?

Would it make a difference to you if we deliberately mis-labelled a specimen? If we wrote interesting factual labels about common seals, but used a grey seal skull in the display, would you care if you found out? The facts would still be true. What if we said the specimen was from Britain when the specimen actually came from Denmark?

This is the newest QRator question we are asking through one of our ground-breaking iPad displays. It’s something we’re really interesting in hearing what you think, so please do get involved in the conversation. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Eight

Emma-LouiseNicholls5 December 2011

Scary MonkeyThe most frequently heard sentence at the Grant Museum of Zoology (I mean by members of the public, not staff, otherwise it would be ‘Emma do this, Emma do that…”) is “Oh my god, a jar of moles!” Yes, yes, we have a jar of moles. Now don’t get me wrong- I love the jar of moles. However, there are some, not me, on our staff, not me, that have expressed a certain weariness, again- not me, of hearing this sentence. Not me. Now once people have gotten over their inexplicable excitement (ALL of our specimens are equally amazing you see) they move in to the museum. The second specimen to illicit an ‘oooooh’ expression is a LOT larger than the, quite frankly a little disturbing, jar of moles. It measures about 252 cm across and is only part of the entire animal. This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Relight my fire

RachaelSparks2 December 2011

Ancient vessels have usually gone through a lot before making their way into a comfortable museum store. First they have to survive the dangerous business of production and come out of the kiln intact and as intended. If they pass muster, they then have to make it through being packed up and shipped off to market, near or far. Then there are the ministrations of their new owners to be borne, with all the risks of having chips come off here and there through rough handling. Sooner or later, every amphora knows some clumsy owner is going to end up knocking its handles off. And then into a pit with it, where its carcass suffers further indignities as rubbish is thrown in on top, or into a tomb where the ceiling might fall in and inflict yet more distress. Only to be in danger once more from the swing of the excavator’s pick. (more…)