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Why we’ve put a thousand specimens on the floor

By Jack Ashby, on 9 January 2012

If you come down to the Museum today you’re sure of a big surprise.

1000 specimens on the floor

1000 specimens on the floor

Ever since we moved into our new venue last March we’ve been waiting for the time that we could undertake a very exciting construction project. The room we now occupy was built as a library, and the 39 book cases that run along the bottom row of the Museum’s walls didn’t have any doors on them. We were unable to commission new glass doors in time for the opening so we went with the temporary measure of screwing sheets of perspex in to protect the specimens on display.

We also wanted to improve lighting in these cabinets, and the row above (79 in total), to better show-off our fantastic stuff, so we decided to conjoin the two construction projects, so we didn’t have to empty all the cabinets and close the Museum twice.

We spent a lot of time planning, and a complicated strategy for the new lights to fit on to the new doors was envisioned, meaning some terribly complex coordination of what the glaziers were doing and what the electricians were doing. The plan meant that we would close only for four days at the start of the year, which is traditionally quiet anyway.

Step one (2nd Jan) was to empty the hundreds of specimens from the two rows of cabinets, and as we don’t have a whole lot of space, we put them in rows on the floor in the middle of the Museum, out of the way of the builders, fitted to the centimetre following a cunning map drawn up by Curator Mark. See the picture.
Step two (3rd-4th Jan) – electricians put the wiring in.
Step three (4th-6th Jan)- glaziers put the doors on.
Step four (4th-6th Jan) – electricians fit the lights to the door frames.
Step five (7th-8th Jan) – we put all the specimens back.
Step six (9th Jan) – we reopen.

If only life were that simple.

Sadly we learnt halfway through step two that we’d have to put off the glass installation by ten days. Not to be down-hearted, and certainly not wanting to deny our fantastic visitors any more opportunities to come in, we’ve decided to open before the project is finished (in fact before step three is even started).

So do please come down and see what we’re up to – we’re having to limit where you can wander quite a lot (so that you don’t tread on anything) but the sight of the contents of seventy-odd cabinets laid out on the floor is rather captivating. We think it’s a good chance to see what life at an active museum is really like. Our staff will be on hand all week to chat about the project (and anything else).

But we will have to be closed on Monday 16th so we can put everything back again – reopening 1pm on Tuesday 17th. Full details of opening times on our website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology/visit

Fingers crossed that Plan B works out. I love it when a pane comes together.

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