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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for February, 2012

Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty

Emma-LouiseNicholls27 February 2012

Scary Monkey Another Monday morning closer to March and the beautiful Spring I am looking forward to. I am not a winter person- give me 35 degrees in the shade any day. My house has been freezing over the winter period and I am getting tired of wearing 900 layers and walking around looking like the Michelin (wo)man. How I wish I lived in a warmer country! Another animal that is struggling in its habitat at the moment is long, blubbery and pink-ish.  This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Walking with Dragons

MarkCarnall21 February 2012

Sometimes* it feels like I have the best job. You may recall my previous musings on whether or not Planet Dinosaur was a documentary or not. This musing did not come from the blue, in fact I have spent more time than most contemplating digital dinosaurs. Today I’m pleased to announce that a book chapter I wrote a loooong time ago has finally been published.

Image of the Grant Museum Quagga skeleton versus a plastic Tyrannosaurus
The full reference is

Carnall, M.A (2012) Walking with Dragons: CGIs in Wildlife Documentaries. In Bentowska-Kafel, A., Denard, H. and Baker, D (eds) Paradata and Transparency in Virtual Heritage, Pages 81-95 ISBN 9780754675839

Getting back to why I think my job is the best job (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Nineteen

Emma-LouiseNicholls20 February 2012

Scary MonkeyTomorrow is pancake day- hoorah!! I have grand plans of marmite pancakes for my starter, chilli con carne pancakes for my main course, and golden syrup and chocolate pancakes for pudding. Maybe I’ll have a cheese pancake course too? Mmmmm. Whilst salivating over tomorrow’s dinner I decided it only appropriate to choose a seasonally relevant specimen for the blog. This week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

The Museum and the iPad: Nature blogs and QRator

JackAshby16 February 2012

The Museum reopened nearly a year ago now and we are still happily experimenting with the different things we can do in our new home. One of the big innovations was the QRator programme on our iPads, developed with the wonderful award-winning people in UCL Digital Humanities and UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis.

This week Nature blogged about the QRator project for Social Media Week. It begins…

The Museum and the iPad: how the Grant Museum is using social media to make us all curators

15 Feb 2012 | 19:11 GMT | Posted by Joanna Scott
As part of Social Media Week, Nature London talked to Jack Ashby, Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL, about QRator, the pioneering project the Grant Museum is working on to allow the public to engage with museum collections by contributing their own interpretations…

…Hello Jack, welcome to the Nature London blog. Can you tell us about the QRator project you’ve introduced to the Grant Museum?

QRator is a project that allows our visitors to get involved in conversations about the way that museums like ours operate and the role of science in society today. In the Museum are ten iPads which each pose a broad question linked to a changing display of specimens. We are really interested in what our visitors think about some of the challenges that managing a natural history collection brings up, and other issues in the life sciences. They change periodically, but at the moment our current questions include “Is it ever acceptable for museums to lie?”, “Is domestication ethical?”, “Should human and animal remains be treated differently in museums like this?” and “What makes an animal British?”

You can read the whole article here: http://blogs.nature.com/london/2012/02/15/the-museum-and-the-ipad-how-the-grant-museum-is-using-social-media-to-make-us-all-curators

Love, lust and courtship in the style of Rousseau

NinaPearlman14 February 2012

image of “The First Kiss of Love” from La Nouvelle Héloïse

“The First Kiss of Love” from La Nouvelle Héloïse

By Cathrine Alice Liberg

Discover the sentimental side of Rousseau (and yourself!) at UCL Art Museum.

Come Valentine’s Day, we wish to highlight Rousseau’s epistolary novels, most notably his sentimental work La Nouvelle Héloïse which became a predecessor to modern Romantic novels, and was a bestseller back in its days. As for Rousseau himself, he never married, but did manage to father a significant number of children. His writings however, have been interpreted even in the realm of love as a guide to finding happiness. The long running dating show for farmers, “Boer zoekt vrouw”, is based on Rousseau’s philosophies on “the natural state” in which he praises the simple life as the source of joy and satisfaction. In this Dutch television programme, the love-hungry farmers all work side by side in nature, away from the morally corrupt city of selfishness and greed while trying to win each other’s hearts. Can this be the key to eternal bliss? (more…)

Animal Love Poem: Happy Valentine’s Day

Emma-LouiseNicholls14 February 2012

The panther chameleon will bob his head
And make his colour intense.
A broody ringtail lemur girl,
Will attract her mate with scents.

Peacocks fan their tail feathers,
Spreading blue and green.
The Asian tortoise follows his girl
With persistance to show he’s keen.

Semaphore, believe it or not,
Attracts girl wolf spider to boy.
A fruit fly has his work cut out,
These girls like acting coy. (more…)

Crimes against curators

RachaelSparks13 February 2012

It’s a Monday, which is always a tough day, as the emails have had all weekend to pile up and all the things you didn’t manage to do last week now need to be done even more urgently this week. So maybe this is a good day to share some of my personal candidates for a museums’ version of Room 101. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Eighteen

Emma-LouiseNicholls13 February 2012

Scary Monkey: Week EighteenWhilst breaking my back hauling around panels of thick glass this week, I had just enough puff left in me to utter a ‘wow’ when I saw the specimen I subsequently chose for this week’s blog, for the first time. Although I have worked at the Grant Museum for quite some time everyday brings new discoveries. Beautiful and grotesque all at the same time, this week’s specimen of the week is: (more…)

Get a Grip: A Hands on History of Hands

JackAshby9 February 2012

Following the success of How to Get a Head: A Hands on History of Skulls, Curator Mark and I put together a second “Hands on History” tackling the evolution of all things at the end of arms – hands, paws, hooves, wings, fins, flippers.

Piling the tables with limbs from koalas, badgers, frogs, turtles, platypuses, rabbits and more we worked through the story of where arms come from, and what we can learn from the strange lumps and bumps that different species have on their limbs. For example, rabbits have a massive projection out of the the back of their ulnas (the olecranon process) – we asked people to work out what it’s for. As with most things sticking out of bones, it’s a very big muscle attachment site for the rabbit tricep – they need strong muscles for bounding. Another leporine (rabbity) characteristic is that the two bones of the lower arm (radius and ulna) are nearly completely fused together. We asked why…
It means that rabbits can’t twist their wrists like we can (pronation and supination) – again because they need strong solid arms for bouncing – they don’t want their hands to face anyway but downwards and forwards.

The ever-wonderful UCL Events Blog did an impartial review of the event. It begins…

The UCL Grant Museum of Zoology is currently running its ‘Humanimals’ series, where it explores the relationships between ourselves and other animals.

Last week (2 February), I went along for A Hands On History of Hands; a whistlestop tour of the evolution of hands and forelimbs through the ages, stopping to look at some of the interesting examples along the way.

The guides on our tour were zoologist Jack Ashby and palaeontologist Mark Carnall, with a little help from Stan, the resident (replica) skeleton.

The Grant Museum was founded as a teaching collection, and it seems that the current crop of curators are keen to continue this legacy. This is the second night like this that they have run, and for a modern museum it seems to a pretty radical idea; not only can enthusiasts visit and explore the museum after hours, but we are actually given the chance to interact with some of the exhibits.

Read the whole thing here.

Please let us know if you have suggestions for other “Hands on History” event topics.

Specimen of the Week: Week Seventeen

Emma-LouiseNicholls6 February 2012

Scary Monkey: Week SeventeenA week ago, the Grant Museum had a special family activities day called ‘Humanimals’, part of our exciting, and ongoing, Humanimals season which is investigating the influence that humans and animals have on each other. Our activities gave our visitors hands-on fun with furry, scaly, and boney specimens. One of the activities was a table covered in a jumble of bones from a real skeleton not too dissimilar to ours. The cunning idea behind the slyly educational activity was for our visitors to re-build the skeleton. We had our replica human skeleton standing next to the table for anatomical inspiration. It was so popular that it inspired this week’s specimen. The specimen of the week therefore is: (more…)