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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


The Grant Museum’s first birthday

By Jack Ashby, on 15 March 2012

The Grant Museum, technically, is about 185 years old, but one year ago today we opened the doors to our newest manifestation, in the Rockefeller Building’s former medical library; one of the grandest spaces at UCL. Here are some highlights from our first year.

The year in numbers
12884 visitors during normal opening hours
11010 participants in our events
6901 objects accessioned
3121 university students in museum classes
1719 school and FE students in museum classes
96 blog posts
22 specimens of the week
9 journal articles and book chapters published by staff
11 objects acquired
4 co-curated exhibitions
2 floods
Half a dodo went on display (really several bits of several dodos.)

The Museum Opened
Ahead of the opening, 727 crates of specimens were unpacked and put on display in 137 cases; ten iPads were installed with a system the likes of which no museum had ever seen before; and the world’s press was primed for a museological extravaganza. In the process, two members of staff took up smoking, my hair started to go properly grey and social lives disappeared. This is how we did it:

Art by Animals
Since February we have been exhibiting a collection of paintings made by elephants, orang-utans, chimps and gorillas, and questioning the extent to which creative expression in the animal kingdom relates to artistic ability. We haven’t settled on our answer, but to date at least 47 different news outlets, from the Sun and Daily Mail to the BBC and Brazilian Culture Show have been featuring it. The visitors seem to like it too. Here’s a video about the exhibition.

A Not-So-Mini Refurbishment project

1000 specimens on the floor

1000 specimens on the floor

Over Christmas the Museum team came in and emptied 1000 objects out of 79 cabinets and put them on the floor. The plan was, over a four day period, to install lighting in each of those cabinets and to fit new fancy glass doors and shelves to half of them. All didn’t go according to plan, and while all the lights and doors are in place and everything looks pretty darn awesome, three months on the project still isn’t quite over.
To build on these works, we’ve been awarded £70,000 from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Wolfson Fund to make the remaining cases look snazzier, to refurbish the foyer (so it feels a bit less institutional) and to create some spiffing new displays about the history of zoology.

So all in all it’s been a rather good year at the Grant Museum. Here’s to many more.

2 Responses to “The Grant Museum’s first birthday”

  • 1
    Helen Hales wrote on 15 March 2012:

    We visited last year and it’s looking really good. Glad you got Wolfson money to add the finishing touches. How has the iPad experiment been going?

  • 2
    Aneliya Stankova wrote on 15 March 2012:

    It is a collection of curious and amazing ‘stuff’. I am pleased it is being shown in a new light.

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