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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for June, 2012

Animal record breaking

JackAshby28 June 2012

So far I’ve been very good at not linking activities at the Grant Museum to the Olympics. While I’m out here on ecological fieldwork in the remote northwest savannahs of northwest Australia, The Games have been very far from my mind. However, the phrase “new record” has been bandied about quite a lot here this month, and now I find myself writing a post that has nothing to do with the Olympics, but I’ve now already mentioned them three times. I appear to have jumped on the bandwagon of making a spurious link – something that everyone seems to be doing these days. Apologies.

I’m currently working with a small team of ecologists catching animals on wildlife sanctuaries and cattle stations to monitor the effects of cattle and fire management on the ecosystem. This year we’ve caught a fair few animals in areas in which they’ve never been seen before. The excitement of being part of these new records is definitely personally valuable, but I’ve also been thinking about how these single pieces of data are potentially more valuable than all of the other single animals we catch.


Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Six

Emma-LouiseNicholls25 June 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Thirty-SixSince I went to Malta last year and discovered that the natives are called Maltesers, which re-awoke my love of the smaller, rounder, more chocolatey version, most days I give in to the tasty delights of a packet for my lunch. Today I discovered that the box version made for ‘sharing’ (a silly notion) was on offer for £1. Yes, a pound my friend. Which is only just a wee bit more than the teeny-tiny-portion-sized packet they reckon is sufficient for a single person’s lunch hour. Single as in, one, not single as in not in a relationship, which may or may not in fact be a reason to get the box-for-sharing-size anyway. The good mood that followed from my victory over supermarket confectionery size to price ratio made me want to pay it forward and thus, this week you get eight for the price of one. This week’s specimens of the week are(more…)

The Noel Collection of life and death masks

Nicholas JBooth22 June 2012

For my first ever solo blog am I am going to talk about a collection that really stood out when I was looking around UCL in my first few weeks, and the interesting ‘science’ of phrenology.

Examples of masks from the Noel Collection


Phrenology is the study of head morphology and the belief that this is related to a person’s character. Simply put, the lumps and bumps on your head can indicate if you are (or are going to be) industrious or a criminal, a failure or success, a drunkard or teetotal. To many now this seems obviously absurd, and the theories behind it have been widely debunked, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries this was regarded as good science, and was very popular.

One of the Teaching and Research collections cared for by UCL is the Galton Collection, named after Sir Francis Galton (see here for further details). Galton was well known in his time as (amongst other things) an explorer, a pioneer of meteorology, psychology and phrenology and a statistician. He is particularly remembered today for his work with fingerprints, and amongst the bundles of finger prints held in the collection are those of Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Catching dingoes in the dead of night

JackAshby19 June 2012

I spend lots of my holiday time volunteering for a charity in Australia which manages huge areas of land for conservation. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to undertaking in-depth ecological research to form the basis of the decisions on how to manage their sanctuaries. For the past three years I’ve been working with the team of ecologists which manage sanctuaries in northwest Australia, and right now I’m back in the central Kimberley.

In the past I’ve written posts about pitfall, funnel and treadle-trapping for small mammals, lizards, snakes and frogs, and that’s what I’m doing most of the time at the moment, but on top of that I’ve also been involved with catching dingoes, which has been an intense and exciting experience. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Seven

Emma-LouiseNicholls18 June 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Thirty-SevenHaving let other people choose the Specimen of the Week for the last two weeks I decided that this week, as I was in the pilot’s seat again, I would choose my favourite animal. You may think that would immediately tell people who know me well what this blog is going to be about, but I, as anyone who knows me well would tell you, have 27 favourite animals. It’s true, I have a list on Facebook, it’s that official. Choosing between them was hard, but eventually I decided that this week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

Nick and Sub are in the building

Nicholas JBooth13 June 2012

Nick and Sub get to grips with UCL's Pathology Collections

So, what should two new curators expect in their first weeks at UCL Museums?Nick Booth and Subhadra Das are two new curators working with Teaching and Research at UCL. This includes collections in subjects as diverse as geology, pathology and historical science.

Both of us have experience of working in museum/collections type environments, but as these posts are brand new for UCL, we have had lots of new ground to cover and a steep learning curve to climb.

Fit Bodies: Student Competition

Debbie JChallis11 June 2012

Impact by Graham Isted

A few months ago the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology ran a student competition asking for photographic and graphic entries on the theme of Fit Bodies: Statues, Athletics and Power. We asked for original responses to the idea

Greek Women resting at Olympia by Mara Gold

of ‘What is a Fit Body?’ These engaging responses are now on display in UCL North Cloisters (the main Wilkins Building) and the Petrie Museum as well as on this blog.

Rash by Arthur Kay

Do come and have a look at the entries in the flesh. The display in the Petrie Museum considers the importance of physical prowess in ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as the legacy of those ideas today, intercut with the student responses.

The exhibition of entries in the North Cloisters as accompanied by the viewpoints of various people that challenge cliches and assumptions about ‘What is a Fit Body?’; whether cosmetic surgery, the female body and body building, playing sport or the damaged body.

With thanks to all the students for their entries!

Untitled by Emma Wong


Modern Student in Ancient Olympian attire by Awat Rahimi

Romulus and Remus I by Sophie Blagden









Still Running by Antonia Clare Grant

My Favourite Specimen at the Grant Museum

MarkCarnall11 June 2012

I finally did it, I bit the bullet. You’d think that after [a number of undisclosed years] at the Grant Museum I’d have my answer for the regular question from visitors “What is your favourite specimen?” down to a fine art. But I didn’t. I’d cop out. I’d probably start with something along the lines of stating that as a museum, ethically we value each and every object in the museum equally. Nearer to the truth is that it is constantly changing from week to week. With 68,000+ objects in the museum there are a lot to choose from and more often than not the specimen I’d been documenting or researching that week would have an interesting story behind it or I’d discover something amazing about a group of animals I’d not known before. Well wait no longer because I’ve gone for a definitive, all-time, this-is-it favourite (for now at least) and the choice might surprise you….. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Thirty-Five

Emma-LouiseNicholls11 June 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Thirty-FiveOn this cold and wet Monday morning, what better animal to talk about than one that likes it, cold and wet? Although it spends most of its time wallowing in silt, burying itself in wet muddy-sand, it scrubs up so well it would not show you up at a cocktail party. We like them so much here at the Grant Museum that we have two whole jars of them. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…. (more…)

Meet the Grant Museum’s Royal Family!

Emma-LouiseNicholls8 June 2012

A little poetic celebration of our regal specimens…


King vultureWhich king is so large, its subjects flee,

When it arrives at a carcass to have its tea?

Thought to be a messenger in South American culture,

It is of course, the multi-coloured king vulture. (more…)