X Close

Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for September, 2012

Sex and Sport

EdmundConnolly28 September 2012


The Petrie Museum’s Fit Bodies Exhibition on display in the Museum and North Cloisters is drawing to a close (in the Cloisters space) and, whilst I will be happy to get my trusty wooden lacrosse stick back, I am sad this exhibition is ending. Fit Bodies has included a variety of elements, from photographic competitions to theatrical performances in a light-hearted take on the notion of ‘fit’, an adjective accredited to sporting prowess as well as sexual appeal. However, one notion I realised only after giving a seminar on the exhibition, was this expectation of the elite to be attractive, in particular I think of the recent sportsmen and women who have proved their value through trial, tribulation, yet are still presented on that sordid platter of sexuality.


copyright telegraph.co.uk


Trace fossils and not-quite dinosaurs

Nicholas JBooth27 September 2012

On Friday this week (28th September) I will be helping to clean one of the largest, and to my mind most impressive, specimens on display in UCL’s Rock Room – the 243 million year old footprint of a mammal-like reptile (but definitely NOT a dinosaur) called Chirotherium. I say definitely not a dinosaur because I’ve made this rather embarrassing geological/ zoological mistake a couple of times and been told off for it.

As the footprint is displayed in its own (heavy) glass it has taken more planning than you would have thought is required just to clean a specimen. In honour of this I have decided to write my first Geology blog on the subject.

Image of the Chirotherium footprint on display in the Rock Room

Chirotherium footprint on display in the Rock Room

The Chirotherium lived during the Triassic Period, 248 – 206 million years ago, when most of the land on earth formed the super continent Pangaea. Its track prints have been known about since 1834, when examples were found in the German central state of Thuringia, however they have since been found across Europe, North America and parts of Africa.

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty

Emma-LouiseNicholls24 September 2012

Scary MonkeyMy absence last week was due to a critically important Disneyland-fueled birthday bonanza, thanks Naomi for your super duper blog. The actual day of my birthday I was back in London, and so I spent it literally scaring myself silly at the London Dungeon. It may have been the clash of my Disney Princess birthday badge (displaying a ‘3’ followed by a suspiciously biro coloured ‘1’) with the general ambiance of the Dungeon but for some reason the staff decided I was in no uncertain terms a heinous witch and must therefore clearly be punished. Logically, I was subsequently tied to a pole and burned at the stake. As the flames leaped higher and the shouts of “Burn witch burn” got louder (pretty sure I heard my partner’s voice in the crowd), I started to think I should leave my lightly barbequed corpse to the Museum. I could hang next to the gorilla skeleton so students could compare the anatomy of gorillas and… witches. As I looked at the gorilla skeleton this morning, having miraculously survived my hocus pocus ordeal, I realised the specimen the gorilla is staring at also featured at the Dungeon. The oh so hilarious and not so secretly potentially slightly sadistic staff members aside, there are a number of residents of the London Dungeon that are far less scary and way more cute than the bloodied corpses that litter room after room. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

The future of science exhibitions in museums

MarkCarnall21 September 2012

Last Thursday I was invited along to talk at a panel about the future of science exhibitions in museums at Imperial College’s 21st Anniversary celebration of the MSc Science Communication course. I was joined by Alison Boyle, Curator of Astronomy & Modern Physics from the Science Museum and James Peto, Senior Curator at the Wellcome Collection and chaired by Rachel Souhami, Lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial. Preparing for the panel discussion caused some mild pontificating on my part so I thought I’d put some of the thoughts conjured from my crystal ball up here for everyone to see. (more…)

The Intrigues of Interning

EdmundConnolly20 September 2012

guest blogger: Elyse Bailey (Intern at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology)

Usually when the name “Intern” comes to mind, most people think of a young, determined student looking for future connections, more experience in their field of study, and a resume booster. That dreamy description is typically ruined by the thought that this brilliant student is stuck running dull errands, like coffee runs and standing by a photocopier for hours wondering why the clock isn’t going any faster. Even though I have only been with the Petrie Museum for 3-4 weeks, I still have yet to run into any horrifying experiences and hopefully I won’t, but you never know. The jobs that I have helped with thus far have been fairly relaxed tasks, but they’ve kept me quite busy. I’ve been assigned responsibilities from helping set up for a night event to copying the written archives into a word document. Nothing has taken me by surprise and nothing has been super overwhelming. But, what’s great about being assigned these tasks is that I feel like I’m getting the bigger picture as to how a museum operates and what people need to do in order to keep it standing. If I have learned anything so far, it’s that I really underestimated the skill set that people need in order to work at a museum.

Flinders Petrie, a face I am now quite used to!

From the vollies: A humbling collection of hominin casts

MarkCarnall20 September 2012

Volunteers are very much the spine and vital organs of museums and we are eternally grateful for all the work and support they give to museums. Anthropologist Rebecca Davenport has been working on the Grant Museum collection of fossil human casts and models. Over to Rebecca…

Most of us have no problem distinguishing between ourselves and other animals. Whilst the Grant Museum’s main attractions inspire reactions ranging from disgust to awe, I’d wager that gazing upon a jar of moles or the bones of an extinct quagga fails to arouse feelings of commonality or a sense of shared identity. After all, these specimens look completely alien and lack any element of we might consider “humanness”. (more…)

Open House – special Saturday opening and art book sale

KrisztinaLackoi19 September 2012

This Saturday UCL opens its doors to the public for the annual showcase of the capital’s architecture, Open House London. Guided tours every 30 minutes will feature the iconic main building designed by William Wilkins and will include Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon, a visit to UCL’s Art Museum which be showing the One Day in the City exhibition and access to UCL’s Main Library, including seeing work in progress on the Flaxman Gallery.

UCL Art Museum will also be selling a selection of old auction house catalogues and art books so do come along with some loose change to hunt out some bargains!

Times: Saturday 22nd September, 9am-1.30pm

Please register for tours in UCL’s front quad.

So when is natural history art?

JackAshby19 September 2012

Bisected chimp head

Very obviously science.

Before I start, just to be clear, I’m not one of those scientists who hates art, or is snobbish about the semi-defined/awe-and-wonder/expressive/cheeky-subversion/I-don’t-care-if-the-viewer-doesn’t-understand kind of thing that some artists get up to. Not at all. I think it’s great. In fact, I work hard to incorporate a lot of art into programmes at the Grant Museum.

Over the last couple of weeks two of the city’s biggest block-busters finished – Animal Inside Out at the Natural History Museum and Damien Hirst at the Tate Modern. They were both excellent.

Much has been written about the cross-over between art and natural history, particularly when traditional scientific museum practices are replicated in art. What makes one art and one science?
The obvious answers relate to the intentions of the artist and the interpretations of the viewer. (more…)

How to tell an archaeologist from a palaeontologist

MarkCarnall18 September 2012

This post is something of a PSA to address a pet peeve of mine, the general confusion in the media about the difference between scientists working in biology and archaeology. Here’s a recent example of ‘archaeologists’ puzzling over Paleocene mammal remains. Puzzle they may because they’re literally 50 million years out of their depth. I doubt this post will really change anything and archaeologists will be digging up dinosaurs in press releases and science articles for many years to come particularly seeing as others have already covered this annoying and lazy habit that journalists, presumably covering the science desk vacation period, can’t seem to shake.

So, as you might expect a joke to go, what is the difference between an archaeologist and palaeontologist? (more…)

Can museums make you healthy?

NicholasVogelpoel17 September 2012

When I’m 93, I’d like to think that I could make crude jokes about the dentistry of a puma skull and consume as much orange tea cake as I’d like.

The monthly coffee morning held at Age UK Camden’s offices at Tavis House saw twenty participants of our elderly community handling objects from UCL museums and collections.

A chunk of malachite from our geological collections sparked a long conversation with a Colombian expatriate about her recollections of the emerald mining trade in her home country. I learned about her personal collection of emerald jewellery that she hopes to pass on to her children and grandchildren, and salivated as she gestured emphatically about the size of the pieces she owned (they were this big…). We talked about how proud she was of her jewellery, and of her country. As her smile grew and her pupils swelled, I realised that neither of us had uncovered any educational information about the malachite (not emerald) that she was holding. The distance from malachite to hot summer childhoods in Colombia might seem a stretch in usual museum outreach activities, but not in the Touching Heritage project. (more…)