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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for November, 2012

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Nine

Emma-LouiseNicholls26 November 2012

Scary Monkey WeekI heard on a number of occasions during the Olympics that winners of Bronze medals were happier than those who won silver, due to the irritance of only just being pipped to the face-on-a-stamp and postbox-painted-gold in your honour. True or not, when palaeontology finally becomes a sport and I thus swoop into the Olympic Village of wherever it is at the time, I can unequivocally say that I will be ecstatic with any colour of medal. The species featured in Specimen of the Week today not only comes an agonising second in the tallest of its group competition, but also suffers the inconvenience of having a smaller South American cousin that looks similar enough to be regularly mistaken for it and thus further ruining its street cred. The specimen chosen for this week’s blog is one of silver medal stature, and almost has a face to match (in terms of colour, not looks). They’re big (but not the biggest), they’re bad tempered, and they (would) talk with an Australian accent, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Introducing the Touching Heritage volunteer blog

NicholasVogelpoel26 November 2012

I am not sure that I will ever look at a piece of opal the same way again, after a patient at UCLH told me that the piece they were holding reminded them of jellied eel. Apparently, the opal looked, felt and even smelled like a slithery, slimy eel. I’ve heard of flint axe heads that look like poached flathead, amazonite that feels like soap and, eerie faces hidden in the sides of smoky quartz. But, this obviously takes things to a new level.

Jellied eel anyone? Delicious.

Touching objects from UCL’s collections seems to ignite all sorts of stories and memories. Patients at UCLH are genuinely excited to see my team of volunteers, with their ‘very useful boxes’ brimming with wondrous, weird and beautiful objects. For me, it is all about the conversations. I’ve met people from all sorts of places, with all sorts of pasts. Every now and again, I meet a real-life expert, and the information cards I have created for the objects pale in comparison to their wealth of knowledge. Never mess with an archaeologist, I guess.

As part of the project, the Touching Heritage programme has a volunteer-led blog, where volunteers working on the project will upload regular posts about their experiences. To find out more about the project and to read the latest blog entries, jump in and see just how the UCL museums are working to improve community health and wellbeing.

Most people we meet in the hospitals, care homes and community health settings we are working in rarely go to museums, and are often bored, tired and unwell. The amazing team of volunteers working on the Touching Heritage project bring their energy and enthusiasm to each participant, and the object-handling sessions notably lift spirits, relieve boredom, and always spark the most unusual conversations.

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Eight

Emma-LouiseNicholls19 November 2012

Scary MonkeyNot selected solely because I realised I had seriously neglected the amphibians over the last 57 Specimen of the Week posts, the specimen we are going to discover this week is a super species that attracts many a question from museum visitors. Is it a snake? Is it a lizard? Is it a caecilian? Noooooooooo, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

No lies and some statistics

CelineWest16 November 2012

One of the things we do as part of Learning & Access is outreach work with London schools. This is teaching with objects in the classroom, most often with Primary school children. I have been away from work for a while and returning recently I realized this is something I don’t talk about enough so I’m just going to share some numbers with you about outreach that’s happening now.

In 2 months staff are visiting 23 different Primary schools on 27 different days. They are teaching in 66 classes and are working with 2000 children, children of all ages from 4 to 12 years old.

The schools are spread across 5 London Boroughs and in this 2 months, staff will have spent about 45 hours in total travelling on London transport to and from schools… (more…)

Guest blog: Hogarth through American eyes

KrisztinaLackoi14 November 2012

Guest Blog by Rebecca Gleichenhouse

I’m a student at Wake Forest University in North Caroline studying History of Art. I’m in my third year and was very excited to have the opportunity to study in London for a semester. I’ve been interning at UCL Art Museum for the past month now and I’ve been doing a wide variety of activities within the museum. Other than the day-to-day work that I help with, my main project has been to sort through and catalogue new prints that have come in to the Museum through a major donation.

print from Hogarth's series Industry and Idleness

William Hogarth, Industry and Idleness – The Good ‘Prentice

Thus far, I’ve looked through a box of about 70 William Hogarth prints, as well as material by little-known caricaturist C.J. Grant, and these have been interesting boxes to sort through because both artists criticise social and political aspects of their time. They made art not only for wealthy patrons, but made prints that were more affordable for the growing middle class. So far I’ve found Hogarth’s prints the most interesting – most of them are satirical images that criticise the lifestyle of different classes during his time. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Fifty-Seven

Emma-LouiseNicholls12 November 2012

Scary Monkey proudly displaying his poppyThe guns of the First World War fell silent on the Western Front after over four years of continuous warfare. It was the 11th November 1918 and at 11am on this day the Armistice was signed, officially declaring the Great War to be at an end. The true number of people killed during the First World War will never really be known but current estimates vary greatly from 9 million to 15 million. Either way, it was a tragic loss of life. However, it was not just humans that were involved in the fighting, many species of animal also played their parts. This week for Specimen of the Week, we are commemorating one of the many species of animal that were invaluable to the forces during the Great War and who’s acts saved lives on the Western Front. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Digital Egypt: Museums of the Future.

EdmundConnolly12 November 2012

Guest blogger: Giancarlo Amati (Digital Developer at the Petrie Museum)


On the 3rd of November 2012, The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology organized “Digital Egypt: Museums of the Future”, a showcase of 3D interactive applications result from Petrie Museum research into the use of 3D technology in the heritage sector. The 3D interactive applications are also part of a new upcoming exhibition, titled “3D Encounters: where Science meets Heritage”, specially designed to celebrate the opening of the new UCL-Q campus in Doha,Qatar.

A Modern Makeover

A Modern Makeover



Bentham’s Day Out

SubhadraDas9 November 2012

On Thursday November 8th, 2012, the UCL Teaching and Research Collections team arranged for the Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham to be removed from its box for cleaning. These pictures document adventures and experiences on the day.


Council of War. When it comes to doing anything to what is arguably UCL’s most iconic object, it is best to have a plan.


Pinocchio’s not the only one who’s been inside a whale

Emma-LouiseNicholls7 November 2012

WhaleFest 2012

The entrance to WhaleFest 2012

The entrance to WhaleFest 2012. Image by Emma-Louise Nicholls

The sounds you hear in the main hall are those that would be heard on any SCUBA diving trip. The main difference being that every few seconds in this particular extravaganza of acoustic delights, whale songs and dolphin clicks break through the background noise. With very little imagination you could believe you really were underwater as a large number of life size whales and dolphins surround you and blue and green streams of crepe paper hang from the ceiling, looking like waves in the dimmed lights. This was WhaleFest, making an exquisite entrance into my life. (more…)

Students wanted for UCL Art Museum focus groups

KrisztinaLackoi6 November 2012

UCL Museums and Public Engagement have been awarded funding from JISC to make 150,000 digitised objects from UCL Museums publicly available and to develop a range of new e-learning resources. The project team are looking for students to participate in focus groups to discuss this and are offering a light meal and book tokens in return for participants’ time.

Portrait of The Elector John Frederick I, The Magnanimous - a heavy-set man with a huge slash across his left cheek

Portrait of The Elector John Frederick I, The Magnanimous, Monogrammist M.R., UCL Art Museum 1581