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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for April, 2013

Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-One

Emma-Louise Nicholls29 April 2013

Scary MonkeySometimes I think I’d quite  like to be an insect. No bills, no social anxieties or inadequacies, I wouldn’t mind the commute to work because I would of course make sure I was a species that could fly, and best of all I could eat all day and no-one would care. I’d have no concerns any more intense than ‘which of these delightful shrubs shall I eat today’ or ‘shall I sit here to enjoy the sun or shall I hop over there to enjoy it?’. Brilliant. Unfortunately I’m not an insect. But this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Remember, Remember, an event to Remember

Edmund Connolly24 April 2013

Guest Blogger: Chris Webb

The 18th April saw another fascinating event in the Petrie Museum’s popular timekeeper series, hosted by our own timekeeper in residence, Cathy Haynes. We were asked; how easy do you find it to remember the details and order of past events? Many people through history have pondered on this… Indeed, when Mark Twain wanted to teach his children history he invented a new kind of 3-D timeline by plotting out historical events in his garden and walking them through it, oddly, this was based on the monarchs of England!


The Travels of Jeremy Bentham

Nick J Booth23 April 2013

We recently updated our Bentham webpages on the UCL Museums site. Among the new features is a conservation page that lists all the known inspections of the auto-icon; a Myth and Legends page that deals with some of the more popular stories concerning the auto-icon; and a new History page. This last one features a couple of pieces of data visualisation that we have tried out. This blog focuses on one of these, a Google map that shows how far Bentham and his auto-icon have traveled.

All the information used here can be found on a downloadable spread sheet on the History Page of UCL Museums website on the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham. All distances are as-the- crow-flies, and are likely to be an underestimate.

The auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham resides in the South Cloisters of the Wilkins Building at UCL. Although he looks pretty sedate now, he only arrived in this location after the Second World War, and has in the past has been to a number of locations in London, and even out of the country (twice).

View Bentham’s Post-Mortem Travels in a larger map



Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty

Emma-Louise Nicholls22 April 2013

Scary MonkeyYesterday I ran the London Marathon. Today, I cannot walk properly. I’m hobbling around like an old lady who put her zimmer frame in a ‘safe place’ and promptly forgot where that might be. I should explain that I was absolutely unable to do any training due to circumstances completely beyond my control, and it was not in the slightest bit down to the fact that I just never got around to it. That would be ludicrously silly, and being a biologist, I’d never be that naive about my body’s capabilities. Errrr…, yeah. Still, despite the aching thighs, a couple of blisters and a knee that I suspect will never get me down another flight of stairs again, I raised money for charity and got a shiny medal- yay. Wandering (slowly) (and painfully) around the Museum this morning to choose my Specimen of the Week, it got me thinking about how incredible the vertebrate body is, and how we have evolved to be able to undertake outrageous activities such as the London Marathon. I therefore decided to take you back to our roots, and talk about a very primitive species indeed, a sort of ‘where it all began’… if you like. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

A “humerus” way to spend the holidays…

Alice M Salmon19 April 2013

Firstly, I need to apologise for the lack of immediacy in writing a blog about the year 8 “spring school” that I ran on behalf of UCL’s Museums and Collections last week. With my teenage years a distant memory, a bit of R and R was required to recover from the energy of 38 constantly excited 13 year olds.

Reconstructing the look of a plague doctor

Reconstructing the look of a plague doctor

That aside, it was certainly a week to remember! Participants witnessed a barber surgeon in action, analysed animal poo, and created their own alien dissection, all in the name of education.  They discussed the ethics of human display, philosophised over what makes us human, and took great pleasure in analysing the “worth” of a dismembered foot that had been consumed with dry gangrene. (more…)

Book Worm… Kangaroo by John Simons: A Review

Jack Ashby19 April 2013

Book Worm

Book Worm – that’s Grant and a lugworm

I’m writing this second review in the predictably punned “Book Worm” occasional series whilst in the desert town of Alice Springs. As I like to match my reading with my surroundings, I’m reviewing Kangaroo by John Simons, published in December as part of Reaktion’s Animal Series.

What this book seems to attempt to do is tackle the kangaroo from a variety of angles – biological, ecolgical, historical and anthropological. It is extremely generously illustrated (on nearly every page). There is sometimes, however, no obvious connection between the image and the neighbouring text which can make things a bit confusing, particularly when he is describing a specific visual scene without providing the appropriate image. (more…)

Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: April

Mark Carnall18 April 2013

In this series of monthly blogs we take the opportunity to reflect on an underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum’s collections. Gazing at an underwhelming fossil fish helps puts the Universe into perspective and increases global fishteracy, sometimes as much as a percent.

This month’s underwhelming fossil fish is a looker. It’s the POPULAR ATTRACTIVE ICON of the fossil fish world. I’m in two minds about posting this because I can guarantee that as soon as it goes out we’re going to be fighting through crowds of screaming fans to get into the museum in the morning. We’ll be getting underwear and flowers in the post for it. Eventually, this fossil fish will become a UN peace ambassador, the face of a popular coffee brand and no doubt launch a perfume range and Brad Pitt will do the voice over (suggested range names- Taphonomy, Permineralisation, Facies (for men). Please suggest others in the comments). You were here when it started, your grandchildren will ask you if you remember where you were when this blog was posted. You will smile, look into the mid distance and profess “I was there“. (more…)

Jar of moles e-card anyone?

Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh17 April 2013

Image of Grant Museum E card selectorTo join our six lovely postcards on sale here at the Grant Museum, we’ve recently gone digital with our series of 16 new free Grant Museum e-cards. The e-card images show the variety of specimens the Grant Museum collection comprises, highlighting some of our most prized specimens including the Negus collection of bisected heads and our Blaschka glass models of invertebrates.

If you’ve not already guessed, yes, the jar of moles have their own e-card too.

Once users have selected their e-card image, they are invited to choose an interesting fact about the object to share with the recipient. Each object offers a selection from three facts relating to the natural history of the object, or the significance of the object to the Museum. For example, the quagga skeleton, which is only one of seven quagga skeletons in existence, was originally thought to be a plains zebra until it was re-identified as a quagga in 1972.

We hope to add to our range of e-cards and our postcards available in the Museum, so keep an eye out. If you’ve got a specimen you’d like to see as a postcard or e-card, please let us know.

Will a museum studies degree help you get a job in a museum?

Mark Carnall16 April 2013

This post is a bit inside baseball, but then so is the metaphor inside baseball.

We get asked the above question at the Grant Museum frequently by aspiring museum professionals and volunteers and it’s a question that isn’t simply answered. I can’t say that my view on whether it helps or not is the definitive view but as an employer (sadly not as often as we’d like to be) here’s my personal thoughts on whether or not it helps.

First, I’d advise looking at the job specification and application form. If ‘Must have a Museum Studies degree’ is an essential criterion then, yes absolutely, you will need a museum studies degree to get shortlisted for the job. At the Grant Museum we try to steer away from this absolute requirement so as to encourage individuals with many years of working in museums and in other sectors to apply but you do still see it on job adverts.

If the possession of a museum studies degree (or equivalent) is desirable or not specifically asked for here’s what I look for on a job application. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Nine

Emma-Louise Nicholls15 April 2013

I feel that we know each other well enough now for me to get personal. I am going to share a story about my sister. Today, she is flying back from the Sahara desert where she has just completed the Marathon des Sables; widely acclaimed to be the ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’. It consists of no less than six marathons in six consecutive days, up mountains, over sand dunes, and across the desert, all whilst carrying a 10 kg pack. In tribute to what must be the singly most impressive thing anyone I know has ever achieved, I’m going to dedicate this week’s specimen to her and tell you about another type of bird that has the ability to run huge distances in the African desert. This species can reach up to 70 kilometres per hour and has such incredible stamina that it can maintain a speed of 50 kilometres per hour for over 30 minutes at a time. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)