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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for April, 2013

Hogarthian Peregrinations

MartineRouleau12 April 2013

Guest Blog Post by Bolognese, Aydon, Phelan, Cox & Bin


of what Seem’d most Remarkable in the Two Day Peregrination
of the Following Five Persons
Bolognese, Aydon, Phelan, Cox & Bin. Begun on Saturday February the 23rd. 2013 and Finish’d
On the 24th. Of the same Month

In 1732 Hogarth, Scott, Thornhill, Tothall and Forrest departed from the Bedford Arms inn in Covent Garden and began a five day tour around the North of Kent. Their expedition was documented in a manuscript now residing in the British Museum. They recorded the details of their trip, as well as the accounts, and also included ten illustrations to accompany the text. The manuscript was printed by Richard Livesay in 1782 while he was a lodger at the home of Hogarth’s widow. One of these printed versions resides in the UCL Art Museum and it was this item that we chose to research for our Collections Curatorship course.


Moving Forward: Cultural Heritage Fellowship 2012/13

EdmundConnolly9 April 2013

It is hard to believe we will be playing proud host to our group of 9 Fellows in just a few months’ time. Time has flown and our Fellows have been busy developing their Community Engagement projects using the case studies and skills that were showcased during the weeks spent in the UK at UCL and a group of host museums. Following on from our last post I will now profile out Egyptian Fellows: Sayed Ahmed and Mohamed M. Mokhtar, who both work at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Cairo.

Sayed Ahmed CHF 2012/13

Sayed Ahmed CHF 2012/13


Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Eight

Emma-LouiseNicholls8 April 2013

Scary MonkeyThe specimen that I have for you this week is extremely cool. You could be easily forgiven for thinking this species started life as an illustration in a book on fossils, from where it puffed itself up to being a 3D creature and jumped right off the page. Not related at all to what you’d think it should be, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Should or should not museums be places for debate?

CelineWest5 April 2013

Last week the Museums Association (MA) published the results of its survey of public attitudes to museums. This survey showed all the good news that museum people love to hear – lots of people love museums, our collections, exhibitions and education programmes. As the report says, people have a strong, positive emotional attachment to museums – interestingly, whether they visit or not (1).

A summary of the report lists museums’ essential purposes (as viewed by the public), priority purposes, on down through low priority purposes. For example, an essential purpose is “creating knowledge for, and about, society” and a priority purpose is “promote happiness and wellbeing”. This list of purposes ends, however, with a couple of things under the heading “purposes challenged by the public” i.e. “what people think museums should Not be doing” and one of these is “providing a forum for debate”.


People discussing objects and subjects in the mirrored outreach box called The Thing Is



Celestial commanding and Solar supplication

EdmundConnolly4 April 2013

With the days lengthening and the bleak Beowulf-like nights withering we can start to revel in getting home from work in glorious sunshine (/grey illumination) and wend our commuter way with the street lights still off. Returning to my theme of spring (and Ancient Egypt), I’m now intrigued by the new affectation in the heavens:  the sun!

Our sun is about 4.6 billion years old, comprising of 99.86% of the solar system’s mass. Probably the starkest visual image we can experience, the sun has inspired civilizations over millennia, and continues to affect our notion of time, season and even our emotions.





Owning up to authorship

SallyMacdonald4 April 2013

Bentham panel

Museums are full of objects, but they are usually just as full – too full, often – of text.  With a combination of object labels, introductory panels and interactive exhibits, a single display space can feature thousands of words. 

Yet almost all of this writing is anonymous; it is very rare to find any kind of label or exhibition authored by a member of museum staff.  Instead the ‘voice of the museum’ is presented as objective truth.  As those of us who work in museums are well aware, most displays – while they might represent a collective effort on the part of a number of people – are the result of a series of individual decisions. We choose the objects to display, choose where they go and choose what we say about them.  We will almost certainly argue with each other about some of these decisions, but the end result will be presented as a single authoritative selection and voice.  Often, a ‘house style’ is adopted for text, which – while it may well make displays clearer to understand – will also help to paper over differences of opinion or approach.  Even the V&A’s excellent gallery text guidelines,  which encourage museum staff to ‘bring in the human element’ and ‘write as you would speak’, stop short of suggesting that you should say who you are. 


Vote for the Grant at the Museums + Heritage Awards

JackAshby3 April 2013

We received some very exciting news – we have reached the final five shortlist of the award for the most inspiring museum at the museum wold’s equivalent of the Oscars – the Museums and Heritage Awards. The winner will be selected by public vote.

Often these nominations and shortlists are a result of a judging panel selecting between applications that museums have sent in themselves. This shortlist, however, was generated by the Guardian asking real members of the public to nominate which museum they think is a shining example within the sector for its ground-breaking approach to engaging with audiences and visitors. We couldn’t be happier!

That’s not true – we would be even happier if we actually won. Please please please vote for us with a single click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/mar/21/museums-heritage-culture-pros-pick-vote

If, like me, you think that we are inspirers – that you like the way that all of our staff are so accessible when you visit; that you said “wow” when you visited the new Micrarium; that you enjoy our social media; that you think highly of our events programme; or simply that you approve of what we’ve done with our collections, then we would be hugely grateful if you could click and vote for us.

Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Seven

Emma-LouiseNicholls2 April 2013

I love it when Specimen of the Week lands on an interesting date. The 1st April is known for a few things, most obviously it is April Fool’s Day. Perhaps less obviously, it is the 31st anniversary of the birth of one of our staff members. An internet search of the date introduced me to the world of housing benefit changes, the new tax year, an Easter egg hunt (which I subsequently signed up for) and the fact that if you want cheaper tickets to some music festival or other, you should have booked before today’s date. What it doesn’t mention however, not even by page 4 or 5, is an article on howler monkeys that was written with the help of information gleaned from several reference resources including an online encyclopedia of animals that to write the aforementioned article was accessed at 15:23 GMT on the 1st April 2009. That reference to the 1st April is shockingly lacking from more high profile spots in the search engine results. In a small and questionable effort to correct this oversight, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

The Archaeology of Race

EdmundConnolly1 April 2013

guest blogger: Chris Webb


In recent history there are few contentious subjects that are as notorious as eugenics. There are not many areas of discussion that can illicit such heated debate. Indeed, even the simple task of blogging becomes a semantic minefield, my inclusion of the word ‘contentious’ above, inferring (erroneously) that there are two sides to ‘argue’. However, research into the concept of eugenics, its founding and articulation, is the focus of a new book by Dr Debbie Challis who asks ‘How much was archaeology founded on prejudice?’