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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for June, 2013

Working [in Museums] Wednesdays #4

EdmundConnolly27 June 2013

This blog post comes to you from Prague, waters subsided and tempest abated, although I resemble some sort of muscalid who has been flooded out if its riverside home. Careering on through our Working in Museums series I am going to write about a few job application essentials, namely: the Curriculum Vitae.


Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-Nine

Emma-LouiseNicholls24 June 2013

I decided to stick with the theme of creatures with a slow-paced lifestyle this week. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you clearly- poor thing- missed out on last week’s Specimen of the Week. The species that features in this week’s edition is dear to my heart, having had a special bond with two specific individuals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t get soppy. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Springwatch in review

Dean WVeall21 June 2013

European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Image taken by Andreas Trepte. Image obtained from commons.wikimedia.org

European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

I, like many a young, curly-haired Welsh zoologist was raised on the staple of Attenborough documentaries, (I became especially obsessed with the beautiful scene off the coast of Patagonia with the orca hunting the seals). Springwatch, which recently ended it’s three week run, couldn’t be further from the sandy beaches of Patagonia. It’s been described as many things, Big Brother for animals, the original constructed reality programme, The Really Wild Show for grown-ups, but I think Springwatch is the most important natural history programme on British television.

Bill Oddie and Kate Humble launched the series from the Fishleigh Estate in Devon in 2005 but Springwatch over it’s nine outings has grown into an vital part of the BBC’s output in natural history broadcasting. I recently highlighted what I thought were the strengths of some of the best science/natural history programming, a combination of real science and scientists, authoritative presenter and beautiful images to illustrate points. Springwatch has all these elements and so much more.


How To: Be a Good Museum Pest

Emma-LouiseNicholls20 June 2013

Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This new blog is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The first along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

How to: Be a Good Museum Pest

There are two types of creepy crawlies that you get in museums; ones that don’t eat specimens (i.e. creepy crawlies that fair poorly at being museum pests) and ones that do eat specimens (these typically do well at being pests).  First, you need to decide which you are. If the thought of eating dried cartilage, wooden drawers, paper labels, certain glues, feathers, or fur turns you off… go away, you’re a rubbish pest. However if the opportunity to chow down on the internal remnants of an animal skull makes you salivate, then continue reading my friend, this how to guide is for you. (more…)

Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June

MarkCarnall19 June 2013

According to the age old adage, all fossil fish are born equal. This isn’t true. Some fossil fish are born, then die, then get fossilised to wow and impress. Suffice to say that not all fossil fish can be superstars, opening shopping centres, turning on Christmas lights and the like. Some fossil fish are born, then die, then get fossilised, to underwhelm. To de-inspire. To turn people away. If had a dime for every bank manager, accountant, dentist and cashier I’ve met who turned down a lucrative career in palaeontology because of an underwhelming fossil fish, then after the Bureau de Change took a cut I’d be out of pocket, I can tell you.

It’s June already meaning that including this one we’re only four more of these away from having enough monthly underwhelming fossil fish to produce a very uninspiring calendar. This month, in order to spice up the normally dry description of a particularly uninteresting fossil fish, see if you can guess what this month’s fossil is from the underside of the box. CLUE: it isn’t Sarcoprion edax.

Oh god, what's in the box? ( CLUE 2: Not Gwyneth's head)

Oh god, what’s in the box? ( CLUE 2: Not Gwyneth’s head)


Bear or Bare?

JackAshby18 June 2013

Whilst working on some new displays recently I stuck up a sign saying “Please bear with us whilst we develop new displays”. Some people thought this was a deliberate clever pun as the display included some bears and they believed the correct spelling to be “bare”. It seems that this is a common problem as the question “Bear or Bare” gets over 75 million results on Google. This may help you remember when to use “bear” and when to use “bare”.

1) If you are talking about the large mammal, say “bear”.

2) The adjective meaning naked is “bare”.

3) The verb meaning to carry or hold is “bear”. For example:

Bear in Mind  That's a bear's brain, by the way. And the skeleton's a bear too

Bear in Mind
That’s a bear’s brain, by the way. And the skeleton’s a bear too


Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-Eight

Emma-LouiseNicholls17 June 2013

Scary MonkeyI can’t believe DC Comics killed off Catwoman. WHAT is that about? I guess there may be a sequel (or eight), but the picture of her demise made it look pretty definite. It is sad times in the world of action heroes. You know what kind of animal I think would make a great superhero? The Aye-Aye. It can bite through steal, has super amazing hearing, and its camouflage skills are a conservationists worst nightmare. You know what kind of animal probably wouldn’t make a great superhero? This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Curating the Octagon Exhibition

Claire SRoss14 June 2013

colourfull case object numbers scattered on the floor

Trying to find the correct object numbers

Most of the last couple of weeks I have been busy installing the new Octagon Gallery Exhibition, ‘Digital Frontiers: Smart, Connected and Participatory’. It’s been a brilliant experience and I have learnt a lot so I thought I’d talk a bit about the process of creating an exhibition from a first time curator!

The exhibition opened at the beginning of June 2013.   But it all first started when I applied to exhibit in the new Octagon space.  UCL Museums invited proposals on a theme (in this instance the theme was ‘frontiers’) from across the UCL community.  The proposals were judged by a panel and my application on the theme of ‘Digital Frontiers’ was successful.   The proposal focused on key research areas from UCL Centre for Digital Humanities (UCLDH) and the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA).  It felt quite strange deciding on a theme without being fully aware of all the potential objects, but it paved the way for an exciting challenge to see how I could fit as many of UCL’s 18 disparate collections into my exhibition theme.

The first full meeting happened in January when I got together with all the curators and collections managers from the different UCL Museums and Collections and I explained my broad themes and plans for the exhibition.  We had an initial brain storm and I was bit overwhelmed with all the information on objects that could potentially fit the exhibition concept.  I then had one to one meetings with all the individual curators to discuss exhibition ideas and view possible objects, before going away and coming up with a really long list of potential objects.

Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-Seven

Emma-LouiseNicholls10 June 2013

As with most people, I have a number of different passions. Be it, palaeontology/zoology, or films, or board games, or buying new socks, I enjoy a great many things and dedicate a serious amount of time to each. Most time of course goes to palaeontology/zoology, in so much as I am in fact paid to do that for a living (WAHOOOO). But sometimes I feel as though I may have been neglecting an area and get the urge to go back to the roots of a hobby and give it a little TLC. When I think back to the roots of palaeontology, being the single most continuous love in my life, I remember writing an essay ‘back in the day’ on a particular fossil animal, of which we have a fantastic reconstruction in the Museum. It sits nonchalantly and unassuming in a corner but when you hear a little about it, I think you’ll get the urge to make a special journey. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Installing the Octagon Exhibition

Nicholas JBooth6 June 2013

Most of last week I was busy installing the new Octagon Gallery Exhibition, ‘Digital Frontiers: Smart, Connected and Participatory’, curated by Claire Ross from the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. The exhibition features a huge range of objects, from a tweeting doorstop (the ‘sheep-pig’) to a drawer of pinned beetles, however most of the objects have come from the UCL Engineering Collections. This is one of the collections I look after, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about what goes into the process of putting together one of UCL’s Octagon exhibitions.

Exhibition poster showing one of the Engineering objects.

Exhibition poster showing one of the Engineering objects.

The exhibition opened on Wednesday 5th June. However the first meeting happened back in September when all the curators and collections managers from the different UCL Museums and Collections get together with Claire to hear about her plans for the exhibition, and to initially brain storm about what we have in our collections that fit with the exhibition subject. This was harder for some collections than others, but happily was relatively easy for me.

After this initial meeting Claire met all the curators individually to discuss the exhibition and view possible objects, before going away and coming up with a long list of what she wants. In the case of the Engineering Collections it was a very long list…which is great! However this also means that there was a lot of work for me, and others, to do.