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  • Archive for July, 2013

    Life, Stilled

    By Mark Carnall, on 9 July 2013

    Conjure up in your mind, if you will, a natural history museum and you’ll probably be picturing skeletons, taxidermied animals and maybe specimens preserved in fluid. Recently, I spent some time with Rosina Down, the curator before the curator before me, having a look at some of the more unusual specimens we have here that were prepared on site at UCL in the 1980s.

    Freeze dried mouse

    Freeze dried mouse


    Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety-One

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 8 July 2013

    Nine blogs away from the big 1-0-0! Woooo! Not yet though, I, and you, must at least attempt to contain our excitement. This won’t help though- In the run up to the 100th blog I am going to bring to you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…


    1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.


    2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)


    3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.


    With that in mind, at Number Ten, this week’s Specimen of the Week is…


    Conserve It! Part IV – Filling and Finishing Touches

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 5 July 2013

    This is the final installment of the excellent Conserve it! blog series, written by four conservation students from the Institute of Archaeology. In this post Leslie Stephens and Louise Stewart describe the last stages of the process.

    To read the full series please click on the ‘Engineering Collections’ or ‘Science Collections’ category tabs on the left hand side of this page.

    Conservation doesn’t end when all the pieces are back together. Once researched, cleaned and reassembled, the x-ray tubes will need further work. Filling gaps and preparing the tubes for storage are the final stages in the process.

    Why do conservators fill gaps in objects? Fills are usually undertaken for two reasons: aesthetics and support.  When an object has most of its pieces remaining, it is frequently the job of the conservator to make an object look as complete as possible so that visitors are aided in its visual interpretation. When the object’s original material is fragmentary, it is often difficult for visitors to understand what it would have looked like before damage. The more material is missing, the harder this job is for the conservator. There is a fine line between aiding interpretation for the visitor, and presenting an object that is too much ‘interpretation’ and not enough original material. If the conservator is not certain what the missing fragments would have looked like, they are less likely to fill that area with a ‘guess’.  When there is very little original material left, however, fills sometimes hold fragments in place. This happens especially when there is not enough original material left for the object to hold its own weight; these types of fills are considered support fills.


    Egyptian Barbie aka Dhimi Masrya

    By Edmund Connolly, on 3 July 2013

      guest blogger: Monika Zgoda

    Although undoubtedly the most famous and well known wonders of the Ancient Egypt are the pyramids, the immaculate engineering skills of this incredible civilization translated into smaller, in no way less impressive, objects of everyday life. Petrie was fascinated by the lives of the ordinary people collected objects of daily use, creating bridges between the Ancient Egypt and the Western civilizations of the 19th and the 20th centuries. It seems that when it comes to the mantra of ‘working hard, playing hard’ the ancient Egyptians were not too dissimilar to us (no matter what age), and long before every little girl’s best friend was Barbie, the Egyptians amused their daughters with a more demure precursor of the long legged blond bombshell.

    UC28024 an Egyptian doll from the world famous Petrie Museum collection

    UC28024 an Egyptian doll from the world famous Petrie Museum collection


    Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 1 July 2013

    Whilst wandering around the Museum (as Museum Assistants do) this week I noticed a bizarre bone growth on a skull on display. Any such bone growth is immediately looked for on the other side of the skull because that would indicate (though not conclusively) that it was a natural phenomenon. The left hand side of this skull had no such growth. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuun. This is what we in the biz call a pathological specimen, i.e. something that is caused by or is involved in some way with disease. Having a weird fascination with disease, as most biologists probably do, the skull moved up on my list of which I like the most out of our 68,000 specimens. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)