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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Archive for September, 2013

Specimen of the Week: Week 103

Emma-LouiseNicholls30 September 2013

These past few weeks some of our exhibits have been rearranged and reinvented. This has included the merciless culling of some specimens, doomed to a life with the other relegated objects in the well-populated store rooms (the existence of which is primarily due to not having enough space to display everything). As I packed them up for transportation, one of them leapt out at me (not literally) and I thought it deserved one last hoorah before it is consigned to the group of specimens to be loved only from afar. And only by those who know it is there. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: September

MarkCarnall26 September 2013

It’s time for Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month again, our monthly foray into the unspectacular, underwhelming (except for the time we sold out) and otherwise uncelebrated world of long deceased fossil fish. Excitingly, this is the eleventh installation in this series (the previous UFFoTM can all be found here), this is particularly insignificant as eleven isn’t a particularly interesting or noteworthy number especially when we compare it to the somewhat overused ten and the dirty dozen that is twelve.

In order to commemorate the eleventh entry in this series I’m going to let you in on some behind-the-scenes stuff I was waiting to commit to the special commentary for the straight-to-bargain-bins DVD release Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: The Official Movie (working title), however, due to Hollywood outright rejecting the idea for the film I thought I’d present it here.


Specimen of the Week: Week 102

Emma-LouiseNicholls23 September 2013

As the weather has become decidedly wetter, my thoughts this week turned to creatures (very much unlike  myself) who might appreciate such things. The obvious train of thought skipped all lesser creatures and went straight to sharks, but I’m not allowed to turn the blog into Sharks R Us, so I went for something else with teeth, attitude, and unashamedly resembling a retro computer game character. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

The best natural history specimen in the world (did not get thrown on a fire)

JackAshby19 September 2013

Last week I saw something that had never occurred to me might be possible to see. Through the years I have learned a lot about this object – I knew where it was, I knew where it came from and I certainly know its place in the pantheon of the history of natural history. We even have a cast of it in the Grant Museum.

If you had asked me what the best natural history object in the UK was, most days I would tell you it was this one. I had just assumed that seeing it wasn’t something that ever happened, even for people who run university zoology museums.

The Grant Museum team an a sperm whale jaw at the OUMNH (they're closed for roof repairs)Last Wednesday the staff of the Grant Museum went on an expedition to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH), which is closed for roof repairs until 2014. On a visit to the zoology section a cupboard was opened before us, it was filled with skulls, dried fish and a couple of boxes. As the history of this cupboard was explained – it was Tradescant’s Museum – the oldest in the country – it suddenly dawned on me what was in those boxes. And that we were going to see it.

We were going to see the only soft tissue of a dodo anywhere in the world. (more…)

A week in the life of a Curator

Nicholas JBooth18 September 2013

People often ask me what it is I do for a job. “Well” I answer, “I’m a curator”.

Me in the micrarium at  the Grant Museum.

Me in the micrarium at
the Grant Museum.

“Yes, but what do you actually do?”

“I curate a collection, I help look after it”.

“Yes but what do you ACTUALLY do all day?”

It’s a good question, and one to which the answer is never really that simple. What I ‘actually do’ varies from week to week, and depends upon what I have to do, what I need to do, and what I have time to do. So I thought I would write a blog as a way of answering.

Last week I made a point of recording exactly what I was up to between Monday and Friday, and tried to take a few more photos that I would normally. I should say that I did not particularly plan for this week to be one I blogged about, and I resisted the urge to book in lots of important sounding meetings. I had planned to use a stepometer during the week, to see how far I walked, but sadly couldn’t get my hands on one in time.

So, my week…


Ask A Curator Day

Nicholas JBooth17 September 2013

Ask A Curator,  18th September 2013

Ask A Curator Day,
18th September 2013

On Wednesday 18th UCL Museums will be taking part in the Ask A Curator Day event on twitter. The original day was way back in 2010 and this year already has more museums signed up than ever before (525 in 34 countires at time of writing). We know that asking a question in a museum can sometimes feel intimidating , and that we curators can sometimes be hard to track down. There’s so much to do (all that cataloguing…gah!) that we aren’t always the most accessible group of people (though we really do try).  We are taking part in the day as part of our commitment to make our collections as accessible as possible.

Ask A Curator works like this.  Anyone in the world with a twitter account can tweet a question with the #AskACurator hashtag, and it will be answered by any of the institutions taking part. If you have a specific question for us you can tweet it directly to us @UCLMuseums and one of our staff will do their best to answer you. The Grant Museum is also taking part using @GrantMuseum.

In preparation for this I thought I would introduce you to our members of staff taking part… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week 101

Emma-LouiseNicholls16 September 2013

Well, after the excitement of the last ten weeks I bet you thought I was out of ideas to entertain you with eh? Nope, that is the benefit of working in one of the most incredible collections known to man (this man at least. Or woman, more accurately), there is always something exciting to talk about. This week I have an animal for you that, in its non-skeletal form, resembles an overgrown sparsely furred dog with a wallaby’s tail and a fennec fox’s ears. Got a clear picture? This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Petrie Menagerie: The Crocodile

EdmundConnolly13 September 2013

We have covered birds, insects, reptiles and mammals and we now end on an animal prevalent in both land and water, perhaps one of the most iconic Egyptian animals about. The Nilotic crocodile is the second largest in the world and can measure in at a hefty 6.1 metres, a worthy beast for our Petrie Menagerie.


Petrie Menagerie #7: The Crocodile

As a native inhabitant of Egypt it is not surprising these creatures are found in numerous literal and more mythology inspired presentations:

A wooden crocodile, with a toothy grin

A wooden crocodile, with a toothy grin


Book Worm… Darwin’s Notebook: The Life, Times and Discoveries of Charles Robert Darwin written and compiled by Jonathan Clements – A Review

NaomiAsantewa-Sechereh12 September 2013

Book Worm

Book Worm – that’s Grant and a lugworm

Darwin’s Notebook: The Life, Times and Discoveries of Charles Robert Darwin was first published by The History Press in 2009, the year that marked the bicentennial anniversary of Darwin’s birth. It is a biography which is made to resemble a personal notebook by the inclusion of quotations and illustrations from Darwin’s own journals and books. (more…)

Specimen of the Week: WEEK ONE HUNDRED- WOOOO

Emma-LouiseNicholls9 September 2013

It’s here! The one hundredth Specimen of the Week! It would be arrogant to assume that you are all loyal followers (though I would question your judgement if you are not) so here is how I chose the top ten specimens for the count-down to the one hundredth Specimen of the Week:

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.

I know, I know, you just want to know what it is. Ok, here we go, hold on to your seats, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)