X Close

UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Looking Through the Eyes of an Orangutan

By Alice M Salmon, on 25 October 2013

I am going to start this blog off by openly admitting that I am breaking social media convention by blogging about an event that took place nine months ago. *audible gasps*. Yes, I do really mean nine months ago. However, there is good reason for this. In February this year, UCL’s Museums and Collections, and the Library Special Collections, worked in collaboration with the UCL English Department and literary charity First Story, to deliver a creative writing day  for 100 students from local non selective secondary schools.  Today, the schools’ poetry anthologies have landed on my desk and they are definitely worth blogging about.

A selection of poetry anthologies by The First Story Group

The anthologies by First Story Group that are happily sitting on my desk.

Before I start raving about the creative writing that I have been sent, it would be worth your while to know what First Story do. The charity arranges and pays for acclaimed writers to run creative-writing workshops for students in state schools across the country. Each writer-in-residence leads weekly, after-school workshops and at the end of the academic year the students’ writing is published  in an anthology for each school.

 As we all know, an object can tell a thousand stories and can be open to any number of interpretations. It’s been truly great to see the creative influence that UCL’s collections and museum spaces have had on the young people who visited. The poem below by Georgina Buckle, who visited The Grant Museum for her creative writing session, is just one such example of this:


 They’re staring, their faces pressed in wonderment against the

scratched glass. They call me ‘it’ not realising that I have a name,

am part of a species.

                Why do they laugh? To any normal female orangutan , I’m

handsome, considered to have good genes in order to be a father.

                How I ended up here amazes me. All I remember was being

dragged off to my ominous future in scientific research.

                Yet, is this scientific research? Looking at my reflection in the

Glass, my eyes look dead and lifeless, but I’m not. My wispy auburn

hair looks artificial, although it’s not. I look like an absent minded

mannequin, but I’m not.

                My mind houses many philosophical thoughts, unlike theirs.

They never remember that they are my flesh and blood and I am theirs.

When they stare, they do not realise that the ‘ugly mug’ they refer to

is themselves.

                It gives me slight pleasure in knowing that the glass is as reflective as

they think it’s see through. 

Georgina Buckle, Lambeth Academy.

Orangutan features in the Lambeth Academy  Anthology, Islands of the Mind.  More information can be found on First Story by visiting their website, http://www.firststory.org.uk/

Alice Salmon is a Senior Access Officer in the Access and Learning Team for UCL’s Museums and Public Engagement Department.

Leave a Reply