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  • Archive for February, 2014

    An un-noble argument over a Nobel subject

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 19 February 2014

    After a few drinks last weekend, my sister, who is doing a Ph.D at a ‘different’ university, and I got in to a friendly ‘my horse is bigger than your horse’. I gloated that UCL has tentacles that reach around the world, is ranked within the top four universities within the UK, and most importantly (because this is how I measure university performance) we have several Nobel Prizes. Well as it turns out, so does her university, but the important thing is that we have more.

     

    Although the conversation was entirely (ok, mostly) in jest, it made me curious as to how justified my claims of ‘having a bigger horse’ actually were and I set about some googling. As luck would have it, even after calibrating the data for variables such as my university is around 130 odd years older than hers, and also taking into consideration the fact that the Nobel Prize only began in 1901 whereas we were founded in 1827, UCL are still higher achievers. Mwah hah hah. According to the website www.nobelprize.org, there have been 487 Nobel Prizes given out worldwide since its inception. Well let me hear an ‘oooo’ for the fact that 21 of those belong to us. As in UCL, not my sister and myself. (more…)

    Museum life, loves and labels

    By Subhadra Das, on 18 February 2014

    Having spent some time digging around, I’d like to share with you some of my thought processes to build up a picture of the development of the Galton Collection through its object labels.

    Nothing is so helpful to a curator than the work of those others who have worked to document the collection before them. In the Galton Collection, some of this consists of labels attached to objects. As previous blog authors have said, old object labels can help us to work out the provenance of objects in the absence of this information in a complete catalogue.

    For example, objects with this label:

    Galton Bequest label

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 123

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 17 February 2014

    As a palaeontologist, I spend a lot of time thinking about how species known only from the fossil record may have looked in life. Take Helicoprion for example. WHAT is THAT about? We currently have no way of knowing for sure where that tooth whorl goes on Helicoprion, so we make an educated guess. The result of which is the weirdest shark’s mouth the world has ever seen. Surrounded by skeletons at the Grant Museum, I sometimes wonder if we would ever have arrived at an accurate morphological reconstruction of some of the species, whose skeletons don’t really resemble the living thing. The species featured this week, is one such animal. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Divorce, Adultery and Revenge: an alternate Valentine’s Day

    By Edmund Connolly, on 14 February 2014

    Valentine’s Day can be an arduous 24 hours of franchised affection and a reminder that being single is not socially commendable.  To play the merry dissenter, and offer those of you who are not a fan of the day, I will celebrate 4 archaeological heroes who flew in the face of Valentine’s lucid message and offer a far more commendable representation of love.

    A rather intimate cupid and Jupiter by Raimondi. UCl Art Museum 1684

    A rather intimate Cupid and Jupiter by Raimondi. UCl Art Museum 1684

    (more…)

    We’re all heart at the Grant Museum

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 14 February 2014

    The dissected giraffe heart

    No matter who you are or where you come from, you have to admire the giraffe’s heart. It manages to pump blood up arteries in a neck that can reach over two metres in length. It is helped out by a series of valves that prevent the blood from flowing back down again (except through the veins, in which it is supposed to flow back down again). The giraffe’s heart is, surprisingly, smaller than that of mammals of a comparative body size. The heart copes with the morphology of the animal by having really thick muscle walls and a small radius. The result is a very powerful organ. I wonder if that means giraffes fall in love really easily, or find it harder to get over their exes? (more…)

    On the Origin of Our Specimens: The Allchin Years

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 13 February 2014

    ‘The Thirteen’

    The collection of specimens, known since 1997 as the Grant Museum of Zoology, was started in 1827 by Robert E. Grant. Grant was the first professor of zoology at UCL when it opened, then called the University of London, and he stayed in post until his death in 1874. The collections have seen a total of 13 academics in the lineage of collections care throughout the 187 year history of the Grant Museum, from Robert E. Grant himself, through to our current Curator Mark Carnall.

    Both Grant and many of his successors have expanded the collections according to their own interests, which makes for a fascinating historical account of the development of the Museums’ collections. This mini-series will look at each of The Thirteen in turn, starting with Grant himself, and giving examples where possible, of specimens that can be traced back to their time at UCL. Previous editions can be found here.

    Number Two: William Henry Allchin (1874-1875)
    (more…)

    Darwin (or) Bust opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 12 February 2014

    Charles Darwin would be 205 today. Happy birthday to him. To mark the occasion our Darwin (or) Bust exhibition opens today, showing Darwin as you are unlikely to have seen him before. Darwins have been created out of ants, light, crochet, DNA, his own writings, chocolate and other unusual media, all imagined and made by members of UCL’s Institute of Making.

    The Museum’s historic plaster bust of Darwin was moved from UCL’s Darwin Building when our collection was relocated in 2011. The remaining inhabitants of the Darwin Building were sorry to lose him, and so asked the Institute of Making to help them make a new one, from 3D laser scanning. We already had the 3D data as our very own Mona Hess had scanned him for her PhD on scanning in museums, and an idea blossomed…

    3D Scan of the Grant Museum's Darwin bust by Mona Hess (all rights reserved)

    3D Scan of the Grant Museum’s Darwin bust by Mona Hess (all rights reserved)

    Rather than just print off a new Darwin bust for the departments of Structural and Molecular Biology and Genetics, Evolution and Environment in the Darwin Building, we all decided to see what happened if we tapped the minds around us at UCL; asking the members of the Institute of Making how they would reinterpret the 3D data to make a new Darwin for the 21st Century. This multi-venue exhibition is the result. A previous post explains the origins of the exhibition more fully.

    The project somewhat snowballed. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 122

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 10 February 2014

    It’s Valentine’s Day this week! I don’t subscribe to the modern idea that Valentine’s Day is a commercial farce designed to make you pay three times the price for one ‘romantic dinner’ out and 20 times the normal price for a rose of a specific colour. Well ok those are true, but Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to comprise either. Personally, I am REALLY hoping that this year someone loves me enough to get me membership to the British Arachnological Society for V-Day (link supplied in case you’re sufficiently moved, as it isn’t looking likely otherwise). But I’m not too sad as here at the Grant Museum I am surrounded by love. Such as in my choice of super lovey specimen this week! This Week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Collecting: Knowledge in Motion

    By Mark Carnall, on 7 February 2014

    Guest post by Claire Dwyer one of the curators of the current Octagon Gallery exhibition, Collecting: Knowledge in Motion.

    What do crocodile skin handbags, ‘Agatha Christie’s picnic basket’, an overstuffed Bosc’s monitor lizard, a fourteenth century Jewish prayer book and a cabinet of keys have in common? All can be found in the latest exhibition in the Octagon Gallery, which opened on January 21st 2014. Collecting: Knowledge in Motion is the outcome of a collaboration by a group of UCL academics who responded to a call to curate an exhibition which reflected the theme of ‘movement’. As one of the academics who curated the exhibition in this guest blog post I offer some personal reflections. Other members of the team will offer their own comments in subsequent posts.

    (more…)

    How to Stop Worrying and Love (running)

    By Helen R Cobby, on 6 February 2014

    20 ways running can transform your worldWorking up to the event on Wed 26th Feb 6.30 – 7.30pm, in UCL Art Museum.

    On 26th February there is the chance to meet the artist and Slade School PhD Graduate Kai Syng Tan and take part in her experimental, multidisciplinary event based around the positive powers of running. This is the opportunity to learn about running as a potentially playful and subversive activity within an artistic framework.

    Kai is sprinting forward with latest research that focuses on the body and its dialogue with technology and social media networks. Her website creatively communicates this unusual project, which is constantly evolving. Come expecting to be made curious, surprised and energized.

    Intrigued to find out more before the event, I met up with Kai to talk about how her work explores notions of playfulness, natural endorphins and the meaning of life.

     

    You have many different roles and identities, being an artist, educator and researcher. How do you see them interacting and influencing each other?

    Many artists today have multiple identities. I have been an artist for nearly 20 years, but I have done many different things within this role. It involves showing my work in public spaces and online in spaces not always considered part of the art world. As a new media artist I have also had a parallel career; lecturing is how I bring home the bacon.  (more…)