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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Science + Art = ?

By Nick J Booth, on 6 May 2014

What happens when you give a Geology Museum to a set of Art Students? Well we are about to find out…

Photo taken in Geo-Chemistry Lab

Geo-Chemistry Lab at UCL.

Last year a group of sculpture Masters students from the Slade School of Fine Art took over the Rock Room (UCL’s Geology Museum) for a day, created a load of new art works relating to the space and the collection, and then opened it up to the public to view their work. It was a great day, we had a lot of visitors and the students seemed to enjoy themselves.

This year I met with the Slade organiser, Lecturer in Sculpture Karin Ruggaber, early, and we decided that we would build on the work of last time, by offering a tour of some of the lesser seen parts of the Geology Collections, and the Earth Science Department here at UCL,

as well as giving them the opportunity to do with the Rock Room as they will. Earth Science as a subject is concerned with the physical make up of the Earth (and other planets), and the Geology Collections are part of the department, so this seemed like a good fit.

A machine in the basement for 'creep' testing.

A machine in the basement
for ‘creep’ testing.

The tour took place last Friday (May 2nd) and involved two groups of Slade students, about 24 in total, as well as myself, Ruth Siddall and Wendy Kirk from the department (REAL Geologists, I’m just an archaeologist by training) and Karin. The Earth Science staff were great, and gave their time generously and freely. I know how busy they are so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to them all.

Tours were given in the Rock Room, a Geo-Chemistry Lab, the Art Museum, the Regional Planetary Image Facility, and several labs that form part of the Earth Science department. Of these labs all of them were excellent, however the Ice Physics Laboratory was probably one of the most popular. This involved the group walking into a freezer complex, with rooms ranging in temperature from -20 Celsius, to a balmy -2 or so.

Does what it says on the tin.

Does what it says on the tin.

Some of the planetary images from the RPIF

Some of the planetary images
from the UCL RPIF

Taking in the other labs the tour also afforded the opportunity to view a rock broken down into a liquid, a machine that replicates the processes of a volcano, a set of machines designed to be placed in the sea to exert pressure on rock samples and a gold plated ant. There really is some amazing stuff going on in the Earth Sciences Labs at UCL.

The students will be taking over the Rock Room this Friday (9th May), and their work will be open to view between 1 – 5. The event is going to be called dəprɛʃ dəprɛst​. I have no idea what they are going to bring with them, or how they will react to the Rock Room space. However I did field questions during the day about fish getting baked into rock salt (could be smelly), what acid to use on a pear (I have no idea) and what type of mineral is best to develop a photo through (again, not a clue).

I am looking forward to it, and I urge you to come by and have a look if you can.

It’s going to be interesting!

Nick Booth is a Teaching & Research Curator at UCL. He helps to look after the Science and Engineering Collections.

A list of some of Earth Science's Labs

Directions to some of UCL Earth Science’s Labs

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