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News and musings from the UCL Culture team


UCL Festival of the Arts and the Science Collections

By Nick J Booth, on 16 May 2014

In the last week of May, UCL will be hosting its second ever Festival of the Arts. It’s a four-day free festival aimed at showing off some of the wonderful work going on at UCL. And I am very pleased that three very different types of collections I help to look after will be featuring in three different events.

So here’s a bit more about them…

The first event I am helping out with is one of the first of the whole festival – ‘From Phantasmagoria to Science!

A Fleming Magic Lantern Slide - Views of Saturn

A Fleming Magic
Lantern Slide –
Views of Saturn

A Fleming Magic Lantern Slide - A Human Eye

A Fleming Magic
Lantern Slide –
A Human Eye

A Fleming Magic Lantern Slide - The Moon

A Fleming Magic
Lantern Slide –
The Moon

Featuring a magic lantern show designed by Dr Cristina Massaccesi, from the Department of Italian, and put on with the help of Richard and Jan Rigby,  members of the Magic Lantern Society, this hour-long lunch hour (1 – 2pm) event on Tuesday 27th May, will be held in the Haldane Room, Wilkins Building

Cristina has made a selection of slides from the UCL Electrical and Electronic Engineering Collection, as well as examples from the UCL Grant Museum. These include lecture slides belonging to Ambrose Fleming (inventor of the thermionic valve), early photos of space, slides showing landmarks across Europe and a set of Edwardian beach holiday snaps (!). The event will feature three ten minute long lantern shows, all accompanied by a pianist who has chosen the music specifically for the event. Cristina will give a short introduction at the start, and there will be time for questions afterwards.

One of the art works from the Slade event in the Rock Room.

One of the art works from the
Slade event in the Rock Room.
Simon Barkworth ‘Pseudomorph’
Plaster, Charcoal and Paper.

The second event is the Slade Salon Afternoon, on Wednesday 28th May between 2-5pm in the North Cloisters of the Wilkins Building. The Slade School of Fine Art is hosting this event, which is designed to show off some of the current research projects involving Slade staff and students.

I will be helping out Karin  Ruggaber, as she leads a discussion on a project we recently worked on which saw a group of Slade Students take over the Rock Room for a day.  Beforehand they were given a tour of behind–the-scenes in the Earth Science Department here at UCL, as well as a tour of the Mullard Space Science Lab. The students created a number of artworks specifically for the day, inspired by their behind-the-scenes science experiences. I will be bringing a few Geological specimens with me, including some NASA Prints from the Regional Planetary Image Facility at UCL.

The third and final event I’ll be helping out with is a four hour ‘pop-up’ exhibition in the UCL Art Museum, entitled ‘Find the Minds’ Construction in the Face‘, although the contributors have taken to calling it ‘Talking Heads‘ for short. The exhibition will be open 1 – 5pm on Thursday 29th May.

Carl Gottlob Irmscher: Freiburg murderer.

Carl Gottlob Irmscher: Freiburg murderer.

One of the more unusual collections I help look after at UCL is the Noel Collection, a group of 39 plaster life and death masks, made in Germany in the mid-19th Century. Originally designed to show off the facial features of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types, the collection has in its time passed through the hands of Ada Lovelace’s son, the Galton Laboratory at UCL and Slade School of Fine Art. We know of one instance at least when they were saved from (literally pulled out of) a skip so we are very lucky to have them.

The exhibition will involve a set of heads chosen by Dr Nick Shepley, from UCL English Studies, and Dr Carole Reeves, from Science and Technology Studies. This group will then be displayed in the Art Museum accompanied by text written for the event by Nick and Carole, interpreting the heads from their different disciplines and expertise. I’ll also be on hand during the day to talk a little more about the collection, and specific heads in general. I am sure it will come as no surprise that some of the more colourful characters have been selected for the day, including Carl Gottlob Irmscher, who murdered his wife and child. So if you’d like to come face-to-face with a killer come along!

There are a number of excellent events going on all week. I’ll certainly be trying to catch as many as I can.

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

This Blog was updated on 19/05/2014 to correct some minor spelling errors.

One Response to “UCL Festival of the Arts and the Science Collections”

  • 1
    Magic Lantern Projects at the University College London | A Million Pictures wrote on 2 February 2016:

    […] The Museum and Collections’ Blog of UCL documents initiatives of using their magic lantern slide collection. The blog posts include a curator’s reflection on working with this under-researched material. Read the articles “Unpacking UCL’s Magic Lantern Slide Collections“, “The Micrarium – a place for tiny things” and the report of a lantern show at the UCL Festival of the Arts and the Science Collections […]

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