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News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Name our Rhino on the Run

By Jack Ashby, on 6 November 2014

The rhino in the Grant Museum - what's his name?

The rhino in the Grant Museum – what’s his name?

The largest single specimen in the Museum – our (hornless) Indian one-horned rhino – is about to go on holiday. He is going away for some serious conservation work. You might call it health tourism.

The rhino entered the Museum as an un-mounted skeleton in 1910-11 when the University of London Loan Collection was disbanded. The Museum then paid £14 to have him, the seal, the bear and “a zebra” (possibly the quagga) mounted onto iron frames. Since then, the rhino has been on open display in the Museum, and the iron is slowly corroding.

This year, as part of a major project called Bone Idols: Preserving our Iconic Skeletons, 39 of our largest specimens are undergoing conservation treatment. Some need intensive cleaning to remove the damaging pollutants and particulates that have built up over up to 180 years on open display; some also need repairs to certain body parts. Some, like the rhino and quagga, need to be totally disassembled, cleaned, and then repositioned on new skeleton-friendly metal frames, with all his joints correctly matching up.

All of this work will allow us to safe-guard our irreplaceable collection for the long-term future and continue to use it every day for teaching, research and public engagement.

There are two exciting opportunities coming up as a result…

The rhino on his old iron frame in the 1930s.

The rhino on his old iron frame in the 1930s.

Name the rhino

A number of our more charismatic specimens have given names. There’s Barry the echidna, Flo the buffalo, Elkie the giant deer, Troy the quoll, Derek the dugong, Patrick the giant starfish and Percy the pangolin for example, but the rhino is currently nameless.

We’d like to give our Twitter followers the chance to name the rhino. If you have suitable name (we don’t actually know the gender, but I tend to consider all dead animals as boys), then please do suggest it. All you have to do is tweet the name to @GrantMuseum AND use the hashtag #NameTheRhino before 9am on 17th November. Think carefully – after this conservation work the specimen should last for hundreds of years.

The Prize: We have been given copies of John Wright’s brand new book The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names by our friends at Bloomsbury Publishing. The person who suggests the name that we select for the rhino will win a copy, and so will four “runners up” who made laudable suggestions but didn’t make the final cut.

Watch him come to pieces

Starting on Monday 10th November we will be dismantling the skeleton and packing him up for his holidays. If you want to come in and see the work in action and talk to the team about the project, please do (we’re open Monday to Saturday 1-5pm). It’s hard to predict how long the dismantling will take – it could go on for a couple of days, or we could finish by opening time on Tuesday. Sorry we can’t be more specific; it depends how cooperative he is.

Jack Ashby is the Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology

[UPDATE 01/12/14]: We are very happy to announce that the Rhino has officially been named Reg, after our founder Robert Edmond Grant (R.E.G). Read the full story, and see a video of Reg being dismantled here: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2014/11/27/dismantling-reg-the-rhino-in-ten-easy-steps/


4 Responses to “Name our Rhino on the Run”

  • 1
    Lorna Steel wrote on 6 November 2014:

    I’m sure the rhino had a name when I was a student in 1995-6. Ask Helen Chatterjee, who was the curator at the time. It might have been Rodney, Ronnie, Robert… something like that. Glad to hear that Derek the Dugong is still there!

  • 2
    Jack Ashby wrote on 6 November 2014:

    Thanks Lorna. Inevitably people who’ve come to love the collection have their pet names for certain specimens (to be honest, I personally and working hard to have Troy and Barry mentioned above officially recognised). I have heard a few names for the rhino banded about, but none has officially stuck in the Museum canon.

  • 3
    Elena wrote on 8 November 2014:

    I can’t tell you why but it sound appropriate.

  • 4
    Daniel wrote on 10 November 2014:

    I don’t “Twit”, but if I may make a suggestion via these comments, then given his species may I suggest Albrecht, or Dürer?

    Although come to think of it he/she does look a bit like a Clara…


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