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  • Archive for December, 2015

    Specimen of the Week 220: The Fossil Sea Lily

    By Tannis Davidson, on 28 December 2015

    LDUCZ-S31 Encrinus liliiformis

    LDUCZ-S31 Encrinus liliiformis

    It is perhaps no surprise that during December, most of the specimens featured in this blog tend to have associations with wintery Christmastime animals. There has been a reindeer, a polar bear, a robin, an owl and (last week) a partridge – all of which have been highlighted to kindle the yuletide cheer.

    In a radical departure, here’s a specimen that has absolutely no connection to winter, snow or any December seasonal holiday. But does it bring joy? Yes. This is an amazing specimen. Would this be a great Christmas present? Absolutely. If you ever see one, keep me in mind.

    Here it is – the one you’ve been waiting for – this week’s Specimen of the Week is the…

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: December 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 December 2015

    Underwhelming Christmas of the yearSilent drawer, lowly drawer!

    All is calm, all is poor(ly preserved).

    Found yon fossil fish, maybe a skull.

    Fragments of scales, so broken and dull,

    Unidentified piece,

    U-hun-identified piece.

     

    2016 is nearly upon us, but before it is, let’s take some time to reflect on the highly disappointing year of underwhelming fossil fish that has passed. If this is your first dip into this blog series then you’re out of luck. This series is an exploration of the frankly dull and uninteresting fossil fish that are found in museum collections the world over. Are they destined to a…erm…. a destiny in a museum drawer? Yes probably. Are they justifiably destined to an eternity in a museum drawer though? Yes, probably. But this series aims to celebrate them because they’re underwhelming because life shouldn’t be all about biggest, brightest and boldest.

    This year has been the least whelming year so far.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 219: Partridge Cranium and Mandible

    By Rachel H Bray, on 21 December 2015

    Rachel Bray reporting for Specimen of the Week duties. Christmas Week is officially upon us! Are you embracing bountiful amounts of merriness and mirth? No? Well then reading this blog will contribute a big ol’ Christmassy tick to your December to do list. Taking festive inspiration from the popular carol Twelve Days of Christmas, this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    Side view of Phasianidae specimen

    Phasianidae Cranium and Mandible – LDUCZ-Y1565

     

    (more…)

    Galton Island Discs

    By Subhadra Das, on 17 December 2015

    Desert Island Discs

    Would being marooned here be that bad, really?

    You’ll remember I have a motto? This time it’s the turn of the classic ‘Desert Island Discs’. Approaching Christmas, this seemed a good a time to take a more light-hearted look at Galton while simultaneously sneaking in multiple references to his considerable influence on the way we live now.

    Each entry lists the track title, year it came out, the album it featured on and the artist, along with an extract of lyrics which relate to the story of Galton’s life and work. Click on the track title for a link to a YouTube video so you can get a taste of what the songs sound like[1].

    1. 1. “Flagpole Sitta”, 1997, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, Harvey Danger

    Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding, The cretins cloning and feeding , And I don’t even own a tv.

    This indie anthem for the disenfranchised – superlatively used as the theme for the Channel 4 comedy ‘Peep Show’ – ironically and concisely captures a Galtonian worldview. Like many rich white men who benefitted incalculably from the colonial project, Galton was concerned that the quality of the British population was being irreversibly eroded by the Industrial Revolution which, among other things, allowed masses of the ‘unfit’ to agglomerate in metropolitan centres and increase their numbers.

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    Specimen of the Week 218: The Sugar Glider

    By Jack Ashby, on 14 December 2015

    Preserved sugar glider. Petaurus breviceps. LDUCZ-Z2171

    Preserved sugar glider. Petaurus breviceps. LDUCZ-Z2171

    Climbing up things can be challenging, be it hills, cliffs, trees or stairs. Climbing down, however is arguably far more difficult – your eyes are further from your hand-and foot-holds, your body is pointed in the wrong direction and gravity combines with momentum to pull you down faster than you’d like.

    Due* to the many drawbacks of climbing downwards, gliding has evolved many times in the animal kingdom – there are many species which have flaps of skin which form parachutes to slow their descent. Their names often contain the word “flying”, but true flight requires flapping wings. This post is not about flying lemurs, flying frogs, flying dragons, flying snakes, the four-winged dinosaur Microraptor, or even flying squirrels. This week’s Specimen of the Week is the far more accurately named… (more…)

    Petrie Museum Ceramics – Conservation Needs Survey

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 10 December 2015

    This is a guest blog written by our Senior Conservator Susi Pancaldo. 

    The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology houses one of the largest and most important collections of Egyptian materials in the UK. About 12,000 of the 80,000 objects are made of ceramic and, of these, roughly 3,400 are on display in the Pottery Gallery!

    Pottery inspection at the Petrie Museum.

    Pottery inspection at the Petrie Museum.

    (more…)

    Look, draw, scan, invert, colour in. REPEAT.

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 December 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    Sketch 3 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Sketch 3 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    I have a pile of drawings and sketches of sponge specimens made during my residency at the Grant Museum, which aren’t exhibited in the Glass Delusions exhibition. Looking closely and following the lines of these animals with my eyes and hand was a way of getting to know them, particularly as I couldn’t touch them directly. They were also a way of thinking, of letting forms and ideas develop between the specimens and me. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 217: annotated green turtle half-skull

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 7 December 2015

    This week I’ve picked a specimen to talk about that is being used in comparative zoology practicals at the moment. I chose it because it has been helpfully labelled to show each of the bones which fit together to form the remarkable piece of biological architecture that is the skull. So this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    LDUCZ-X833 annotated green turtle skull

    LDUCZ-X833 annotated green turtle skull

    (more…)

    Letting things draw themselves

    By Jack Ashby, on 4 December 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    Emerging #5, Photogram, 2015 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Emerging #5, Photogram, 2015
    (C) Eleanor Morgan

    During my artist’s residency at the Grant Museum I wanted to record the way light travels through the glass jars and specimens that fill the space. My first thought was to try cyanotypes. This is a type of contact print in which an object is place on paper and exposed to light. Where the light hits, the resulting image is a deep blue colour. The astronomer John Herschel developed cyanotypes in the nineteenth century for creating blueprints of diagrams and notes, but it is the cyanotypes of his contemporary Anna Atkins that are particularly celebrated. By placing seaweeds and ferns on prepared paper, Atkins’ cyanotypes are beautifully detailed and create a sculptural effect on the paper.

    (more…)

    The Evils Of Helium Balloons…and why you shouldn’t use them this holiday season.

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 3 December 2015

    Tis the season to be Jolly! We’re into the time for celebrations, festive cheer and office parties, drinks, mince pies and holiday decorations. And yet using some of those decorations could have serious consequences for us in the future, I’m talking of course about the menace that is… helium filled balloons.

    You'll thank me one day. "The Grinch (That Stole Christmas)". Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

    You’ll thank me one day.
    “The Grinch (That Stole Christmas)”.
    Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

    Helium and UCL have a long and entwined history. Sir William Ramsay first identified it on earth on March 26th, 1895, in his UCL lab (now an artist’s studio in the Slade School of Art) and it was this, along with his discovery of argon, neon, krypton and xenon, that won him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1904. There’s a couple of labs named after him, and arguably without him our neighbouring area of Soho would look very different (as helium is used in ‘Neon’ signs).  (more…)