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Archive for the 'Grant Museum of Zoology' Category

Specimen of the Week 389: The Monarch Butterfly

LisaRandisi16 August 2019

This blog was written by UCL Culture volunteer Melissa Wooding.

Today’s specimen of the week highlights one of the world’s longest animal migrations at 6,000 miles1– completed by an insect!

This beautiful insect has an internal biology including a sundial 2 compass 3, and a gene enabling it to suppress its own ageing and increase its own lifespan 8 times4… all inside a brain the size of a single sesame seed5.

It’s time to give this mind-boggling butterfly its due moment in the spotlight:

Pair of monarch butterflies

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Specimen of the Week 388: Lunar Orbiter Images

Hannah LCornish9 August 2019

In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing this month we have something extra-terrestrial for you.

UCL is home to an amazing collection of images taken from spacecraft; our specimen of the week is nothing less than the whole of the planet Earth as seen from the Moon

UCL's print of Lunar Orbiter 1 Photograph 1117, the Earth viewed from lunar orbit. Copyright NASA 1966, public domain

UCL’s print of Lunar Orbiter 1 Photograph 1117, the Earth viewed from lunar orbit. Copyright NASA 1966, public domain

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Specimen of the Week 387: Trader, Raider, Warship: The Gurob Model Boat

KatieDavenport-Mackey2 August 2019

This blog was written by Edwin Wood, Museum Visitor Services Assistant at UCL Culture.

The Gurob model boat is thought to represent a Mycenaean Galley, a type of vessel used in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Mycenaean Bronze Age, c.1500-1100 BC. This form of ship would have been used primarily in coastal waters, keeping within sight of land and mooring at night. The ship served as a trading vessel, for carrying goods to and from the Hellenic states and their neighbours such as the Hittites and of course, the Egyptian kingdom. It also would have served well as a warship, able to carry warriors for raiding and also equipped with a prow mounted ram for ship to ship engagements.

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Specimen of the Week 386: A Cocktail of Spirits: Fluid Preservation at the Grant Museum

KatieDavenport-Mackey19 July 2019

The Grant Museum contains a staggering number of specimens – the estimate is more than 68,000 – and approximately 10% are fluid preserved specimens. Fluid preservation describes specimens that are preserved in chemicals that protect them from deterioration. There are three components to a fluid preserved specimen:

  1. The fixed specimen: The specimen is injected or ‘fixed’ with a chemical that prevents decomposition by stabilising the protein molecules. The most common fixative is formaldehyde.
  2. The preservative fluid: Most fluid preserved specimens are preserved in solutions of alcohol or formalin, a mixture of formaldehyde and water.
  3. The container: Containers are typically glass jars or bottles sealed with a closure.

Below is a brief description of some of the different preservative fluids that can be found in the Grant Museum.

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Specimen of the Week 385: UCL skulls

Hannah LCornish12 July 2019

This blog was written by Lily Garnett, volunteer at the UCL Pathology Museum

UCL.16.009 and UCL.16.018 are skulls. Like any human face, although they have the same features, they look different. They have both been processed for medical teaching, with cuts and hooks to reveal the inner workings of the cranium.

In terms of provenance, the history of these two individuals remains a mystery. The UCL prefix to their number indicates that they were found within the collection and their history prior to this is unknown. Before accurate plastic models became available in the 1990s, real human bones were used for teaching.

But where do you get a skeleton from?

Skulls UCL.16.009 and UCL.16.018

Skulls UCL.16.009 and UCL.16.018

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Specimen of the Week 383: Fracture of the odontoid process

Hannah LCornish14 June 2019

This blog was written by Lily Garnett, volunteer at the UCL Pathology Museum

These human remains tell a true story of murder, attempted suicide and the understanding of mental health in 1855.

It is rare for human remains within pathology collections to bear the name of the individual they were once a part of in life. In historic collecting this is most probably due to a collector’s medical interest in a pathology as a ‘specimen’, disassociating it from the reality that it was once part of a person with feelings, thoughts and family. Moreover, in the past the maintaining of deceased individuals often went unmonitored. Until as late as a public enquiry in 1999, with a focus being on the Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, the vast majority were unaware that hospitals were retaining patients’ organs without consent. This ultimately led to the Human Tissue Act 2004, which is monitored by the Human Tissue Authority. Now, any institution holding human remains that are less than 100 years old since the death of an individual legally require a license.

D.15 Fracture of the odontoid process caused by a bullet

D.15 Fracture of the odontoid process caused by a bullet (bullet visible top left)

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Specimen of the Week 381: What Lies Beneath

Tannis M NDavidson17 May 2019

Mystery ceramic pots

Mystery ceramic pots

The fluid store room for the Grant Museum is perhaps an unlikely setting for a hair-raising tale. In it, rows of metal shelves are neatly arranged holding jars of preserved zoology specimens arranged by taxonomy. Order and classification dictate the placement of specimens, and as a whole, the contents of the store are visible, documented and accessible.

Apart from the bottom shelf of the last row. Although a numbered (legitimate) location, it is a wildcard area which houses several large ceramic pots of unknown content. No one knows exactly how and when the pots came to be a part of the Grant Museum collection and because it is impossible to see into them, no none knows what they hold. A few clues exist – the occasional faded label or a more modern post-it note – but as the pots have not been opened and investigated in living memory, their contents are a mystery.

What follows is the first-hand account of the opening of two of the pots. This is a true story.

**WARNING  Graphic images below **

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Specimen of the Week 380: Malignant melanoma of the eye

SubhadraDas10 May 2019

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

In honour of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, today’s specimen of the week is a malignant melanoma of the eye.

Melanoma is a cancer — an uncontrolled growth of cells — that usually develops in the pigment-containing cells of the skin. The main cause of melanoma is over-exposure to ultra-violet light rays, either directly from sunlight or artificial sources like tanning beds.

Melanoma most commonly occurs in people with lighter skin, particularly white people living in tropical or subtropical climates. The highest instances of melanoma are in Australia and New Zealand.

If detected early, a melanoma can be surgically removed before it spreads to other parts of the body. Sadly, that wasn’t the case here.

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Plural Animal Wednesdays

Hannah LCornish24 April 2019

This blog is about a centuries-old quirk of the English language that has become a Grant Museum tradition.

If you follow us on twitter (@GrantMuseum) you may have come across Plural Animal Wednesday (#PAW), our weekly tweet about collective animal nouns. These are the words used to describe groups of animals, you are probably familiar with a herd of sheep, a flock of birds and a swarm of insects. There are, however, an astonishing number of obscure and wonderful plural animal names, enough to keep us in tweets for years and years.

#PAW was the brainchild of former Grant Museum Curatorial Assistant Emma Louise Nicholls. It all began on 16th November 2011 with a crash of rhinos (because rhinos are Emma’s favourite), and has continued every week for 7 years. All our plural animal discoveries are kept in a big spreadsheet and we are now approaching 400 entries. So why are there so many? Where do they come from? How long can we keep finding them to boost our social media content? Read on to find out.

A 'crash' of white rhinos Ceratotherium simum by Chris Eason CC-BY 2.0

A crash of white rhinos Ceratotherium simum by Chris Eason CC-BY 2.0

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Specimen of the week: Trichobezoar

KatieDavenport-Mackey29 March 2019

Our blog this week is from Subhadra Das, Curator of Science Collections at UCL Culture.

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

This week’s specimen is a trichobezoar — a mass of undigested hair from the stomach and large intestine of a young girl. As with most of the specimens in UCL Pathology Collections, we know little about the person the specimen comes from beyond their sex and their age, but this rare condition provides an interesting window into the practice of medicine, and its cultural significance extends into the realms of magic. (more…)