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  • The dogs that work to detect cancer

    By Jack Ashby, on 22 November 2017

    The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

    Guest post by Katrina Holland (UCL Anthropology)

    It’s 8.45am at a business park in rural Buckinghamshire, UK: my primary field site. A car pulls up and Kiwi jumps out, rushing into the workplace where she spends 3 days each week. Striding into the office, Kiwi wags her tail and greets her colleagues by pressing her wet nose into each of their trousers. Shortly after arriving, Kiwi is escorted by her trainer Sam to a grassy paddock where the pair stretch their legs. For Kiwi, this means darting across the field with her nose to the ground and choosing places to do her “business”. Meanwhile, armed with poop bags, Sam walks several laps of the paddock keeping a watchful eye on Kiwi. On their return to the office, Kiwi curls up on a cushion underneath Sam’s desk and dozes for an hour, before Sam calls her into the training room next door. Here Kiwi works, sniffing urine samples for up to 45 minutes per day as she learns to detect the odour of prostate cancer in urine.

    One of the bio-detection dogs searches the the samples.

    One of the bio-detection dogs searches the the samples.

    (more…)

    The great zombie apocalypse

    By Rachael Sparks, on 8 October 2013

    Curatorial dilemma no 1: how to defend against zombie attack

    Curatorial dilemma no 1: how to defend against zombie attack

    On September 18th, UCL Museums and Collections participated in a worldwide event on Twitter: Ask a Curator day.  The plan was to have a handful of curators on call to deal with questions as they flooded in from a curious public. The reality was that we didn’t have many queries sent directly to our feed, so we went out into the Twittersphere to seek out interesting questions to answer. As Keeper of the Institute of Archaeology Collections, I spent an hour manning the virtual desk, and found it an interesting experience. (more…)

    Ian Hislop and the Galton Head Spanner

    By Subhadra Das, on 10 October 2012

    Ian Hislop and the Galton Head SpannerAt the risk of sounding celebrity obsessed; one of our objects was on the telly last night!

    A head spanner originally used by the Galton Laboratory and now part of the UCL Galton collection appeared in ‘Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip’ on BBC2. The second in a 3-part self-described ‘emotional history of Britain’ focussed on how the Victorians embraced the stiff upper lip as an empire building tool. Used to take accurate measurements of human skulls, this head spanner, and others like it, contributed to the colonial project of keeping colonials… well, colonial.

    As someone who has relinquished an Indian passport to take on the mantle of Britishness[1]*there are lots of issues I could talk about here, but I’m also a museum curator and so enjoy getting het up about very little things rather than massive philosophical and social issues.

    So, I thought I would 1) write and let you know that you can catch-up with the series on the BBC iPlayer And 2) give you an insight into the practical, professional and ethical aspects of lending an object for filming a documentary.

    It went a little something like this:
    (more…)

    From the vollies: A humbling collection of hominin casts

    By Mark Carnall, on 20 September 2012

    Volunteers are very much the spine and vital organs of museums and we are eternally grateful for all the work and support they give to museums. Anthropologist Rebecca Davenport has been working on the Grant Museum collection of fossil human casts and models. Over to Rebecca…

    Most of us have no problem distinguishing between ourselves and other animals. Whilst the Grant Museum’s main attractions inspire reactions ranging from disgust to awe, I’d wager that gazing upon a jar of moles or the bones of an extinct quagga fails to arouse feelings of commonality or a sense of shared identity. After all, these specimens look completely alien and lack any element of we might consider “humanness”. (more…)

    Talking the talk

    By Rachael Sparks, on 23 April 2012

    Behind each dig and archaeological display is a dilemma. Just how do we translate a distant and unattainable past into a recognizable product for present consumption? When somebody sees an object, their first reaction is usually ‘what is it, and what is it for?’ It’s our job to try and answer those kinds of questions.

    Giving something a name is easy enough; its the second part that provides the challenge. To be perfectly honest, we don’t really know why figurines of fat naked women were all the rage in prehistoric Europe. Is there any real reason to argue for their use as ancient fertility symbols over pornographic aides, other than the desire to seem professional rather than voyeuristic?

    The Venus of Willendorf. Perhaps the most famous fat naked female figurine of them all. Mother-goddess or the first mother-in-law joke?

    (more…)