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  • Specimen of the Week 301: The formerly googly-eyed owl

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 July 2017

    The long-eared owl: BEFORE. LDUCZ-Y1604

    The long-eared owl: BEFORE. LDUCZ-Y1604

    In a move unprecedented in Specimen of the Week history, I have chosen to blogify the same specimen as I selected in my last Specimen of the Week. The reason is that in many ways it is not the same specimen as it was six weeks ago: it has undergone a profound transformation. We used to call this specimen “the googly-eyed owl”, due to its comedy wonky eyes, but it is googly-eyed no longer. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Whales on the Road

    By Ruth Siddall, on 6 July 2017

    This weekend, 8th and 9th July, the Grant Museum is running an event of massive proportions – the Whale Weekender – when the public is invited to come and rebuild and clean their whale skeleton. Long before it came to the Grant Musuem, the whale in question begun life-after-death, in 1860, when it was sold to be toured around the country as a whole carcass. That particular venture did not go very well for anyone involved.

    This post is about dead whales touring the country on the back of lorries. There are not many things these days that provide pretty much no hits when Googled, but this subject seems to be one of them. You may well be asking why I would be Googling ‘Whales’ ‘Lorry’ ‘Supermarket Car Park’. Here is the answer…

    I was talking to my colleague Jack Ashby, Manager of the Grant Museum, about their upcoming #WhaleWeekender extravaganza, and he mentioned the incredible history of their specimen and its intended national tour. I told Jack that I remembered seeing a whale in the back of a truck when I was a kid in Salford in the early 1970s. Jack looked at me like I had said 1870s. On reflection there is certainly a circus side-show, freak-show element to this experience. Until speaking to Jack, I have not thought about this for years. (more…)

    Help us build and clean a whale skeleton

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 July 2017

    Some of the whale's backbone, in one of our stores.

    Some of the whale’s backbone, in one of our stores.

    This weekend we will be attempting to rebuild our largest specimen – a northern bottle-nosed whale skeleton. And we would like you to help us do it.

    The specimen’s story begins in 1860 when it was originally collected in Somerset, when an expedition set off across the Bristol Channel in pursuit of “two great fish” (as they were described by the local newspaper – whales are, of course, mammals) – one of which was brought back to land. After a period “on tour” as a whole carcass, the prepared skeleton was displayed hanging from the ceiling of the Weston Super-Mare Museum. It eventually came to the Grant Museum in 1948, but it had been dismantled into its separate bones. (Its full, remarkable story, including the use of entirely inappropriate whale-murdering equipment, misguided entrepreneurship, rancid carcasses, financial ruin, and the unusual tasks the wife of a 19th century curator might find herself doing, can be read in a previous post).

    At over eight metres long in life, different parts of the skeleton have been stored in different cupboards and cabinets across the Museum and its storerooms. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 296: Hawksbill turtle taxidermy

    By Hannah Cornish, on 16 June 2017

    Specimen of the week this week is big, very shiny and in need of some TLC. Today we bring you the…

    LDUCZ-X1580 hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata

    LDUCZ-X1580 hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata

    (more…)

    Make Taxidermy Great Again! We launch our new conservation project

    By Jack Ashby, on 12 June 2017

    Taxidermy Elephant shrew in need of treatment. LDUCZ-Z2789

    Taxidermy elephant shrew in need of treatment.

    This week the Grant Museum is launching a project to conserve our important collection of historic taxidermy, which involves taking these much-loved specimens off display to be treated. In their place, we will be filling the gaps with toy stuffed animals to raise awareness of the project.

    The specimens have been on display for over a century, and in that time some of them have begun to split and crack, their filling may be poking out or they are just plain dirty. They require expert museum conservators to repair them, ensuring that they will survive for the long-term future. That is the key aim of this project: Fluff It Up: Make Taxidermy Great Again. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 295: Do we fix the googly-eyed owl?

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 June 2017

    You do not have to be an expert zoologist to know that this is not what an owl looks like.

    Next week we launch a major conservation project called Fluff It Up: Make Taxidermy Great Again, to repair and restore our historic taxidermy collection (check back on the blog on Monday for more about that). This will involve the expert conservation of specimens that have become damaged over their decades or centuries on display. In planning this project, we were faced with the decision of whether to “correct” the absurd but amusing eyes on this owl…

    Long eared owl. Should we replace his eyes? LDUCZ-Y1604

    Long eared owl. Should we replace his eyes? LDUCZ-Y1604

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 280: Preserved Gharial

    By Tannis Davidson, on 24 February 2017

    Over the past year, UCL Culture’s conservation team has been undertaking work on a project to conserve many of the Grant Museum’s specimens which are preserved in fluid (read more about ‘Project Pickle’ here). During the ongoing work, specimens have been re-hydrated, remounted, rehoused and re-identified.

    Along the way there have also been some new discoveries of specimens that we didn’t know were in the collection. Some of the jars were full of fluid so discoloured that it was impossible to see the animal inside and it was only when the specimen was taken out that the identification could be made. One jar had an astounding 11 different animals inside including this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    (more…)

    Our 20th Annual Grant Lecturer: Prof. Dame Georgina Mace

    By Dean W Veall, on 15 November 2016

    Last Friday (11 November) was our beloved founder Robert Edmond Grant‘s birthday. Should he have lived (and defied nature) he would have been the grand age of 223. Every year for the last 20 years, since the Museum opened to the public in 1997, we have celebrated REG’s birth with an annual lecture celebrating the great figures of contemporary biology, natural history and history of science. In the past we have had Stephen Jay Gould, Janet Brown, Steve Jones and James Moore give our lecture and most recently UCL Professors such as Anjali Goswami, Paul Upchurch and Helen Chatterjee. This year we are very lucky to have arguably one of the country’s leading ecologists give our 20th Grant Lecture…..

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 261: Bombus

    By Dean W Veall, on 14 October 2016

    LDUCZ-L3309 Bumblebee (Bombus sp.)

    LDUCZ-L3309 Bumblebee (Bombus sp.)

    Dean Veall here. My specimen of the week is one that was a feature of the summer but will now become a less common sight as the winter approaches. It’s a specimen that represents some 275 species found across the genus Bombus and of which 24 call the UK home. This week’s specimen of the week is….

     

     

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    Project Pickle – Conserving our Specimens Preserved in Fluid

    By Emilia L Kingham, on 1 August 2016

    Fluid preserved specimens newly conserved

    Fluid preserved specimens newly conserved

    Over the past year, UCL Museums’ conservation team have been focussing our efforts on the the specimens preserved in fluid at the Grant Museum. We’re calling it Project Pickle*.

    Before we could start conserving the objects we had to establish the scale of the task, so we could decide how to plan the work. We went through the entire fluid specimen store, surveying a whopping 3,787 specimens to determine what treatments each of them needed.

    This initial phase took many months to complete and involved the help of student volunteers and a student placement. The result of that survey means that we can now quantify how many specimens are in good, fair, poor or unacceptable condition with the aim to prioritize conserving the specimens in the worst condition.  So why do fluid preserved specimens need conservation and how do they get to be in an ‘unacceptable condition?’

    (more…)