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  • Repairing our Inner Seals

    By Louise Bascombe, on 3 October 2017

    Firstly, I would like to apologise to those readers who think that this blog will be about the type of seals who like to eat fish. It is, in fact, about the seal created by a layer of tape, which protects conserved papyri from external forces. I’m not really sorry, however, because this blog is all about the importance and means by which we protect and save objects, some nearly 4000 years old, for both the present and the future.

    Papyrus with brittle paper tapes falling off

    This poor exposed seal….

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 310: The Gross, the Bad and the Ugly

    By Tannis Davidson, on 29 September 2017

    Ah, Specimen of the Week. The weekly showcasing of specimens from the Grant Museum. Over the years this blog has featured the furry, the fluid, the skeletal, the dangerous, the poisonous, the new, the old, the damaged, the conserved, the plentiful, the endangered, the extant, the extinct, the big, the beautiful, the tiny, the hideous, the lost and the found.

    The specimens are meticulously selected each week to offer a bit of fun, insight and enjoyment to the reader. This week however, is a somber affair. Rather than a celebration of life, this week’s Specimen of the Week is an obituary. Say goodbye to… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 308: the geckos

    By Will J Richard, on 15 September 2017

    Hello! Will Richard here, picking another specimen for you. And this week I’ve chosen a slick, little lizard that actually lives up to its name: there are lots of them and they live in buildings. That’s right folks it’s not the rare and only found outside gecko, it’s the…

    LDUCZ-X161 common house geckos

    LDUCZ-X161 preserved common house geckos

    (more…)

    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…)