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…..
UCL’s astronomical observatory was inaugurated in 1929, and it has been conducting research and teaching students ever since. On Friday 2nd October the Observatory and UCL Public and Cultural Engagement department will host a pop-up event which will feature staff and research students from the Observatory, and hopefully (if the weather behaves) give visitors the chance to make some solar observations with a specialised telescope.
Astronomy was originally taught on the main UCL site, using equipment in the two domes in the front quad (built 1905-07) together with one on the roof of the Wilkins Building (destroyed during World War 2). However, the light pollution of central London began to cause issues and a new site was required. A suburban site in Mill Hill site was chosen, in part because it was far away enough from London that the night sky could be observed without excessive pollution. Since then, London has grown, and the Observatory now sits well inside the M25; however it continues to be a great asset for teaching Physics and Astronomy students.
The Observatory currently houses five telescopes: in order of when they were acquired, the Fry 8-inch refractor telescope (acquired 1930 but originally built in 1862), the Radcliffe telescope (acquired 1938, built 1901), the Allen 24-inch reflecting telescope (1974/75) and two modern, computer-controlled C14 telescopes (acquired 2006 and 2010).
The Observatory made news recently when a team of students, being trained by Dr Steve Fossey, spotted a supernova (exploding star) in nearby galaxy Messier 82 (also known as the Cigar Galaxy). Images of the galaxy (with supernova) will be available on the day; they will also form part of an accompanying exhibition in the South Cloisters, of images taken at the Observatory, running from late September.
The pop-up event will be open (rain or shine) between 11.30am – 4.30pm on Friday 2nd October, in the Wilkins North Observatory (in the front quad on campus).
Nick Booth is curator of Teaching and Research Collections.
One Day in the City Festival at UCL
One Day in the City Festival taking place on Friday 13th June brings together a celebration of literature, art, music and culture in London. The framework is broad. Nick Shepley, the founder and organiser of the festival, and Teaching Fellow in English Literature at UCL, acknowledges this and says he has not tried to narrow it down to specific themes: “It is about opening out and trying to bring people to something that is a simple celebration of the city, its literature and art, and its cultural richness.” These are areas people work on everyday across various departments at UCL with their own audiences. Nick wants to harness this, and “break down the potential separation of audiences with the One Day festival, encouraging a wider demographic to come along.”
The festival’s centre will be in the UCL South Cloisters, decorated with a fun and artistic skyline created through lighting and architectural constructions. There will also be a multitude of balloons lining the Cloisters and leading the way to various events. These events will include a debate about taboo language with Inda Knight (journalist and author), Will Self (novelist) and Tim Clare (poet), a Caribbean carnival and seminars on topics related to creativity in London. In the UCL Art Museum there will be a talk by one of the Slade students, Helena Hunter, a poetry workshop and live performances as well as Slade students distributing prints of their work. For a full list, see the One Day website here.
The UCL Art Museum is located in the South Cloisters, so it will be at the hub of the festival’s activities. The remit of ‘One Day’ also links the artwork in the current exhibition at UCL Art Museum to the festival. This exhibition, called ‘Second Person Looking Out’, is the result of this year’s annual UCL Art Museum and Slade collaboration. It features an eclectic range of artwork from time-based media pieces to bronze sculpture and slate engravings. Have a look at my previous blog posts, reviewing the exhibition and talking to Ling the co-Curator, to find out more. (more…)
On 26th February there is the chance to meet the artist and Slade School PhD Graduate Kai Syng Tan and take part in her experimental, multidisciplinary event based around the positive powers of running. This is the opportunity to learn about running as a potentially playful and subversive activity within an artistic framework.
Kai is sprinting forward with latest research that focuses on the body and its dialogue with technology and social media networks. Her website creatively communicates this unusual project, which is constantly evolving. Come expecting to be made curious, surprised and energized.
Intrigued to find out more before the event, I met up with Kai to talk about how her work explores notions of playfulness, natural endorphins and the meaning of life.
You have many different roles and identities, being an artist, educator and researcher. How do you see them interacting and influencing each other?
Many artists today have multiple identities. I have been an artist for nearly 20 years, but I have done many different things within this role. It involves showing my work in public spaces and online in spaces not always considered part of the art world. As a new media artist I have also had a parallel career; lecturing is how I bring home the bacon. (more…)
Upcoming event: Caesar and Cleopatra, February 6th 2013
Britain’s first million-pound film, starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains, was Caesar and Cleopatra. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1901 play of the same name, with a screenplay written by Shaw, it opened on 12th December 1945 in the Odeon at Marble Arch in London, and was released in the U.S. in September 1946. It is showing at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (Malet Place, London WC1E 6BT), hosted by John J. Johnston, on February 6th 2013.
Made during World War II, it was hoped that the investment of over £1,250,000 into the film would help to establish Britain in the American cinematic market. Filmed in Technicolor, it took two years to complete, most of it set within a custom-built studio in Denham, England. Over 500 pieces of jewellery and 2000 costumes were created for the film and 400 tons of sand were imported into the Denham studio. The largest scene included more than 1500 actors. Conceived on an epic scale, it produced an Academy Award Nomination for Best Art Direction for John Bryan. The main stars of the film, Claude Raines, Vivien Leigh and Stuart Granger, were all household names. Vivien Leigh was particularly famous for her role as Scarlett O’Hara, six years earlier, in Gone With The Wind, which was one of the highest-grossing films of all-time.