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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


UCL Museums Student Events Team

tcrnrh18 June 2015

Rachel again…

Back in February this year, UCL Museums ran a very special late night opening at the Grant Museum of Zoology around Valentine’s Day, called Animal Instincts: Sex and the Senses. Much fun and merriment was had by all with special lusty-themed cocktails, an animal photobooth, crafts and some particularly pungent ‘animal’ smelling boxes. Over the years UCL Museums have built up a reputation for putting on events such as these; however, for Animal Instincts, they handed over the reigns to the events programme to some of us UCL students.

A shot of the busy bar at our event "Animal Instincts: Sex and the Senses".

Farrah serving up a cocktail storm at the bar during the evening.


Boxing Clever

Dean W Veall2 October 2014

Dean Veall here. In my role as Learning Officer I am responsible for our exciting adult events programme, and I thought I would share our next event coming up this term, it’s the return of the brilliant Focus on the Positive. Focus on the Positive is an event developed by UCL’s Public Engagement Unit where UCL’s researchers pitch their ideas for projects to the audience in order to secure their vote with the successful pitch walking away with £2,000 prize money to make it a reality. Here at the Museum we jumped on the opportunity to host a Focus on the Positive back in February and the winners Philipp Boeing and Bethan Wolfenden are back to share with us how their project has been developing.


Animals and their super senses

Dean W Veall26 August 2014

Guest blogger Dr. Helen Czerski

Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) LDUCZ-Z2589

Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) LDUCZ-Z2589

Peering up the nose of a hyena is not generally on the “to do” list of most people.  As a physicist  it’s also not the sort of thing you are trained to do, either.   Fortunately for me, this hyena was long-dead – I was only faced with a skull that had just been borrowed from its display case in the Grant Museum of Zoology.   And its nose was well-worth ogling.


Focus on the Positive

Dean W Veall11 March 2014

We’ve hosted a variety of events (film nights, game shows etc) in the Grant Museum



but none have been quite like Thursday 27th February’s event. That event saw our speakers talking about Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, London’s bats, faecal digesters and molecular biology all trying to cajole, convince and in one case bribe the audience to win the £2,000 prize. The event in question was Focus on the Positive.


Whose story is it anyway?

Alice M Salmon31 January 2014

 This Wednesday, 29 January, UCL Museums and Collections, and UCL Library Special Collections, teamed up with the literary charity First Story to deliver our annual creative writing event. Around 90 students from local London secondary schools spent the afternoon exploring and writing about our collections.

Students from Lambeth Academy absorbed in their work in The Rock Room, UCL

Students from Lambeth Academy absorbed in their work in The Rock Room, UCL

Events like these remind me of how lucky I am to work as an educator in museums. As museum professionals, we spend a long time thinking about how to tell stories (stories of our museums, stories of our collections, stories of our objects, stories of the people that owned said objects,  etc, etc…I could go on) but it is so refreshing to hand the role of the storyteller over to students, who can provide us with a totally fresh take on the collections we know so well.  The results were, quite simply, fantastic. Below is just one example of the quality of work produced from the visit:

Jack Isaaz –La Grotteri, from King Solomon Academy, was inspired to think about his heaven and hell through  working with the UCL Library Special Collections and, in particular, by Botticelli’s  illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy:

 For it is All that I Need

 Sensations seldom felt grip the air.

 More stains of darker, saturated hues. But still

 All feels grey. Unlike once before, the silence

 Is now silent: sounds of death, dead

 Vibrations permeate the dust that you hear

 And breathe. I can’t bear the nothing that

 I never had. You don’t see for there is nothing

 To observe.


She smiles again once more, though not one thing

 Could ever make one forget such a sight.

 The sun shines on the clouds and as it should,

 It does not shine on us. We are left with

 The fray of the familiar. The cold that embraces us is

 No foe, cooling our skin with its inviting breath.

 I imagine the park adjacent to the grass where I

 Lay down gazing at nothing because it is nothing that

 I’ve become accustomed to. The fun nothings I need.


 Raindrops now, stain the tar that bleaches the roads I’ve

 Walked upon my entire life. The buildings are calmed

 As their shadows find homes with the darkening

 Surface. There is no need for thought or speech for

 All is as it should be. I imagine

 Her smile.

 Jack Isaaz –La Grotteri, King Solomon Academy

To find out more about the work that First Story do you can visit their website: http://www.firststory.org.uk/

Alice Salmon is a Senior Access Officer in the Access and Learning Team for UCL’s Museums and Public Engagement Department.

Festival of Pots

Edmund Connolly24 January 2014

by guest blogger: Helen Pike

 The Festival of Pots has kicked off with some Ace pots being made by a year 6 school group from Chris Hatton based in Camden –

These and many other examples of work by a range of community based groups attached to Holborn Community Association have been produced in the last few weeks as part of a 6 month Festival of Pots here at The Petrie.

One of our school-made pots

One of our school-made pots

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artefacts is a character in history who himself needs excavating.


Fossils, climate change and the future of life on Earth

Dean W Veall21 November 2013

Each year we celebrate the birth of the man who was the first Professor to teach evolution in an English university, the man who gave an astonishing 200 lectures a year and the man who lent his name to the Museum, Robert Edmond Grant. November 11th saw the 220th year since his birth and in honour we held our 17th Annual Grant Lecture on Tuesday, with dinosaurs, climate change and the future of life on our planet, it was one not to miss but in case you did here are the highlights.


Smiling at Earthworms

Dean W Veall10 October 2013

Annelid encounter

Annelid encounter

Look at that face. In that smile there is excitement and thrill of my nephew handling an earthworm for the first time and every time I see that shot it brings a smile to my face. Because of that encounter with an annelid he may one day become a scientist and change the way we think of the world, or he may not (he currently aspires to be a builder, a postman and hot favourite is Mike the Knight). What is evidently clear from that one photo is a genuine connection with the natural world, a connection that will lead to, among other things I would hope, a love and an appreciation of nature that will stay with him for life.

According to a report compiled by naturalist Stephen Moss for the National Trust, Natural Childhood (2012 children and young people spend 2.5 hours a day watching television, 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen for 11-15 year olds and 20 hours a week online. That description of how children and young people spend their time today accurately describes how I spend my grown-up time but was not a characteristic of my youth. (more…)

Working [in Museums] Wednesdays #2

Edmund Connolly29 May 2013

The Vexation of Volunteering

Volunteering in museums has being a bit maligned, are budding young enthusiasts being taken advantage of ? (such as this MJ article). Unfortunately, there may appear  an unfair element to volunteering, and they are essential in the running of many, if not all, museums. However, where the Petrie flys in the face of the nay-sayers is our commitment to offering our volunteers as holistic an experience as possible when they join our team.

From Bastet to Bodybuilders, our volunteers see it all. Copyright Marilyn Luscombe.

From Bastet to Bodybuilders, our volunteers see it all. Copyright Marilyn Luscombe.


More than just Technicolor camp

Dean W Veall25 January 2013

Shown Wednesday night, Fantastic Voyage (1966), was a Technicolor film of epicly camp proportions. And was brilliant for it. What could be better than a plot involving shrinking a crack team of surgeons to microscopic levels in a military submarine to operate on inoperable brain damage of an agent carrying intel of national importance? How about shoddy science. shaky sets, a casual swim through the inner ear, Raquel Welch in a skin tight full body suit brandishing a laser gun and a shady covert military organisation where generals smoked cigars in dimly lit conference rooms. All classic film night fare.

But one audience member had an altogether unexpected response to this “silly old film*”. Here is an email that landed on my desktop this morning:

What a great film night this was, not least for its rousing introduction by Professor Joe Cain.

But as the film ran, Joe’s words of wisdom began to fade as I became increasingly engrossed by the music … which does not properly begin until the main characters are injected into the body of the patient. Here was a fully composed orchestral score (no electronic short-cuts here) … time and again evoking the sound world of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1851), and his early twentieth-century disciples.

After some quick homework I uncovered the (new to me) name of New York composer Leonard Rosenman (1924-2008) … no surprise to find he was pupil not only of Schoenberg, but also of other twentieth-century musical pioneers Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975) and Roger Sessions (1896 –1985).

The score for Fantastic Voyage is notable not only for its large orchestral forces and the huge range of orchestral colours drawn out by Rosenman, but for its uncompromising atonal serialism, perhaps unique in film scores up to that point. Unsurprisingly, for many listeners the score is cold and unrelentingly sterile, but such critics would no doubt think this true of so many 20th Century musical modernists and their disciples.

Rosenman’s highly structured compositional techniques produce a soundscape that feels not out of place today – so ubiquitous has that serial atonal sound world become in accompanying such suspenseful visual media – indeed these days a pastiche might be thrown together in no time at all by a talented undergraduate composition student with a laptop. But for Rosenman every note and colour combination had to be not only imagined in silence (no ready sound samples for him) but also set down on paper by hand before the whole could be brought to life by a symphony orchestra of (I guess) 80 or so musicians; the real effect unknown until finally performed.

A cd lifted from the soundtrack of the 35mm reels is available, and I have now ordered it. Never mind Film Studies, lets hear it for Musicology!”

Here’s the link to the TV spot from 1966. Listen to that score.
Fantastic Voyage (1966) TV Spot

*Quote from Professor Joe Cain