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What does LGBTQ+ inclusivity mean to UCL Culture?

UCL Culture10 March 2022

UCL Culture is a multidisciplinary team committed to connecting the world with UCL. We use our collections, museums, theatre and most importantly our people and know-how to mobilise the UCL community, inspiring them to engage people with their research and their research with people.

We know that unless we are inclusive of everyone, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, then we are failing both the UCL community and the wider communities of which we are a part. We also know that “being inclusive” is an active not a passive state of being, and that we, as a department, need constantly to challenge our own thinking and actions, and those of others.

Fundamentally, we want to reaffirm UCL Culture’s commitment to challenging our own thinking and actions on inclusivity – and to ask others to challenge us. Below are some of the current projects we are involved with in support of our LGBTQ+ colleagues and communities. We are also launching an open call for future projects that continue and strengthen this support.

Current projects

  • Supporting an informative exhibition on trans lives, led by UCL’s Trans Network, to be displayed in the Cloisters and other locations at UCL around Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) 31 March 2022. The display will use lived experience from members of UCL past and present to explain what being transgender does and doesn’t mean.
  • Writing Trans Lives, enabled by a UCL Culture Beacon Bursary, recently brought together aspiring and established trans and non-binary writers through workshops, a public reading and the published anthology ‘Transcribed’. The established writers provided practical advice and developed aspiring writers’ expertise and experience in writing their own narratives.
  • LGBTQ+-led non-profit organisation QUEERCIRCLE are partnering with UCL Engagement on the evaluation of their new LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing programme. QUEERCIRCLE will host a diverse programme supporting LGBTQ+ artists and offering community participation opportunities, and UCL Culture will provide evaluation expertise, including a new trainee role specifically for a person from the LGBTQ+ and Black/Asian/Minority Ethnic community.
  • Co-Production Collective recently published a response to UCL’s decision not to rejoin Stonewall’s diversity schemes, reaffirming their commitment to inclusivity at UCL and in their work with external co-production partners. This response also invited audiences to share thoughts on how Co-Production Collective can support the trans community and champion inclusion and challenge discrimination more widely.
  • UCL Culture EDI Committee acts to advance and embed equity and inclusion in UCL Culture ways of working across all areas of our activity.

Future projects

  • Do you have an idea for a UCL Culture exhibition, workshop, talk, live experience, or other public activity that supports, empowers or champions LGBTQ+ communities, at UCL and beyond?
  • Has one of the projects above inspired to you respond, or take an idea further?

Whatever stage your plans are at, we invite you to book onto an online Programming and Exhibitions Drop-in session where you can discuss a proposal with a member of our team.

Please book into one of our regular sessions here: https://calendly.com/chrisjwebb/programmes-exhibitions-drop-in

We look forward to hearing from you!

Object of the Week 364: Cast of rickets

Nina Pearlman25 October 2018

Dr Nina Pearlman is Head of UCL Art Collections and curator of  Disrupters and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL (UCL Octagon Gallery till February 2019)

My object of the week is a plaster cast of a child’s leg deformed by the disease rickets (UCL Pathology Collection P59b), included in the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition in the display case that features UCL women scientists. Amongst these scientists is Dame Harriette Chick (1875-1977) who is credited with finding the cause and cure for rickets. Her many contributions to preventative medicine were recognised with both a CBE and a DBE.

This object gives me pause to ask, how were women scientists perceived in the early twentieth century? What anti-feminist sentiments did they have to contend with and how did they go on to make groundbreaking and lasting discoveries despite the persistence of the anti-feminist agenda, at the time labelled anti-suffragist?

(more…)

Object of the Week 361: Alice Joyce Smith, Drawing of Drapery, First Prize (Equal), 1918

Andrea Fredericksen5 October 2018

Alice Joyce Smith, A Study of Drapery, 1981 (LDUCS-6061) © the copyright holder

It’s not difficult to imagine what Alice Joyce Smith (b.1896) felt when she learned she had won the very first Drapery Drawing Prize awarded by the Slade School of Fine Art back in 1918. How she handled sharing it as First Prize (Equal) with fellow student artist Dorothy Josephine Coke (b.1897) is another matter. (more…)

Internal Beauty opens today

Jack Ashby17 January 2018

It is very easy to say that biology is beautiful, and obviously a lot of it is. But when it comes to cow rectums, pig fat, maggot-infested mushrooms and sheep testicles, people may need a bit more convincing of the aesthetic qualities of nature. These are the primary materials that make up the artworks in our new exhibition – Internal Beauty – which opens today.

Artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva has created sculptures and installations from caul fat (the tissue that encases pig stomachs and intestines) and other animal organs, drawing attention to parts of the body we would sometimes rather forget. There is no denying the results are exquisite.

Elpida at work in a previous exhibition (Haruspex, Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham) cow’s stomach, lamb intestines, caul fat, 2016, photo Nick Dunmur

Elpida at work in a previous exhibition (Haruspex, Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham) cow’s stomach, lamb intestines, caul fat, 2016, photo Nick Dunmur

The Grant Museum shares its building with the UCL Medical School (we moved in to what was once the Medical School’s library in 2011), and Elpida’s work has brought some of the cutting-edge research that our neighbours are undertaking into the museum. Internal Beauty is an exhibition resulting from Hadzi-Vasileva’s residency in biomedical research labs, (funded by Wellcome Trust), considering nutrition, our gut and how man-made, microscopic materials can fix problems. (more…)

Specimen of the Week 321: the Wall of Mice

Jack Ashby15 December 2017

One of the most extraordinary collections in the Grant Museum relates to one of the most Ordinary of Animals. Since its creation, it has been kept behind the scenes. The man who created it, over decades of barely believable dedication and hard work, would probably never have imagined that anyone would firstly want to display it, and secondly find a way to do so.

Mice Space at the Grant Museum - a wall of 4000 mice skeletons.

Mice Space at the Grant Museum – a wall of 4000 mice skeletons.

Personally, I have a real interest in pondering the differences between what gets selected for display in museums and what doesn’t (I published an article in The Conversation about it this week), and in the Grant Museum we have a lot of experience of finding ways to display collections that were not intended for the public eye (our Micrarium is a great example of this). This week’s Specimen of the Week definitely fits these themes… (more…)

Ordinary Animals and sex: choosing the right partner

Jack Ashby29 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 Professor Judith Mank (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

In many animals, females are pickier about choosing their mates than males are, since they invest more in their offspring than males do. By choosing high quality mates, females give their offspring a good chance of inheriting their fathers’ beneficial traits. This will help the young in their own search for mates, thereby increasing the chances that the original female’s genes will be passed down through the generations.

Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

Common guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by Clara Lacy, 2016.

(more…)

The dogs that work to detect cancer

Jack Ashby22 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…)

Flies, Cats and Rat Traps: the Ordinary Animals of Ancient Egypt

Anna E Garnett15 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. This week we investigate some of the Ordinary Animals on loan from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.

Ask anyone about ancient Egypt and standard responses generally include pyramids, mummies, Tutankhamun, and sometimes (if you’re lucky) animals. Ancient Egyptians were keen observers of their natural environment and are well-known for representing all manner of flora and fauna in their artistic works. Gods and goddesses were also associated with particular animals and their behaviour: for example, the jackal god Anubis guarded the cemeteries of the dead, just as real jackals roamed the desert edge. What is perhaps less well-known is how ancient Egyptians considered the ‘ordinary animals’ who lived side-by-side with them in the Nile Valley. Egyptians utilised a wide variety of wild animals and some of these were domesticated, some kept as pets, and others were considered as vermin – just as they are today.

UC45976

Mummified cat, currently on show in The Museum of Ordinary Animals exhibition (UC45976)

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Ordinary Animals and the genetics of being sexy

Jack Ashby9 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 Professor Judith Mank (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

Dominant males have all the things that turkey hens want, including long snoods and vibrant wattles. Subordinate males are by comparison rather plain. (Photo by Lupin on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dominant males have all the things that turkey hens want, including long snoods and vibrant wattles.
(Photo by Lupin on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0)

In all species, some individuals are simply better looking than others, and they have the right shape, colour or attitude that makes them irresistible to the opposite sex of their species. Scientists have generally assumed that good looks come primarily from good genes, but this presents an enigma: if only individuals with the best genes pass them on in every generation, those sexy genes should spread and soon the entire population should be equally attractive.

So… how is that unattractive genes persist in populations? Why doesn’t evolution wipe them out? (more…)

Racism, eugenics and the domestication of humans

Subhadra Das25 October 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.

In December 1863, the scientist Francis Galton presented a paper to the Ethnological Society entitled ‘The Domestication of Animals’. In it, he outlined six characteristics necessary for an animal to be domesticated

  1. Hardiness: the ability to survive despite human neglect.
  2. Fondness for Man…notwithstanding occasional hard usage and frequent neglect.
  3. Desire of comfort…a motive which strongly attached certain animals to human habitation.
  4. Usefulness to Man.
  5. Breeding freely.
  6. Easy to tend…by which large numbers of them can be controlled by a few herdsmen…Gregariousness is such a quality.

It is worth noting that this paper was presented not to an audience of scientists who study animal behaviour but to ethnologists –  that is, scientists who study the difference between different groups of people – and that Galton’s main objective in outlining these traits was to demonstrate that domestication happened because certain species of animals were, by their inherent nature, domesticable.

Francis Galton and his albino Pekingese dog Wee-Ling, whose skull features in the exhibition. Wee Ling was the product of research into pedigree breeding by fellow eugenicist Karl Pearson.

Francis Galton and his albino Pekingese dog Wee-Ling, whose skull features in the exhibition. Wee Ling was the product of research into pedigree breeding by fellow eugenicist Karl Pearson.

Where a particular species does not have the traits to be brought under human control, he said, less civilised human societies, such as the reindeer herders of Lapland, are forced to live their lives to accommodate the animals in order to benefit from them. Galton gives examples from all over the world of how what he called the “rude races” had successfully brought animals under their control as pets, sacred animals and in zoos. In other words, it is easy to domesticate animals — even ‘savages’ can do it. (more…)