Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • The Grant Museum’s Fifth Birthday

    By Jack Ashby, on 15 March 2016

    Happy birthday to ewe
    Guppy birthday to ewe
    Guppy bird-jay deer Grant Museum

    Guppy bird-jay shrew ewe.

    On the 15th March 2011 the Grant Museum 2.0* opened its doors to a new era. It was the day we begun our lives in our current home on the corner of Gower and University Streets. Permit me to be a little sentimental, but it was the start of something wonderful. It’s been an amazing five years in which our little museum has really grown in stature to be a significant part of London’s cultural offer. Here’s what’s happened over the last year, which I think it’s fair to say has been our best ever! (more…)

    The Top Ten Grant Museum Blogs of 2015

    By Jack Ashby, on 8 January 2016

    Happy New Year!

    2015 was an absolute cracker for the Grant Museum, with our two exhibitions – Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals, and our Artist in Residence Eleanor Morgan’s Glass Delusions – as well as the massive Bone Idols conservation project. Together these helped us break all records for visitor numbers, as well as being voted by the public to win Time Out’s Love London award for being Bloomsbury, Fitrovia and Holborn’s most loved cultural attraction (beating some pretty stiff competion [COUGH/britishmuseum/COUGH])

    As a way of looking back over this monster year, on Twitter over the past week we’ve been counting down the best of 2015’s blog – the Top Ten most viewed Grant Museum posts of last year*. Looking back, it’s certain that we’ve had a top year in terms of blogging, with 93 posts from Team Grant. But what were the best posts?

    I’ve announced those ranking at 10 to 2 in the charts, and exclusively revealing here that the most popular post of 2015 is… (more…)

    Look, draw, scan, invert, colour in. REPEAT.

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 December 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    Sketch 3 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Sketch 3 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    I have a pile of drawings and sketches of sponge specimens made during my residency at the Grant Museum, which aren’t exhibited in the Glass Delusions exhibition. Looking closely and following the lines of these animals with my eyes and hand was a way of getting to know them, particularly as I couldn’t touch them directly. They were also a way of thinking, of letting forms and ideas develop between the specimens and me. (more…)

    Letting things draw themselves

    By Jack Ashby, on 4 December 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    Emerging #5, Photogram, 2015 (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Emerging #5, Photogram, 2015
    (C) Eleanor Morgan

    During my artist’s residency at the Grant Museum I wanted to record the way light travels through the glass jars and specimens that fill the space. My first thought was to try cyanotypes. This is a type of contact print in which an object is place on paper and exposed to light. Where the light hits, the resulting image is a deep blue colour. The astronomer John Herschel developed cyanotypes in the nineteenth century for creating blueprints of diagrams and notes, but it is the cyanotypes of his contemporary Anna Atkins that are particularly celebrated. By placing seaweeds and ferns on prepared paper, Atkins’ cyanotypes are beautifully detailed and create a sculptural effect on the paper.

    (more…)

    When your head is made of glass

    By Jack Ashby, on 2 December 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    The sponge man, 2015. Print on Ilford Galerie FB digital, mounted on MDF. (C) Eleanor Morgan

    The sponge man, 2015. Print on Ilford Galerie FB digital, mounted on MDF.
    (C) Eleanor Morgan

    My current exhibition ‘Glass Delusions’ is about things transformed from living to non-living materials and back again. One of the ideas that particularly interested me was the history of humans believing that they were made of glass, a disorder known as the ‘glass delusion’ that I describe in a previous blog post. Those suffering from glass delusion believed that their heads were made of glass and could shatter at the slightest touch.

    In the exhibition are various heads, glassy or shattered. On one wall is an antique fragment of leaded glass of a figure bending down. His hand is outstretched and he seems to stroke at the ground beneath his feet. The stained glass panel where his head should be is missing, only the lead outline remains. (more…)

    Glass delusions from the ancient Egyptian world

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 4 November 2015

    This post is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    We often visualize ancient Egypt in sandy hues against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, or the watery Nile framed by green vegetation. Yet there was a much wider palette of colours used in the adornment of palaces, temples and decorative objects. The Egypt world was brightly, sometime garishly, vibrant with colour. Glass was one of the luxury materials that came to be used for decoration during the period Egyptologists call the New Kingdom, around 1500 BC.

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology. 18th Dynasty, Amarna, UC22911 - UC22920

    Armana glass rods on display in Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of Zoology.
    18th Dynasty, Amarna, From the Petrie Museum collection (UC22911 – UC22920)

    (more…)

    How to make a diamond

    By Jack Ashby, on 28 October 2015

    This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

    Diamonds made from the dead creatures of the River Thames (c) David Dobson

    Diamonds made from the dead creatures of the River Thames (c) David Dobson

    This year, on Thursday the 30th of July, I made a diamond. Only a few weeks before, this diamond had been floating around the River Thames in the form of dead plants and animals. It had taken a few hours, high pressure and temperature and most importantly a lot of help from UCL chemists and geologists to transform the dead creatures of the River Thames into tiny diamonds. These can now be seen at the Grant Museum as part of my exhibition Glass Delusions, along with a booklet ‘How to make a diamond’ which describes the process. (more…)

    Glass Delusions opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 October 2015

    Photogram #2 by Eleanor Morgan

    A photogram created by exposing photo-sensitive paper with the Grant Museum’s glass sponge specimens sat directly on it. (C) Eleanor Morgan

    Glass Delusions is a new exhibition at the Grant Museum featuring works by the Museum’s Artist in Residence, Eleanor Morgan. Using prints, drawings, videos and objects Eleanor explores the slippery boundary between living and non-living materials.

    Over the past year, Eleanor has been drawing inspiration from our collection of glass sponges. These are intricately formed deep-sea animals that naturally build themselves out of glass – the are 90% silica, which they draw out of the sand in their environment.

    (more…)

    Fish printing and reanimating the dead

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 14 May 2015

    IMG_1779

    Inking the fish

    How do you reanimate things that are dead? Since beginning my role as Artist in Residence at the Grant Museum I’ve been worrying at this question. My focus is on the Museum’s collection of glass sponges, but over the past six months these extraordinary animals have pushed me down other paths to explore. Some of these have led to very productive failures.

    I’m thinking in particular of my attempts at waterless lithography, which is printing technique that uses silicone (in the form of bathroom sealant) to repel ink. You draw an image on a piece of metal, cover it in bathroom sealant and then once it is dried you wash the metal and the sealant will come off the areas on which you drew your picture. You now have a negative of your picture, which you can ink up and put through a printing press. I thought this was an ideal technique and material with which to explore glass sponges, which are themselves formed of silica. However, the problem came when I looked closer at the bottle of silicone remover that I was using – printed on the back of the label was a drawing of a dead fish. These chemicals are deadly to sea creatures if they enter their ecosystem. It seemed particularly grim for me to pursue a method of making images that could potentially kill its subject.

     

    I’ve recently been exploring another fishy route. I had been told about an old Japanese technique called Gyotaku, which translates as ‘fish rubbing’. (more…)

    Mermaid’s purses and the importance of looking sideways

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 4 February 2015

    Among the Grant Museum’s collection of glass sponges, there are a few specimens that really demand attention. One is the Venus’ flower basket, Euplectella aspergillum, an intricate weave of spicules in the shape of a sealed cone. Its romantic name comes from the behaviour of a species of Spongicolidae shrimp who make their home inside the sponge’s glass cage, where they feed off creatures filtered through the sponge’s walls. Having entered the sponge at the larvae stage, the shrimps grow too big to ever leave and remained trapped inside for life. In parts of Japan, dried specimens of the Venus’ flower basket are given as a wedding present, with the two shrimp preserved inside.

    The other show-stopping specimen is harder to see, as it sits in the dark in an out-of-reach cupboard: the glorious glass rope sponge, Hyalonema sieboldi. Formed of a bulbous top of interlocking spicules, this animal roots itself into the sea floor using a long twisting rope of glass, which resembles a bundle of optical glass fibres. The Museum’s specimen has been mounted within an unsteadily tall and thin glass jar, and visitors can only spot it up in the rafters using the binoculars provided. However, it is not alone. While it was alive, a cluster of zoanthids, colonizing creatures resembling brightly coloured miniature anemones, made their home on its ropey root. And it has one other attachment: a shark’s egg case, commonly known as a ‘mermaid’s purse’. Clearly, the glass rope sponge is an attractive settlement.

    glassropesponge

    Glass rope sponge, Hyalonema sieboldi. Photo courtesy of the Natural History Museum, London

    (more…)