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Specimen of the Week: Week 125

Emma-Louise Nicholls3 March 2014

This week’s animal is one that isn’t in need of ‘a little love’. Not because it gets a lot, because believe me- it does not, but because it just doesn’t care. I’m pretty confident it goes about its business, doing it’s thing, without a care in the world. I respect that. Though I’m not sure I appreciate this animal, not as much as perhaps I should? This week’s Specimen of the Week…

 

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Specimen of the Week: Week 122

Emma-Louise Nicholls10 February 2014

It’s Valentine’s Day this week! I don’t subscribe to the modern idea that Valentine’s Day is a commercial farce designed to make you pay three times the price for one ‘romantic dinner’ out and 20 times the normal price for a rose of a specific colour. Well ok those are true, but Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to comprise either. Personally, I am REALLY hoping that this year someone loves me enough to get me membership to the British Arachnological Society for V-Day (link supplied in case you’re sufficiently moved, as it isn’t looking likely otherwise). But I’m not too sad as here at the Grant Museum I am surrounded by love. Such as in my choice of super lovey specimen this week! This Week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM BINGO!

Mark Carnall15 October 2013

My colleague Jack Ashby alluded to the Natural History Bingo Card in a recent blog post so I thought I’d take the time to present it to the wide world! Natural history museums are funny places. Despite the millions of species of animals and the enormous variation within species between broods, sexes, life stage, populations and seasonal variations you’d expect that you could visit every natural history museum in the World (finances allowing) and never see the same thing twice. You might think that, but the truth is many natural history museums have the same stuff on display whether you’re at the Grant Museum, the Natural History Museum London or in Paris, New York, Prague or Plymouth.

In fact, some specimens are so common, you can go around a natural history museum with this handy NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM BINGO* and nine times out of ten you’ll have seen most of these specimens before you get to the gift shop. So what gives?

Natural History Bingo Card

Click to embiggernate & cut out and Keep! Natural History Bingo modified from the version in Carnall, M.A (2011): Completely Rethinking the Organisation of Natural History Museums: A Taxonomically Arranged National Collection. NatSCA News:21

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Specimen of the Week: Week 103

Emma-Louise Nicholls30 September 2013

These past few weeks some of our exhibits have been rearranged and reinvented. This has included the merciless culling of some specimens, doomed to a life with the other relegated objects in the well-populated store rooms (the existence of which is primarily due to not having enough space to display everything). As I packed them up for transportation, one of them leapt out at me (not literally) and I thought it deserved one last hoorah before it is consigned to the group of specimens to be loved only from afar. And only by those who know it is there. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

How To: Be a Cannibal

Emma-Louise Nicholls29 August 2013

Do you having any burning desires to have something explained by someone on the inside? This blog series is a How To Guide for the museological musings of a Museum Assistant. The fourth along this (hopefully) long and happy blogging path is…

 

How To: Be a Cannibal

 

At first response you may think it’s easy to be a cannibal, you just have to eat someone of the same species as yourself. Technically you would be right, however there are ways and means to accomplish such a task. The natural world is a wealth of cannibalistic techniques and methods that will give the inquisitive mind a plethora of inspiration. Let’s look at a few in the hope of encouraging your inner cannibal to spread its wings.

 

A number of amphibians are known to practice cannibalism. Cane toads for example are known to eat eggs of their own species when they are just tadpoles. Most importantly it provides them with a nutritional boost, but it is also thought to be done in order to reduce the competition. They seem to be choosy eaters however as they don’t appear to eat their siblings. Researchers believe that as cane toads have a short incubation length as well as a long period between clutches, eating your own siblings would decrease the number of offspring any single female would produce. Awfully well thought out for a tadpole with a brain the size of a pinhead. They both locate and differentiate between eggs using an impressive sense of smell.

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Specimen of the Week: Week Ninety-Four

Emma-Louise Nicholls29 July 2013

Six blogs away from the big 1-0-0! In the run up to the 100th blog I am going to bring to you the top ten specimens at the Grant Museum, as voted for by…. me. I have employed strict criteria with which to segregate the top ten from the other 67,990 specimens that we have in our care…

1) It must not be on permanent display, giving you a little behind-the-scenes magic, if you will, as the specimen will then go on display for the week of which it has been named ‘Specimen’. Oh yes. That’s almost as good as our exhibition It Came From The Stores. Almost.

2) It must have at some point in the past made me say ‘woooo’ out loud (given my childlike disposition for expressing wonderment at the world at large, this is not necessarily a hard qualification for the specimen to achieve)

3) I must know (at least in a vague sort of a way) what species the specimen is, as SotW is researched and written within a strict one hour time frame.

With that in mind, at Number Seven, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Time, Flies and the Origins of Crowdsourcing

Mark Carnall12 July 2013

Aside from jelly beans, the current Octagon Exhibition, Digital Frontiers, is dominated by objects from the Grant Museum of Zoology. Well, at least in terms of numbers because we’ve loaned this entomology drawer containing over 250 fly specimens. My colleague Nick Booth wrote about his experience of installing the objects from the collections he curates (and his experience was far more leg work than moving this single drawer was) and researching this drawer of flies in order to loan it revealed a lot of interesting information about this otherwise niche collection of insects: in natural history museums entomology collections are normally measured in the millions.

Fly specimens in drawer labelled 'From Small cabinet 3'  from the Grant Museum entomology collections

Fly specimens in drawer labelled ‘From Small cabinet 3’ from the Grant Museum entomology collections

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Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-Nine

Emma-Louise Nicholls24 June 2013

I decided to stick with the theme of creatures with a slow-paced lifestyle this week. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you clearly- poor thing- missed out on last week’s Specimen of the Week. The species that features in this week’s edition is dear to my heart, having had a special bond with two specific individuals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t get soppy. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Eighty-One

Emma-Louise Nicholls29 April 2013

Scary MonkeySometimes I think I’d quite  like to be an insect. No bills, no social anxieties or inadequacies, I wouldn’t mind the commute to work because I would of course make sure I was a species that could fly, and best of all I could eat all day and no-one would care. I’d have no concerns any more intense than ‘which of these delightful shrubs shall I eat today’ or ‘shall I sit here to enjoy the sun or shall I hop over there to enjoy it?’. Brilliant. Unfortunately I’m not an insect. But this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

The Micrarium – a place for tiny things – opens

Jack Ashby11 February 2013

complete micrarium 2 whitenedHere at the Grant Museum we’re not afraid to try something big or something new. This time we’re doing just that with something small and something old, with a topic which has traditionally been problematic for natural history museums.

Last Thursday we opened the Micrarium – a place for tiny things. In what we believe is a first of its kind, we have converted an old storage room into a backlit cave displaying 2323 microscope slides and 252 lantern slides lining the walls on floor-to-ceiling light boxes and the effect is quite staggering. The slides mostly show whole small animals, or slices through whole small animals, a preparation technique which itself is amazing. Imagine taking a slice 1/10th of a millimetre thick through a fly, cutting through its antennae, its body, its head, the hairs on its head, its wings and its legs, all at once.
There were two main drivers behind the project…

1) Displays in natural history museums, while being obviously awesome, are deeply unrepresentative of nature. (more…)