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  • Specimen of the Week: Week 180

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 March 2015

    Scary Monkey This week’s specimen of the week is an object that is very special to me and one of the objects featured in our current exhibition Strange Creatures: The Art of Unknown Animals. The theme of the exhibition is representations of animals centred around George Stubbs’ painting of a kangaroo, Europe’s first painting of an Australian animal which became the archetype for how people imagined how kangaroos looked, despite the animal itself never being seen by George Stubbs. In addition to this painting the exhibition focuses on representations of animals across modern scientific modelling, medieval manuscripts and, a part of the exhibition that is very close to my heart, representations of dinosaurs in popular culture in the form of toys, comics, video games and film.

    This week’s object from the exhibition is from my own personal collection, my first ever dinosaur toy which may be surprising to find in a museum but mass produced ephemera can tell us a lot about societies’ interpretation and response to ideas of extinct creatures despite being very far removed from any actual scientific investigation or research.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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    Specimen of the Week: Week 176

    By Mark Carnall, on 23 February 2015

    Scary Monkey

     A question we get from our visitors a lot at the Grant Museum is “Is it a dinosaur?” either preceded or followed by the question “Is it real?”. There’s something about a natural history museum that despite displaying skeletons of horses, rhinos, frogs, fish, bats, cats, rats, snakes and crocodiles, to many of our younger visitors (but not exclusively) any skeleton in a museum, particularly a big one, has to be a dinosaur (of the non bird variety of course but that’s a blog post for another time). That’s how dinosaurs come, as large skeletons. So unfortunately for us we have to deflate the expectations of our visitors sometimes by informing them that no, sorry, it isn’t a dinosaur it’s ‘just’ an elephant or gorilla or tiger. Animals which are endlessly fascinating and amazing in their own right but not at the precise moment of discovering “oh-its-not-a-dinosaur”.

    We don’t have a huge amount of dinosaur material at the Grant Museum –  just over one hundred specimens including a lot of plaster casts and our ever popular plastic dinosaur collection. Of the actual fossil material we have in the collection, there’s very little material which brings to mind the awe-inspiring, ground shaking, fearsome dinosaurs we’re used to in popular culture. The reality is (dare I say) a bit more underwhelming, our dinosaur fossil collection comprises fragments of ribs, partial vertebrae and according to one of our database entries a ‘sub angular fossil fragment’. However, we do have one complete (non-avian) dinosaur skeleton on display. One that’s easily missed, tucked above our whale display. So ask me again. Is it a dinosaur? Yes it is! Is it real? Errr no, it’s just a cast (topical) BUT IT’S STILL INTERESTING OKAY.

    This week’s specimen of the week is…

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