X Close

UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the week 279: Jar of mole (crickets)

By Will J Richard, on 17 February 2017

Hello! Will Richard here, blogging again for you all. And this time I’ve chosen a specimen that I can’t believe isn’t better known. Everybody loves a jar of moles… so how about a jar of mole crickets?

LDUCZ-L45 European mole cricket

LDUCZ-L45 European mole cricket


Bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size – Vol. 1

By Jack Ashby, on 2 March 2016

The other day, two skulls were next to each other on the trolley – a capybara and a hyena. One is the world’s largest rodent, from the wetlands of South America, the other is a large carnivore from Sub-Saharan Africa, and as such are not often found together in museums.

Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

Capybara and spotted hyena skulls, which are surprisingly the same size. (LDUCZ-Z180 and LDUCZ-Z2589)

I was amazed that they were the same size. This inspired me to find other bits of animals that are surprisingly the same size… (more…)

Please don’t call us a Cabinet of Curiosity

By Jack Ashby, on 12 February 2016

Embryological wax model display at the Grant Museum. Top: Frogs; Middle: Arthropod, Echinoderm, Human; Bottom: Lanclet

Embryological wax model display at the Grant Museum.
Top: Frogs; Middle: Arthropod, Echinoderm, Human; Bottom: Lancelet

“Isn’t the Grant Museum wonderful! It’s such a cabinet of curiosity!”

This exclamation is clearly meant as a rich endorsement of the Grant Museum – it’s obviously intended as a compliment. Nevertheless, it makes me wince.

Inspiring curiosity and wonder is surely among the highest ambitions a museum could ever have. It’s infinitely more important than making visitors learn something. Curiosity? I am a huge fan. Cabinets? We definitely have some nice ones. Cabinets of Curiosity? No thanks.

For me, this term implies that our objects are nothing but curios – weird artefacts amassed by some eccentric collector. Erratically accumulated in another time; weird and wonderful titbits intended to impress; to show off the collector’s status and influence – “Gosh, Sir William! Where did you get that ghastly tenrec!?” (more…)

Specimen of the Week 199: Jar of…..

By Dean W Veall, on 3 August 2015

LDUCZ- Z2754 Jar of Moles (C) Matt Clayton 1011 001

LDUCZ- Z2754 Jar of Moles


Hello Specimen of the Week readers, Dean Veall here. The specimen I have chosen can be found immediately in front of you as you enter the Museum doors in Cabinet 12. This is not just one specimen but an assemblage of many individual specimens each with its own story to tell. The specimen in this photo has probably been viewed by 90% of the 23,000 visitors we’ve had through the doors during normal opening hours this year. This week’s specimen of the week is……



You dirty rats!, moles, dodos, etc…. Assessing popularity from visitor filth

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 15 August 2013

Once every month I get to clean all of the glass throughout the Grant Museum. You may think this laborious back-breaking time-consuming task is not a popular event in my diary. You’d be wrong. It gives me the opportunity to see the Museum through the eyes of those who have visited the Museum over the last month. How? By their grubby little fingerprints. It interests me greatly which spots have provoked the highest number of points of contact between finger and glass as people have pointed things out to their friends and relatives. These prints are not necessarily a measure of positivity- of enthusiasm or pleasure, but a measure of ‘reaction’. How many times have you heard “Yuk, look at this”, as well as the more pleasurable “Wow, look at this”? This month, as I wiped out the traces of this month’s reactions, I decided to do an analysis. (more…)

Jar of moles e-card anyone?

By Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh, on 17 April 2013

Image of Grant Museum E card selectorTo join our six lovely postcards on sale here at the Grant Museum, we’ve recently gone digital with our series of 16 new free Grant Museum e-cards. The e-card images show the variety of specimens the Grant Museum collection comprises, highlighting some of our most prized specimens including the Negus collection of bisected heads and our Blaschka glass models of invertebrates.

If you’ve not already guessed, yes, the jar of moles have their own e-card too.

Once users have selected their e-card image, they are invited to choose an interesting fact about the object to share with the recipient. Each object offers a selection from three facts relating to the natural history of the object, or the significance of the object to the Museum. For example, the quagga skeleton, which is only one of seven quagga skeletons in existence, was originally thought to be a plains zebra until it was re-identified as a quagga in 1972.

We hope to add to our range of e-cards and our postcards available in the Museum, so keep an eye out. If you’ve got a specimen you’d like to see as a postcard or e-card, please let us know.

Specimen of the Week: Week Seventy-Two

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 February 2013

Scary MonkeyThere comes a time in everybody’s life when something inevitable happens. Be it a first kiss, suffering a horrible job interview, or making a fool of yourself at the Christmas party. Today, for me, is that day. There are a lot of ‘high profile specimens’ at the Grant Museum that are labelled with this level of importance and acquire the oodles of subsequent respect because they are scientifically important, like the quagga, or gosh darn impressive, like the walrus penis bone. But then, there are specimens, or rather *a* specimen, that is seemingly the object of everybody’s eye, the cream in everyone’s coffee, the Bella to everyone’s Edward (or Jacob, if you will). A day when we, as staff, go through an entire day without hearing this particular set of three short words is a day when we are closed for refurbishment and the builders are having a snow day. It seems therefore, that it was nothing short of inevitable that at some point or another, this specimen would feature in a Specimen of the Week. You (must) know them… you (apparently) love them… this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)