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  • Specimen of the Week 351: The carrion crow

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 13 July 2018

    Hello everyone! I’m very sad to say that this is my last Specimen of the Week post because my internship finishes at the end of July. My final specimen is a carrion crow, and it was collected from a road on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales in 1993, and then donated to us in 2008 by the Museum of London. The purpose of the donation was “to fill a gap in the bird teaching material”. Read on to find out more about this magnificent bird…

    Taxidermy carrion crow, Corvus corone LDUCZ-Y1533

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    Specimen of the Week 347: The Bengal monitor skull

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 15 June 2018

    This specimen of the week is a lizard found throughout Asia. They have a colourful youth, are shy around humans and have been known to shelter in abandoned termite mounds. Say hello to the Bengal monitor (Varanus bengalensis)!

    Skull of a Bengal monitor, Varanus bengalensis LDUCZ-X189

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    Specimen of the Week 343: The brain coral

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 18 May 2018

    Jack Ashby, our former museum manager who left a few days ago to work at the Cambridge Zoology Museum, often talks about how natural history museums are biased towards certain animals. As I looked through the list of animals featured in our Specimen of the Week blog, I noticed that corals have only featured once in the past six and a half years! So today I would like to dedicate this blog post to Jack and make sure corals get the representation they deserve!

    Dry specimen of a brain coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis LDUCZ-C1439

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    Specimen of the Week 337: The Mussett Collection

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 6 April 2018

    To celebrate 100 years since some women were first given the right to vote in the UK, UCL are running a number of events and exhibitions. Here at the Grant Museum, our Specimen of the Week blogs have focused on women in natural history.

    The Grant Museum is home to many sub-collections which were either donated by other museums and collections or by previous curators such as Ray Lankester, D. M. S. Watson and James Peter Hill [1]. This Specimen of the Week is about the Mussett Collection, which was collected and donated by Dr. Frances Mussett, a palaeontologist and researcher at UCL. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 329: Flamingo skull

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 9 February 2018

    Hello, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another Specimen of the Week. This is a skull of an American flamingo, one of the six species of flamingo and the only species that naturally inhabits North America. The fiery-coloured plumage of this long-legged bird is sure to brighten up the dark winter days, so read on to find out more…

    Skull of an American flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber LDUCZ-Y147

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 323: The harp seal

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 29 December 2017

    It’s Nadine Gabriel with a Christmas dose of Specimen of the Week! As it’s only a few days after Christmas, I decided to choose a somewhat festive specimen for this week’s blog, so here’s an animal from (near) the North Pole – the harp seal!

    Skull and mandible of a juvenile Pagophilus groenlandicus, LDUCZ-Z304

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    Specimen of the Week 317: The Belemnite Fossil

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 17 November 2017

    Hello everyone, it’s Nadine Gabriel with another mollusc for you in this week’s Specimen of the Week. This specimen is a member of an extinct order of cephalopods that lived from the Triassic period (250-201 million years ago) through to the end of the Cretaceous period, becoming extinct around the same time as non-avian dinosaurs (~66 million years ago). These cephalopods were very common in the ancient oceans so they’re quite abundant in Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits all over the world. However, since the preservation of soft tissues is rare, it’s usually just the bullet-shaped rostrum that’s preserved. Not so in this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 311: Banded Snails

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 6 October 2017


    Hello everyone, it’s Nadine Gabriel again. My specimen of the week is a bit of an unusual one because there are 26 of them and they’re alive! This tank of banded snails features in our new exhibition, the Museum of Ordinary Animals. Banded snails were used in 20th century genetic studies as a key model for natural selection. For the next few months, I’ll be known as the “keeper of the snails” and I would like to introduce you to these marvellous molluscs.

    snail_tank_1

    Banded snails in their tank

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    Specimen of the Week 305: The Horned Screamer

    By Nadine Gabriel, on 25 August 2017

    Hello everyone, it’s Nadine Gabriel. I’ve been a familiar face at the Grant Museum over the years and I have recently started an internship here – I’m really looking forward to another year at the museum! Over the past few months, I’ve been accessioning objects in the display cabinets high up in the museum and I have come across many interesting specimens. However, one mounted skeleton with a striking pose really stood out to me and it’s also the only specimen of its species in the Grant Museum. Let’s make some noise for the horned screamer!

    Articulated skeleton of a horned screamer (Anhima cornuta) LDUCZ-Y519

    Articulated skeleton of a horned screamer (Anhima cornuta) LDUCZ-Y519

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    Fun with Minerals 2: Back in the Habit

    By Subhadra Das, on 15 September 2016

    UCL Earth Sciences student and veteran of UCL Geology Collections curation Nadine Gabriel returns with another guest blog relating her work with the mineral collection over the summer. It’s great to have her back and to demonstrate that collections management is clearly habit forming.

    Hello, it’s Nadine Gabriel again and I’ve been spending another summer working with UCL Geology Collections. Since the Rock Room will soon have another home, I’ve been removing minerals from display cabinets, auditing the collection and accessioning some new specimens. Once again I have seen thousands of minerals and one thing that always catches my eye is the wide variety of habits, so I thought this topic would make a great sequel to my first blog.

    A mineral habit is the shape of a single crystal or group of crystals. This is dependent on a mineral’s crystallographic system (the atomic arrangement of a crystal) and its growing conditions. The basic habit classification is defined by how well-formed a crystal is. A mineral is euhedral if all faces are well-developed, which means it grew in uncrowded, optimal conditions. However, if a mineral grew in unsuitable conditions, it becomes subhedral (some faces present) or anhedral (no faces). Below are the more specific habit classifications.

    First up is the massive habit which contains no visible crystal structures, but don’t assume that this doesn’t make them less eye catching! Many beautiful minerals such as deep blue lapis lazuli and vivid red (but poisonous) cinnabar have this habit.

    Minerals with cubic habit

    Cubic: pyrite, fluorite and galena (top). Hexagonal: quartz (middle left) and aragonite (middle right). Platy: biotite (bottom left) and talc (bottom right)

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