Museums & Collections Blog
  •  
  •  
  • Categories

  •  
  • Tags

  •  
  • Archives

  • 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…)

    Through the Looking Glass Sponge

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 18 November 2014

    Since joining the Museum as artist in residence last month, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through glass. I’ve looked through the plate glass cabinets protecting the specimens, the thickly blown glass of the specimen jars, and finally the specimens themselves: glass sponges. These creatures are 90% silica, formed of threads of glass spicules. They are usually found in the dark depths of the ocean, but up in the spotlights of the Museum they glow – a bright shelf of organic glass. Their structure is so intricate that I have to use even more layers of glass to be able to see them: reading glasses, magnifying glasses, and my recently acquired endoscope (excellent for getting round those awkward sponge corners). With all these layers of glass, reflection becomes an issue – in photographs, my face or the camera lens can appear, and viewed at certain angles even the specimen seems to be looking at its own reflection within the glass jar.

    Last week I put together a pinhole camera for one of the specimens. Pinhole cameras are made of a light-sealed box with photosensitive paper inside, and a small pinhole on the opposite side. The pinhole acts like the shutter of a camera – you aim the pinhole at whatever you want to capture and the light travels through the pinhole to the photosensitive paper inside the box, which is then developed in the darkroom and the image appears. I wanted to try putting the specimen inside the pinhole camera, with photosensitive paper surrounding it. I hoped that by doing this I would get a 360 degrees photogram of the glass sponge. However, the glass sponge and its jar had other ideas.

    Here are some photograms I took of the Museum’s Walteria leuckarti. (more…)

    Reflections on the Printing Techniques Workshop

    By Helen R Cobby, on 6 June 2014

    Slade students, artists and curious print-making novices both from within and outside of UCL got together for a Pop Up lunch-time talk by artist and UCL Art Museum Curatorial Assistant, Ling Chiu on 27th May in the UCL Art Museum. When she is not at the Museum, Ling works at a printmaking studio in southeast London, helping artists such as Ray Richardson and Peter Blake to create prints in screenprint, etching and lithography.

    Jack Miller’s 'Weird Tales'

    Jack Miller’s ‘Weird Tales’

    Ling introduced us to fine art printing techniques, referring to the UCL Art Museum’s extensive collection of prints as inspirational examples. We were encouraged to look at a diverse selection before the workshop started, and then to reflect on them again after we had learnt about some of the printing techniques. This produced different engagements with the work, and was a fun way of relating techniques back to the art objects. The most popular print Ling displayed from the collection was Jack Miller’s ‘Weird Tales’ (UCL Art Museum 9239), which had a textured, velvet effect produced by combining flocking with screenprint techniques (think Andy Warhol meets 18th century floral wallpaper!).

    The workshop followed on from an earlier session Ling had taken at the UCL Art Museum that looked at traditional printing methods typically used before 1850. This included relief printing (where the ink sits on top of the printing surface, and by which woodcuts and linocuts are made), intaglio printing (where the ink sits inside the printing plate, and is used to produce etchings and dry points), and planograph printing (which involves a chemical rather than physical change, and is used for lithography and screen-printing). With planographs, Ling used examples of her own work and some from the UCL Art Museum collection to describe how you work directly on the surface of the printing plate. You are also able to work on a large scale and in lots of colour as this is a painterly method of printing. However, each colour is drawn on a different stone, making the process relatively complex. One of Ling’s examples, Ludwig Grüner’s Sistine Chapel (UCL Art Museum 2872), took about 11 stones to achieve the subtle and extensive range of colours!  (more…)

    Subnature exhibition opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 21 May 2014

    ALTED Hydrozoa by Lan Lan, 2014. From Subnature exhibitionToday an incredible exhibition of artworks based on digitally altered fish bone sculptures opens at the Grant Museum. Subnature features sculptures and prints by emerging artist Lan Lan (UCL Slade School of Fine Art), who through the manipulation of original fish bone sculptures creates contemporary phantom creatures.

    Set amongst the Museum’s historic collections of skeletons, skulls and specimens in jars, the exhibition establishes a dialogue between natural history and its contemporary interventions – intertwining a Victorian collection with 21st Century digital techniques.

    The fantastical works take the form of cosmic bodies and marine animals, with some installations imagining a fictional future where energy plants rely on the phantom creatures. There is a flickr album showcasing some of the works.

    (more…)

    The Press Photography of Red Vienna 1929 – 1938: An interview

    By Helen R Cobby, on 8 November 2013

    Helen Cobby interviews the researchers of the Red Vienna project, Eva Branscome and Catalina Mejia, before their Pop-Up Display and Lecture on Tuesday 12th November.

    This photo is a wire photo: It shows the Nazis using the Karl-Marx-Hof as a politically laden backdrop to their feeding station for the starving Viennese

    This photo is a wire photo: It shows the Nazis using the Karl-Marx-Hof as a politically laden backdrop to their feeding station for the starving Viennese

    This event is based round American press photographs depicting social housing estates during the turbulent inter-war years in Vienna. The photographs record three specific epochs within this time frame, from the building of the social houses to the take-over of Austria by the Nazis. The interview below includes Eva’s and Catalina’s thoughts about the development of their project, the active role of the photographs in the manipulation of historical events, as well as the importance of new photographic technologies emerging at the time and new relations between image and caption that this brings. (more…)

    There’s no such thing as bad press?

    By Jack Ashby, on 11 December 2012

    This is a short post about the surprise appearance of the Grant Museum in a story that was completely unrelated.

    Before I start, there are some things you should bear in mind:

    • We count the number of times the Grant Museum appears in the press as a measure of our performance.
    • Unless it’s a press story promoting the Museum, we charge for use of our images by publishers, but we have allowed a couple of stock photo libraries to photograph the Museum in the hope that it will spread the word of our existence.
    • For obvious reasons we try and keep track of journalists and photographers who come and visit.
    • We have no control over the internet.

     

    Every month I go to a meeting with all the other people involved with communications at UCL to look over major events and stories involving the University over the past month, and to highlight what’s about to come up. At the last meeting a story in the press concerning the possibility of UCL changing a statute which at present effectively offers academic staff permanent tenure – something the Unions are concerned about, was brought up. This didn’t appear to have much to do with the Grant Museum, until they opened the link on the projector… (more…)

    A picture paints a thousand worms

    By Jack Ashby, on 6 September 2012

    Getty images in the mailKeen-eyed media-hungry readers may well have been seeing a lot of beautiful pictures of the Grant Museum on news websites this week. On Tuesday a photographer – Peter Macdiarmid – visited from Getty Images to shoot our collection, displays and store rooms in all their glory.

    That very same day news sites started publishing the gallery of images across the world (strangely a large number of outlets in Washington and Texas seemed to love it). Closer to home the Telegraph, Daily Mail and Huffington Post published the full gallery, containing some of the best images I’ve seen of our beautiful specimens. Click on any of those links to take a peek, choosing your preferred purveyor of information. My favourite is the Huffington Post, which gives the best info about the Grant.

    The Guardian and Wired also featured a pic in their respective Picture of the Day offerings.

    Do have a look as they really are stunning. It will come as no surprise that the beloved moles feature, and the best looking worms I ever saw.

    Fake-umentary? BBC and Frozen World

    By Mark Carnall, on 15 December 2011

    Another quick post, many of you may have seen the news coverage about a sequence showing polar bear cubs in the BBC’s excellent Frozen Planet documentary that was filmed in a zoo, not in the wild. The footage has been called out as being misleading and the authenticity of some snow has also been called into question. It’s hard to pick out whether this is grabbing media attention because the Beeb has its fair share of enemies in the press or whether viewers are genuinely outraged. The BBC has posted this video showing BBC bosses defending the sequence. The Telegraph has this to say about it, posted here for balance. (more…)

    Sympathy for the devil – part three

    By Jack Ashby, on 3 March 2011

    A delayed account of zoological fieldwork in Australia – Part 6

    From April 2010 I spent about five months undertaking several zoological field projects across Australia. I worked with government agencies, universities and NGOs on conservation and ecology studies ranging from Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, the effect of fire, rain and introduced predators on desert ecology and how to poison cats. This series of blog posts is a delayed account  of my time in the field.

    Weeks Six and Seven

    Over the past two weeks I’ve described a project involving trapping Tasmanian devils to study Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). My next fieldwork looked at the effect of the devil population crash on other mammals. I had a some time before then so I decided to walk over the middle third of the island on the amazing Overland Track through the mountainous wilderness of the UNESCO World Heritage Area. (more…)

    Who is ‘the Man from Mitanni’?

    By Debbie J Challis, on 1 February 2011

    Museum research can be like detective work – like Sherlock Holmes in a filing cabinet. (If there are any Benedict Cumberbatch fans reading this, don’t get distracted by that image). A vital part of clue finding is not to trust what you are told by museum databases.

    At the moment I am working on an exhibition and events programme around a series of photographs that the archaeologist Flinders Petrie took for ‘The Committee appointed for the purposes of procuring, with the help of Mr Flinders Petrie, Racial Photographs from the ancient Egyptian Pictures and Sculptures’. In actual fact, Petrie only received £20 from them. The scientist Sir Francis Galton gave almost £300 from ‘his own pocket’ towards the expedition in 1886-87. (More on Galton in future posts. . .). (more…)