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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week: Week Sixty-Four

Emma-Louise Nicholls31 December 2012

Scary MonkeyBack in the days when ancient Rome was modern, to them, the Romans had a whole host of gods and goddesses. My personal favourite is Mercury, god of travel. If he exists, he has indeed been kind to me during my life time. I also like him because he is allegedly mischievous, a character trait I can empathise with. New Year’s day however, belongs to a different god. Janus, is reportedly the god of transitions and new beginnings. He also looks after gates, doors, and doorways, though in a more metaphorical than architectural sense I suspect. Janus has two heads, a useful trait that allows him to look both to the future and the past, at the same time. The month of January was so named by the Romans. It marked the beginning of the year and it made sense therefore to use it to honour the god of new beginnings; Janus. Sadly, we do not have a two headed god of new beginnings in the Grant Museum. But we do have another two-headed beasty (and naturally so, not X-Men style crazy genes so) which is a super species worth peering through hangover addled eyes to read about. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

Specimen of the Week: Week Sixty-One

Emma-Louise Nicholls10 December 2012

Scary MonkeyYou think you know a guy and then he suprises you. Friend, relative, partner… no matter how long you’ve known someone for, they can always despise a shirt you thought they’d go nuts over or express how much they hate Christmas cake in a hereto unbeknown festive culinary revelation. I thought I knew the group of animals to which this week’s specimen belongs, very well. In fact, I’d say most, if not all people have some sort of knowledge base on this group. And yet, here, hidden behind other specimens on a crowded shelf of treats in a Museum display case, I discovered a gem of a species of this well-known group. This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

I found this… Mexican Plateau Horned Lizard

Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh17 October 2012

I found this… is a new mini-installation by the entrance to the Museum. In each of the six cabinets one member of our team has selected one object which they have uncovered something new about. Today…

Mexican Plateau Horned LizardMexican Plateau Horned Lizard

Part of my role involves looking after the adoption scheme, which means that I get to research the specimens in order to prepare their adoption certificates. Just today I used some of my adoption knowledge when a visitor asked about the pink fairy armadillo.

I enjoy the opportunity this gives to learn more about each specimen, especially when I come across the most bizarre facts that I could never have imagined. Take the Mexican Plateau Horned Lizard, it may appear cute and feeble, but it has the ability to squirt foul-tasting blood from its eyes forcing its canine and feline predators to drop it. Facts like these are guaranteed to make it into an adoption certificate!

I found this… dinosaur footprint

Simon J Jackson10 October 2012

I found this… is a new mini-installation by the entrance to the Museum. In each of the six cabinets one member of our team has selected one object which they have uncovered something new about. Today…

The dinosaur footprint

Dinosaur Footprint As I worked my way through documenting numerous specimens in the stores, I was pleased to come upon this specimen, one of three plaster casts of dinosaur footprints from the Isle of Wight Francis Mussett Collection. Having completed a Ph.D. in dinosaur footprint formation, it was a great opportunity for me to apply my expertise to the specimens. Firstly, by comparing the specimen to other footprints in the literature, and ones I have studied, I was able to ascertain that the animal that made this footprint was probably a flesh eating or carnivorous dinosaur — note the three long slender digits pointing forward with pointed terminations. By using a well-known relationship between footprint length and hip height, I was able to ascertain that the dinosaur would have been approximately 1 m high at the hip, and therefore about 3 to 4 m in length. The web-like structure between two of the toe imprints was probably formed from sediment being squeezed between the toes as the foot impacted upon the sediment. Thus the original ‘mould’ of the foot may have been slightly modified by the movement of the sediment, which means our interpretation of the animal’s size and type needs to be treated with some caution.

Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Seven

Emma-Louise Nicholls16 April 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Twenty-SevenUp above the cabinet so high, like a reptile in the sky, this week’s specimen of the week is both solid and squishy, it’s both green but white, and it is extremely hard to get down without the help of our 6 and a half foot curator so if you want to see it, you’ll have to look carefully. But it’s well worth the effort. This week’s specimen of the week is…