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  • Science Research in a Science Museum?

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 May 2013

    As chance would have it at the same time as we received research interest from the Royal College of Art, colleague Dr Zerina Johanson, researcher in the Earth Sciences Department at the Natural History Museum, had also contacted me about our paddlefish specimens. We have less than a dozen paddlefish specimens in the Grant Museum (fish is the family Polyodontidae, represented today by only two species the American paddlefish Polyodon spathula and the possibly-extinct Chinese paddlefish Psephurus gladius) and fortunately, one of these specimens, matched the specifications for research (in this article I wrote about how ‘usable’ specimens dwindle to tens from thousands depending on the type of research).

    So for the second time in May I was on bodyguard duty to escort one of our specimens down to South Kensington for some scanning, this time for SCIENCE!

    (more…)

    Art Research in a Science Museum?

    By Mark Carnall, on 10 May 2013

    It seems to be a week for thinking about Art vs. Science this week. Of course the whole idea or art vs. science is a fallacy but increasingly I meet artists and scientists who want to live up to the stereotype of being in either camp and rejecting outright the other one. As a university museum we work very hard to ensure that our collections support the research of the academic community not just here at UCL and it isn’t just science researchers who are ‘allowed’ in.

    Natural history and art have a shared history and for a long time were the same thing. Trace the origins of an interest in the natural world and biology back to its roots and description, observation, inspiration and illustration are natural history. You couldn’t prise the ‘art’ or the ‘science’ bits out of it without undermining the whole endeavor. This tradition continues today, if we think about the Wildlife photographer of the year, the imagery employed by conservation agencies, the latest Wellcome collection exhibition, the works of Mark Dion or even the plates and graphs from  scientific journal papers they can be considered both art and science. Particularly, with the pervasive use of the Internet, visual media is increasingly how we communicate our ideas, agendas and passions. Be it a powerful image that sums up the plight of Orang Utans, a meme that causes us to chuckle over a tea break or the sheer beauty of what is called ‘data porn’, that is, a nice infographic that shows rather than tells the story.

    So on any given day at the Grant Museum we could have visiting scientific researchers who may be measuring the dimensions of a skull or looking for the differences between fossils. Alternatively we could have an artist creating an installation for our Foyer and we’re excited to see the reactions to the museum for our upcoming sculpture season collaboration with the Slade School of Fine Arts. Rarely is there a day where we don’t have an art group or individual artists sketching or photographing specimens on display. All of the above are equally valid uses of museum collections and this post follows a day out for one of our specimens down to the Royal College of Art. (more…)

    7 awesome months plus 1 day at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

    By Debbie J Challis, on 28 February 2011

    From August 2010 to March 2011 I did an Internship at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. During that time I did many different things for the Petrie. One of my last jobs is it now to write about my experience and let other people know what a great place the Petrie Museum of Archaeology is.

    To start I would like to introduce myself first. My name is Katrin and I am a German student of Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. I was always very curious about museum work and decided to take a holiday semester to do an Internship at a museum to see what is going on from the professional side. I had never worked in a museum before and never heard of the Petrie Museum until the day one of my Professors in Berlin highly recommended me there for an Internship. That is how, luckily for me, one thing led to another and I was hired as a “special project administrator”.; soon I could find myself in the middle of the Petrie world (or how my supervisor Debbie would call it “in the middle of Madness”).
    (more…)