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  • How did it get like that?

    By Will J Richard, on 26 April 2017

    Grant Museum Visitor Services Volunteer Nicole Barber answers a question often put to her by the museum’s visitors…

    How did it get like that?

    Surrounded by the Grant Museum’s many exciting specimens, it’s not often you think of the painstaking preparation that went into each one before they were put on display. (Or at least I don’t, I’m usually far more interested in what’s in the case rather than how it got there.) The process of preparing zoological specimens is a lengthy one, involving some complicated and often quite gory techniques. The specimens in our collection have been pickled, taxidermied, pinned, stained, disarticulated, and re-articulated to make them educational and interesting to both researchers and the general public. We’ve previously explored some of the more unusual display techniques such as staining with red alizarin, or (and don’t pretend you don’t know which specimen this is) cramming things into jars, but what about our more traditional skeletal specimens?

    LDUCZ-Z2701 baboon skeleton

    LDUCZ-Z2701 baboon skeleton

    (more…)

    Specimen of the week 269: the dogfish

    By Will J Richard, on 9 December 2016

    Hello people of the internet. Will Richard here blogging away about a favourite of mine from the Grant Museum’s collection. This week I’ve chosen a specimen that’s a little bit of everything: dog, fish, cat and shark. That’s right folks, so good they named it twice, it’s the…

    LDUCZ-V1081 lesser-spotted dogfish

    LDUCZ-V1081 lesser-spotted dogfish

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 262: Little spotted kiwi

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 21 October 2016

    Welcome zoology fans, it’s another installation of the Specimen of the Week and this time we have something I like to call the Badger bird. I call it that not because it has black and white stripes on its face (it doesn’t), but because it’s the closest the bird world has managed to get to a myopic, snuffling, nocturnal, earthworm-devouring, somewhat stinky, mammal. That’s right, it’s the

    LDUCZ-Y1575 Apteryx owenii

    LDUCZ-Y1575 Apteryx owenii skeleton

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 241 – White-rumped ocean-runner

    By Paolo W Viscardi, on 27 May 2016

    This Friday I have a specimen for you that I picked simply because I like it:

    LDUCZ-Y1540_IMG33 - Oceanodromus_leucorhoa-skeleton

    LDUCZ-Y1540 Oceanodromus leucorhoa skeleton

    This is the skeleton of a white-rumped ocean-runner (a literal translation of the scientific name Oceanodroma leucorhoa), but it’s more commonly known as: (more…)

    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…)

    Specimen of the Week 213: The Enigmatic Gibbon

    By Rachel H Bray, on 9 November 2015

    Hello Grant Museum blog readers and zoology enthusiasts, it’s Rachel Bray here. You may be wondering who I am, unless you saw a Specimen of the Week blog by me back in May when I temporarily joined the Museum for my MA placement. I am very lucky to be back at the Grant until Christmas to work with the Museum’s wonderful learning and events programme. As part of my return I’m pleased to be getting back into the Specimen of the Week swing of things by researching this week’s candidate which is…

    Photograph of the grey gibbon specimen

    LDUCZ-Z475 Hylobates sp.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 201: The African bullfrog

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 August 2015

    This week’s Specimen of the Week was chosen from the thousands of possible contenders in a method designed to faciliate a more efficent decision-making process.  Rather than highlighting a personal favourite or an unsung hero, the selection was left entirely to fate – regardless of the consequences.  As it is Week 201 of this blog, why not (roll the dice) choose specimen W201 and see what happens? Will it be fluid or skeletal? Part or a whole? Cute or monstrous? As it turns out, W201 is all of these and more.  This week’s Specimen of the Week is…

    (more…)

    The world’s rarest skeleton rides again… on four legs

    By Jack Ashby, on 28 July 2015

    Using cutting-edge technology, the world’s rarest skeleton – a South African extinct zebra called a quagga – has regained its missing hind limb.

    The quagga's missing fourth leg has been replicated through 3D printing.

    The quagga’s missing fourth leg has been replicated through 3D printing.

    After a brilliant year of fundraising and conservation work, we are nearing the end of a major project to restore 39 of our largest and most significant skeletons to their former glory. The main focus of the project, named Bone Idols: Protecting our Iconic Skeletons, has been our quagga – which is one of only seven quagga skeletons to survive globally. The Guardian gave the project a particularly positve write-up (read the comments if you want to see some of the more unexpected outcomes of media relations. *blushes*).

    The last living quagga died in 1883, having been hunted to extinction by farmers and skin-collectors. The Grant Museum specimen is the only one on display in the UK but the skeleton was incomplete – the right shoulder blade and one of its legs has long been missing, probably since World War II.

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week 186

    By Tannis Davidson, on 4 May 2015

    Scary-Monkey-Week-NineSometimes a specimen can tell you a little. Sometimes it can tell you a lot. There has been much written on this blog about the perils and pitfalls of museum documentation. Sometimes there is no information with a specimen – no accession record, no acquisition information, no species name and (occasionally) no specimen. Objects get lost and misplaced. Historical records are incomplete or indecipherable. Specimen labels become separated from their object.

    Alternatively, some specimens may have (dare I say it) too much information which may include multiple numbers, several differing records, erroneous taxonomic information or questionable identifications.

    Caring for a collection entails many things but first and foremost is to identify the collection itself – through all possible means including the consolidation of any (and all) associated information. When luck prevails, one may find a scrap (literally) of information which ties it all together – a word or two which allows a specimen to be given a name, a record, a life!

    Recently while going through the bird drawers, I came across an unaccessioned skull and mandible together with its associated information (unclear object number, outdated taxonomic name) including a  small piece of paper with two words: “El Turco”. This week’s Specimen of the Week is…
    (more…)

    The world’s rarest skeleton returns to the Grant Museum

    By Jack Ashby, on 1 May 2015

    Can you spot the difference between these two photos?

    The quagga before conservation and remounting. LDUCZ-Z581

    The quagga before conservation and remounting. LDUCZ-Z581

    The quagga  after conservation and remounting. LDUCZ-Z581. Courtesy of Nigel Larkin

    The quagga after conservation and remounting. LDUCZ-Z581. Courtesy of Nigel Larkin

    They both depict the world’s rarest skeleton – that of the quagga, an extinct not very stripy kind of zebra – the UK’s only articulated quagga lives here at the Grant. There are only six (or possibly five) other skeletons in existence. The top picture was taken in February, on the day that she left the Museum to undergo major treatment for the ills that resulted from over a hundred years of grime and questionable mounting. The second was taken on Tuesday, when she returned to us. The quagga (and our rhino) were the biggest single tasks for our massive conservation project Bone Idols: Protecting our iconic skeletons, working to save 39 of our biggest and most significant specimens for the long term future.

    Hopefully you’ve spotted eveything that specialist bone preparator Nigel Larkin has done to prolong the “shelf life” of the quagga… (more…)