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  • Specimen of the Week 367: African bush elephant heart

    By Christopher J Wearden, on 16 November 2018

    In my first month at the Grant Museum I learned that I, like many before me, had made a mistake. A rather… colossal mistake. Under a large glass bell near the flying lemur (which is neither a lemur nor can fly, but that’s a story for another time) lies a specimen that, for sheer size and improbability, I’d always assumed to be a fake. A plastic replica made for teaching, perhaps. Little did I know that I was actually looking at a real… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 366: Acute Lobar Collapse

    By Subhadra Das, on 9 November 2018

    Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

    All of the entries for the UCL Pathology Collections Top 10 Medical Trail have been written by Nazli Pulatmen, who worked with us for her MA Museum Studies placement in the summer of 2018.

    This week’s specimen is the collapsed lung of a small child. As with all our specimens from children, this blog comes with a warning that its content relates to child death.

    A child's lungs and windpipe, obstructed by a kernel of corn.

    RESP.C.8: Acute lobar collapse caused by obstruction by a foreign body.

    (more…)

    Object of the Week 365: A Model Boat

    By Anna E Garnett, on 2 November 2018

    Over the last year, Olivia Foster (MA student in the Institute of Archaeology, UCL) worked as a valued member of the Petrie Museum team as collections volunteer. During this time, Olivia has undertaken a range of work on collections care, documentation and object loans, and in this blog she discusses one of her favourite objects in the Petrie Museum collection.

    This small and unassuming model boat in the Petrie Museum collection (UC10805) was recovered from a tomb in Abadiyeh during Flinders Petrie’s excavations in the late 1890s. The decorated pottery object has been dated to the Naqada I period and the original function of the item is unclear.

    UC10805

    Objects such as this are important when it comes to understanding Predynastic Egypt, as they represent technology that has not survived in the archaeological record. Despite the important economic and symbolic role that boats are thought to have played in the Predynastic, no complete vessels have been found and archaeologists must instead rely on the art of the period to learn about their construction, size and function. This object and others like it also played a pivotal role in the heated debates between Petrie and his contemporaries as they discussed what exactly was being depicted in the decorated pottery of the era.

    The model is striking in its similarity to the shape of modern-day boats and the simple painted line decorations may hold clues as to how the boat was constructed. The narrow vertical lines on the sides of the object may be interpreted as lashing, with bundles of reeds or perhaps even wood forming longitudinal ribs to form a small canoe-type vessel. In addition to functional canoe vessels which may have been used for fishing or transport along the Nile, large watercraft with rows of oars are believed to have played an important symbolic and religious role in Predynastic Egypt.

    Vessel decorated with a boat motif (British Museum EA30920)

    Boats are a common motif on decorated pottery, however these illustrations are abstract in nature and in the 1890s there was some dispute over what exactly they represented. It was Flinders Petrie who first interpreted the decoration on Predynastic Egyptian ceramics as a ‘galley’ in the mid-1890s, Cecil Torr however proposed that the illustrations represented enclosures with two towers at the entrance. Model boats such as this example were used to dismiss these claims, as Petrie remained absolute in his interpretation of the motif as a boat and his assertion that vessels played an important symbolic role in early Egypt.

    The exact purpose of the model boat remains unclear and it may have had a decorative, functional or symbolic purpose or perhaps may even have been a child’s toy. The model boat clearly depicts a very different type of vessel from those commonly depicted and associated with Predynastic Egypt and offers a unique insight into more functional boats used by ancient people.

    Olivia was an MA student in the Institute of Archaeology, UCL from 2017-2018

    Further Reading

    Petrie, W. M. F. 1920. Prehistoric Egypt. London: Bernard Quaritch.

    Petrie, W. M. F. Corpus of Prehistoric Pottery and Palettes. pl. XXXVII, D 81D. London: Bernard Quaritch.

    Uildrinks, M. 2018. Building a Predynastic: The Construction of Predynastic Galleys. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections. Vol. 17. Pp. 156-172.

     

    Object of the Week 364: Cast of rickets

    By Nina Pearlman, on 25 October 2018

    Dr Nina Pearlman is Head of UCL Art Collections and curator of  Disrupters and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL (UCL Octagon Gallery till February 2019)

    My object of the week is a plaster cast of a child’s leg deformed by the disease rickets (UCL Pathology Collection P59b), included in the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition in the display case that features UCL women scientists. Amongst these scientists is Dame Harriette Chick (1875-1977) who is credited with finding the cause and cure for rickets. Her many contributions to preventative medicine were recognised with both a CBE and a DBE.

    This object gives me pause to ask, how were women scientists perceived in the early twentieth century? What anti-feminist sentiments did they have to contend with and how did they go on to make groundbreaking and lasting discoveries despite the persistence of the anti-feminist agenda, at the time labelled anti-suffragist?

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 363: The kangaroo stomach

    By Christopher J Wearden, on 19 October 2018

    After nearly a year working at the Grant Museum I realise I have become accustomed to aesthetics of my working environment. Decorations in your typical office might include team photos, prints of inspirational quotes and once a year, some tinsel. Here our walls are decorated with skulls, intestines and pickled reproductive organs. An interaction between a visitor and myself might involve them asking me ‘what is THAT??’, only for me to matter-of-factly reply ‘oh, that’s a bisected seal nose’. Not all interactions are so cordial however; when one visitor recently told me that our displays were ‘gratuitous’ I gently reminded them that our museum is primarily a teaching collection, meaning students across a wide range of disciplines often look at certain ‘unappealing’ parts of an animal in great detail. I hope that by writing about today’s specimen I can demonstrate why we have these ‘gratuitous’ objects on display, and what they can teach us about animals. Okay readers let’s hop to it, it’s the…

    Kangaroo stomach, Macropus sp. LDUCZ-Z43

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 362: Acid Poisoning

    By Subhadra Das, on 12 October 2018

    Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

    All of the entries for the UCL Pathology Collections Top 10 Medical Trail have been written by Nazli Pulatmen, who worked with us for her MA Museum Studies placement in the summer of 2018.

    Today’s specimens of the week are presented together because they show the effects of ingesting corrosive acids.

    Oesophagus and stomach with sulphuric acid poisoning

    ALIM.A.2 Sulphuric acid poisoning

    Tongue and Oesophagus: acute necrosis from hydrochloric acid poisoning

    ALIM.A.3 Hydrochloric acid poisoning

    (more…)

    Object of the Week 361: Alice Joyce Smith, Drawing of Drapery, First Prize (Equal), 1918

    By Andrea Fredericksen, on 5 October 2018

    Alice Joyce Smith, A Study of Drapery, 1981 (LDUCS-6061) © the copyright holder

    It’s not difficult to imagine what Alice Joyce Smith (b.1896) felt when she learned she had won the very first Drapery Drawing Prize awarded by the Slade School of Fine Art back in 1918. How she handled sharing it as First Prize (Equal) with fellow student artist Dorothy Josephine Coke (b.1897) is another matter. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 360: The Pinktoe Tarantula

    By Hannah Cornish, on 28 September 2018

    Specimen of the Week this week is a lovely, fluffy little chap. Despite his fearsome reputation, he means you no harm (unless you are a grasshopper, cockroach or small lizard). With spider season upon us and Halloween around the corner it is the perfect time to convince you he’s not-so-spooky….

    Tarantula Avicularia sp. LDUCZ-J82

    Tarantula Avicularia sp. LDUCZ-J82

    (more…)

    Specimen of the week 359: The Infant Elephant Molar

    By Christopher J Wearden, on 21 September 2018

    If you were to look inside your mouth (I hope) you would see four different types of teeth: the incisors, canines, premolars and molars. As omnivores with varied diets, humans need these different types of teeth to eat. Our molars are used for chewing, crushing and grinding the food which has been gripped, torn and sliced by the incisors, canines and premolars. Like the animal kingdom itself animal teeth are incredibly varied in their shape and size, making them a fascinating topic of study. Today’s specimen comes from an animal with fewer types of teeth than humans, but considerable size to make up for it. Without further ado let’s get our teeth into this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    Infant elephant molar, Elephas maximus LDUCZ-Z250

    (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 358: Sternum and ribs in rickets

    By Subhadra Das, on 14 September 2018

    Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

    Sternum and ribs in rickets

    The sternum and ribs of a 2-year-old showing advanced rickets.

    All of the entries for the UCL Pathology Collections Top 10 Medical Trail have been written by Nazli Pulatmen, who worked with us for her MA Museum Studies placement in the summer of 2018. Today’s specimen of the week post comes with a content warning for child death as a result of neglect. We’ve done our best to handle this topic with sensitivity and respect.

    (more…)