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  • Specimen of the Week 275: Mystery wax models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 20 January 2017

    In a radical departure from tradition, this week’s blog will focus on what we don’t know about a specimen, rather than what we do know. The reason being is that the specimen in question is rather mysterious.  All of the usual pieces of information which can help identify a specimen are lacking  – no number, no entry in the accession records, no associated documentation and no taxonomic information.

    A perfect candidate for some major research which is why it was ‘auctioned’ as a mystery object to this year’s students taking part in the Collection Curatorship class as part of their MA in Museum Studies at UCL.  The aim of this course is to introduce students to the core skills of a curator : to understand objects and how to research them.  Luckily for us, the ‘natural history’ group chose this specimen and are about to flex their collective research muscles in order to help identify this specimen…

    Grant Museum of Zoology Mystery wax models

    Grant Museum of Zoology Mystery wax models

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    Specimen of the Week 270: Dalmanites trilobite

    By Tannis Davidson, on 16 December 2016

     

    LDUCZ-J422 Dalmanites caudatus

    LDUCZ-J422 Dalmanites caudatus

    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites
    O trilobite, o trilobite,
    You must be Dalmanites

    Your exoskell’s ovoid in outline
    Your frontal lobe is vaulted fine
    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites

    Eleven thoracic segments
    Pleural furrows deeply impressed
    O trilobite, o trilobite
    You must be Dalmanites*

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is a jolly little chap, ready to bring the Christmas cheer to Grant Museum blog readers everywhere.  An early gift from Santa’s pack, this fossil has recently arrived at the Grant Museum following a transfer from UCL’s Geology teaching collection. Despite being a bit broken and a bit repaired, this trilobite has received a warm welcome from all who have glanced upon his charming petrified remains. Behold this week’s Specimen of the Week… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 265: Termite collection

    By Tannis Davidson, on 11 November 2016

    The story of this week’s Specimen of the Week begins in 1862, in Prague, with the establishment of a small business offering teaching materials to aid in the study of natural sciences.  The business grew, and by the late 1880’s, its proprietor Václav Frič was procuring zoological specimens from around the world (1).  He accomplished this through contacting traveller-collectors such as fellow Czech Enrique Stanko Vraz – the man who collected this week’s highlighted specimens…

    LDUCZ-L71, L72, L73, L75, L77, L78, L80, L82 Termes bellicosus

    LDUCZ-L71, L72, L73, L75, L76, L77, L78, L80, L82 Macrotermes bellicosus

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    Specimen of the Week 258 : Pteraspis models

    By Tannis Davidson, on 23 September 2016

    LDUCZ-V733d Pteraspis sp.

    LDUCZ-V733d Pteraspis sp.

    In a few days time the autumn term at UCL begins along with the many classes and practicals which take place in the Grant Museum.  In the first term of last year, the Grant Museum held 28 specimen-based practicals using 770 specimens.  Over 1300 UCL students from various departments attended these practicals as part of their course work.

    To celebrate the return of the autumn term, here’s a specimen which will be used several times in the next few months in the ever-popular Vertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution.  This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 253 : Moroccan phosphate fossils

    By Tannis Davidson, on 19 August 2016

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    LDUCZ-V1467 Moroccan phosphate fossil label

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is not one, but 48 individual specimens which make up a display box highlighting various fossil teeth from Morocco.  Display boxes of this sort are not uncommon as they are a visually appealing way to showcase numerous small specimens not to mention an entrepreneurial solution to add value to otherwise inexpensive individual fossils. The Grant Museum’s display box is a rather nice example of this type containing fossil teeth of 19 different species of fish and marine reptiles: (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 250: Model of a crayfish embryo

    By Tannis Davidson, on 29 July 2016

    In honour of the 250th Specimen of the Week, as well as the new wax model display in the Museum, it seemed fitting to choose a show-stopper of a specimen which is so fabulously bizarre that you might describe it as being out of this world.

    This odd ball regularly puzzles the onlooker as to its identity and often reminds folk of a certain ‘perfect organism’ whose ‘structural perfection is matched only by its hostility’ *.

     

    The wait is over, science fiction fans. This week, we pay tribute to the most magnificent, perfectly evolved predator to scare us from the silver screen… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 244: The historic wax flatworm

    By Tannis Davidson, on 17 June 2016

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    LDUCZ-D44 Fasciola hepatica

    Since its inception in 1828, the Grant Museum of Zoology collections have always been used for teaching.  This continues in the present day and the Museum welcomes students from across UCL for a wide variety of specimen-based practicals, course work and research projects.

    Today we maintain detailed lists of specimens which are used in classes but I’ve often wondered what the early object-based teaching practicals looked like and which specimens were used.

    Fortunately, the Museum has some relevant archives which have identified an extraordinary specimen that had been used in teaching at UCL 130 years ago.  It is not only one of the oldest specimens in the collection, but also one of the most beautiful.

    Take a journey back in time with this week’s Specimen of the Week…

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    Specimen of the Week 239: Bohemian fossil amphibian cast

    By Tannis Davidson, on 13 May 2016

    LDUCZ-W385 with overlay of illustration

    LDUCZ-W385 Cochleosaurus sp. with overlay of original illustration from Fauna der Gaskohle und der Kalksteine der Permformation Bohmens 1879-1901

    Try to imagine life 310 million years ago.  It is the Carboniferous period – a time when the Earth experienced its highest levels of atmospheric oxygen leading to the growth of vast forests which would eventually be laid down and become the coal beds characteristic of this period.

    Primitive amphibians were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates including the Temnospondyls which were mostly semi-aquatic and typically larger than most modern amphibians. Superificially, most resembled crocodiles with broad, flat heads and had scales, claws and bony body plates.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week celebrates these early amphibians with a lovely example cast from the famous fossil gas-coal of the Czech Republic… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week 232: Holzmaden Fossil Fish

    By Tannis Davidson, on 25 March 2016

    LDUCZ-V610a Dapedium pholidotum

    LDUCZ-V610a Dapedium pholidotum

    There are quite a few posts on this blog regarding not-so-lovely fossil fish, which might possibly lead one to believe that the Grant Museum’s collection does not include fossil fish specimens of outstanding beauty.  This is, however, definitely not the case.  The Museum has many finely detailed, historically interesting, painstakingly prepared fossil fish – specimens that would, in fact, be described as anything but underwhelming.

    This week’s Specimen of the Week is …

     

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    Specimen of the Week 226: Preserved neonatal rat group

    By Tannis Davidson, on 8 February 2016

    LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

    LDUCZ-Z3086 Rattus norvegicus

    Last year, the Grant Museum undertook a major conservation project, Bone Idols: Protecting our iconic skeletons, in which 39 of our rarest and most significant skeletons were cleaned, repaired and remounted.

    This year the focus will be on our fluid specimens.  The Grant Museum has roughly 6000 preserved specimens is varying states of condition.  Over the course of the next 12 months, the most ‘in need’ specimens will be rehydrated, remounted, cleaned and put in new jars (if needed).  One of the newly-conserved wetties is a much-improved specimen which has generated quite a buzz around the Museum lately…this week’s Specimen of the Week is…

     

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