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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Conserve It! Part III – Reconstruction

By Nick J Booth, on 24 May 2013

This is the third installment of the Conserve it! blog series, written by a team of UCL conservation students who are working on four damaged objects from the Medical Physics Collection. Here Louise Stewart explains how they have gone about reconstructing the smashed tubes.

Now that our background research is done and we’ve considered the various significances the objects, we come to the most time-consuming step of conservation: the actual treatment! In this case, the main portion of treatment for all four of us is the reconstruction of the glass bulbs of the various x-ray tubes.

All of us working on reconstruction of the x-ray tubes!

All of us working on reconstruction of the x-ray tubes!


Conserve it! Part II – Research and Investigation

By Nick J Booth, on 27 February 2013

The second instalment of the Conserve it! blog, written by Miriam Orsini, details the research and analysis that conservators have to undertake before they even begin to work on objects. Particularly exciting for me is the photo towards the end of this post showing one of the X-Ray tubes glowing green under UV light! I had no idea they could do this…

Probably one of the most exciting things conservators must do before they start conserving an object is researching and analysing the object itself. This is the moment when the object starts to talk to you and tells you its story. In this post we are going to share some of the pretty amazing stories which these X-Ray tubes have told us.

We started with some preliminary research using the internet and academic literature to find out more about what kind of X-Ray tubes we were dealing with, and to try to understand their functioning and to date them. We realised that the tubes represented four stages in the history of the manufacture and design of X-Ray tubes, from  earlier examples to more modern models.

Example of a Jackson Tube (From UCL Medical Physics  Display)

Example of a Jackson Tube
(From UCL Medical Physics Display)

Advert for X-Ray tubes showing a Jackson Tube (centre)

Advert for X-Ray tubes showing a
Jackson Tube (centre)







My tube (above) is an early example of an X-Ray tube known as Jackson Tube or Focus Tube. This particular example was produced by a company based in London, Newton & Co. The presence of the company’s name and address, Fleet Street London, inscribed on the metal plate contained in the tube, led us to think that the tube was made before 1930, when the company moved from Fleet Street to Wigmore Street. (more…)

Conserve It! Getting Started

By Nick J Booth, on 5 February 2013

This is the first in a series of blogs written by conservation students working on objects from UCL’s Medical Physics Collection. Over the the next few months the students will keep us updated on their progress. This initial blog was lead authored by Katherine LM Becker.

On December 13, students from UCL’s MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums, their course co-ordinator – Dean Sully, the UCL Collections Senior Conservator – Susi Pancaldo, and UCL Museums curator – Nick Booth, met to discuss a new project!

Kate Becker and Miriam Orsini get their first view of the objects.
(Photo by Leslie Stephens)

During relocation of the Medical Physics Department’s collection, Nick Booth encountered four objects in need of conservation and, through Susi Pancaldo, was able to bring the objects to the conservation lab to be treated as part of student portfolios! Four students elected to participate in the project: Katherine Becker, Miriam Orsini, Leslie Stephens, and Louise Stewart. Together, we hope to gain new experiences and challenge ourselves with potentially complex glass reconstructions. From the beginning we thought that the best approach to the project would be for each student to be responsible for one object, but for us all to work as a group in problem solving and to make cohesive decisions.


How Did Man Lose His Penis Bone?

By Jack Ashby, on 4 February 2013

Grant Museum walrus penis boneThe walrus penis bone in the Grant Museum is often pointed at with a titter, a gasp, and other whispered noises. That’s obviously not surprising – it’s longer than my thigh. Conversations normally go something like this:

Visitor [blushing]: I didn’t know that there was a bone in them.
Staff: Ah well, there isn’t in humans, but most mammals have them. There’s a few in a jar over here [points to jar].
Visitor: Why?
Staff: Mostly it’s about stamina.
Visitor: I feel sorry for the girl walrus.
Staff: Over here is a skeleton of a raccoon with its penis bone in position – you don’t often see this because the prude Victorians got into the habit of removing them out of common decency. There are drawers and drawers of them in store at big natural history museums.
Visitor: Gee whizz. So why don’t humans have one?
Staff: Good question [branches off into that kind of babble that professional communicators use when they don’t know the answer, normally involving offering the visitor the opportunity to discuss what they think the answer is. You’ll note that if the staff member had known the answer, we’d have seen the topic arrive when the visitor asked “Why?”]
[Visitor leaves]

Well, one of the wonderful PhD Student Engagers we employ to talk to visitors about their research and experiences of academic life, Suzanne Harvey, has made our lives much simpler by writing a blog which answers the question – How did man lose his penis bone? It’s over on their “Researchers in Museums” blog and it begins like this… (more…)

Fit Bodies: Student Competition

By Debbie J Challis, on 11 June 2012

Impact by Graham Isted

A few months ago the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology ran a student competition asking for photographic and graphic entries on the theme of Fit Bodies: Statues, Athletics and Power. We asked for original responses to the idea

Greek Women resting at Olympia by Mara Gold

of ‘What is a Fit Body?’ These engaging responses are now on display in UCL North Cloisters (the main Wilkins Building) and the Petrie Museum as well as on this blog.

Rash by Arthur Kay

Do come and have a look at the entries in the flesh. The display in the Petrie Museum considers the importance of physical prowess in ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as the legacy of those ideas today, intercut with the student responses.

The exhibition of entries in the North Cloisters as accompanied by the viewpoints of various people that challenge cliches and assumptions about ‘What is a Fit Body?’; whether cosmetic surgery, the female body and body building, playing sport or the damaged body.

With thanks to all the students for their entries!

Untitled by Emma Wong


Modern Student in Ancient Olympian attire by Awat Rahimi

Romulus and Remus I by Sophie Blagden









Still Running by Antonia Clare Grant