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  • Sculpture Season opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 5 June 2013

    Today at the Grant Museum, not only have we flung the doors open to the public (as we do six days a week), but we have opened the doors to the Museum – and the museum cabinets – to thirteen emerging artists, inviting them to rethink our collection. Today, Sculpture Season begins.

    We’re consistently thinking how to use our collections in different ways, and while the team here is a creative one (otherwise – boast boast – we wouldn’t keep winning awards) we can definitely benefit from completely different eyes and minds looking at our collection.

    Sculpture Season does just that – thirteen sculpture students from the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL were invited to create works in response to the Museum’s spaces, specimens, science and history. The results are fantastic. Alongside the Museum’s historic skeletons, skulls and specimens preserved in jars, the new works engage with animal/human encounters through re-animated flesh, tunnelling rats and mice, giant worms and body bags.

    The artists have created music technologies, phantom occupations of the Museum’s iPad apps, hand-knitted internal organs and explorations of the excessive masculinity of giant deer antlers. Specimens have been re-ordered, re-labelled and re-imagined. (more…)

    Tomb Raiders: Ancient Egypt in Modern Art

    By Edmund Connolly, on 17 May 2013

     Guest blogger: Kholood Al-Fahad

    How can Ancient art be brought to life by contemporary art? Is there a connection between ancient and new?

    Tomb Raiders is the place were such questions should have an answer.

    Florence's temporal balloons

    Florence’s temporal balloons

    (more…)

    Diamonds are Forever

    By Edmund Connolly, on 1 May 2013

    by  Chris Webb

    Although a James Bond reference may be a tenuous link to the Petrie Museum, it is the literal, or rather chronological, duration of the shiny, super-hard compressed allotropes of carbon that had us titillated at the recent timekeeper event. On the evening of the 25th April, we welcomed back our resident Timekeeper Cathy Haynes who was joined by the Creative Director of the Institute of Making, Zoe Laughlin. The Institute is a multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world, and incidentally, our neighbours at UCL. The objective: to examine the material world of time and decay, and gain a better understanding of the way the world views time.

    (more…)

    Considering our History – the Good Times

    By Jack Ashby, on 24 March 2013

    Students taught in the Museum by E Ray Lankester in 1887

    Students taught in the Museum by E Ray Lankester in 1887

    Last week we launched six new permanent displays telling the story of the history of the Grant Museum, focusing on the story of how the teaching of zoology has evolved over the past 185 years of our existence. Like the life cycle of many species, there have been times of rapid diversification and broad niche occupancy, as well as population bottle-necks when extinction looms, before adaptations to changing climates result in a new lease of life.

    Today I’ll focus on our first century or so, when times were pretty darn good. The new displays combine some truly beautiful specimens from our stores – in typically Grant Museumy specimen-rich displays – combined with images from our archives and intricate anatomical drawings from early twentieth century student notebooks.

    Why are we here?
    Robert Grant (1793-1874), one of UCL’s founding professors, established the Museum in 1828 as a resource for students taking his Zoology and Comparative Anatomy lectures. Many of these students would have been medics as comparative anatomy was seen as a crucial element of medical theory. (more…)

    Artist at the Grant Museum

    By Sarah R Cameron, on 18 March 2013

    Viewpoint - Sarah Cameron (2013)

    Viewpoint – Sarah Cameron (2013)

    For the past month I have been working on a large mural for the foyer of the Grant Museum. The artwork, titled Viewpoint officially “opens” today.

    I arrive at the Museum at a strangely early hour of the morning, with my over-flowing bag of art materials and an array of tools. I ensconce myself in the foyer, surrounding myself with tubes of paint, mediums, cloths, sandpaper and sandwiches and then set to work in the quiet time before the museum opens.

    Much of my mural painting has been made in situ, which is a new and exciting way for me to work and through this I have found an energy in the way I handle paint that I have been striving for.

    It has been a fantastic privilege to be allowed access to the museum outside it’s normal opening hours and to have a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into a world of scientific investigation and recording that has often been elusive to me. (more…)

    Introducing Culture Vulture… Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men: A review

    By Jack Ashby, on 8 March 2013

    Culture Vulture: A vulture skull in UCL Art Museum

    Culture Vulture: A vulture skull in UCL Art Museum

    We’ve been doing a few exhibition reviews on the blog lately, and after the unprecedented success of the new Book Worm series (launched yesterday) we thought to ourselves “what weak animal based cliched pun can we deliver for a new exhibitions review feature?”. I think you’ll agree that “Culture Vulture” was the only option.

    I went along to Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men. The exhibition is the outcome of an excavation by museum archaeologists of a burial ground at the Royal London Hospital in 2006, which uncovered remains that had clearly been used in anatomical dissection. My interest was obvious – last year at the Grant Museum we put on Buried on Campus – an exhibition about the discovery and research into c7000 human remains unexpectedly discovered buried at UCL in 2010, also found to be have been used anatomically. I wanted to see how a museum with a budget tackled the same subject.

    The answer is: exceptionally well. (more…)

    Tempus Fugit

    By Edmund Connolly, on 19 February 2013

    Guest blogger: Chris Webb

     

    Wednesday 12 February at The Petrie Museum, saw our first evening in a series of talks given by our Timekeeper in residence, artist-curator Cathy Haynes, www.cathyhaynes.org, as she took us on a tour of objects in the museum and wider world that give us different experiences of time. The sequence of events is designed to question how we perceive, measure and record time. With the engagement of our lively audience, the evening suggested some interesting interpretations. As Cathy herself said, this first event threw up more questions than answers!

    Guided through a world of chronology, we were invited to consider how everyone from the ancient Egyptians to Facebook’s timeline observed, understood and recorded time. We then deliberated on the material culture and objects that shape out understanding of time. Examples from the Petrie’s collection included: concepts of dynasties, votive bowls, shadow clocks/sun-dials, a worn-out leather shoe, a water clock, and the large amount of stelai and memorialisation that represent permanent markers connected with death and the afterlife, not to mention Flinders Petrie’s own meticulous sequential dating of objects.

    A Shadow Clock

    (more…)

    I Spy With My Little Eye*

    By Mark Carnall, on 15 February 2013

    It’s very much Micrarium week here at the Grant Museum. We’ve heard from Jack Ashby about what it’s all about, this month’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of The Month can be found hidden amongst the other slides and museum assistant Emma-Louise Nicholls pays too much attention to my barnet.

    Now it’s my turn and I’ve picked just some of the slides you might wish to try to find next time you are down at the Grant Museum. (more…)

    Extinction: Not the End of the World? at the Natural History Museum, a Review

    By Jack Ashby, on 14 February 2013

    We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

    Last week Curator Mark and I went to check out the new Extinction exhibition at the Natural History Museum (NHM) which tackles the often tackled but rarely dealt with topic of extinction.

    Extinction, as a subject, is a tricky one. Firstly, natural history museums are full of it. We love it. 99% of species that have ever lived are extinct. [non-avian] Dinosaurs are extinct. Mammoths are extinct. Dodos are extinct. It’s bread and butter stuff. So much so that if we try and focus on it too much, it could be hard to make it special. Secondly, whatever museums/conservation organisations/David Attenborough say about modern extinctions, nothing ever changes. (more…)

    Heck that’s cool

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 13 February 2013

    Whilst you and I both work as hard as an ant running uphill carrying a dead fly three times its size at our jobs all day every day (right?), sometimes you can’t help but feel a little less Gandalf the Grey and a little more Freena the elf (remember him? Exactly.), than you may otherwise desire.

     

    I get a lot of satisfaction out of a day at work, partly because I am easily amused by… myself, and partly because my job rocks. Not every day of course, some days I want to dart people with porcupine quills from the balcony, but that’s very rare (have no fear). However, more often than not I look at a project or piece of work, or reflect on a school visit, and I think “Yeah, that was super, I’m really pleased”. Getting nice feedback on my Specimen of the Week blog is one of my favourites for example (*cough*hint*cough*). One such moment of self admiration came due to a new project called the Micrarium.

     

    Don’t overestimate my involvement in this project, I have merely spent several (thousand) hours pouring my liquified eyeballs over billions of microscope slides, selecting the sexiest ones and accessioning more thin sections than I have had individual days in my 31 years of life. I did not conceive the idea nor design, sadly did not carry out the building work (I like DIY), thankfully did not insert every slide into the nails-on-a-blackboard-infuriatingly-fiddly grooves on the walls, nor (even more thankfully) did I gain as many grey hairs as the curator. I did however, upon first looking at the completed Micrarium, like an actor seeing a completed film they’d spent months working on in disarticulated portions for the first time, subconsciously breathe aloud “Heck that’s cool.”