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  • Passionate enthusiastic scientists – just another way of saying Geek?

    By Jack Ashby, on 19 November 2013

    Last week I went to a presentation at the Zoological Society of London about the impact on museum visitors of meeting real scientists. The speaker, Amy Seakins, is just finishing a PhD which examines this topic, specifically on visitors to the Natural History Museum (NHM) who encounter real scientists through the excellent Nature Live programme.

    Among the many interesting findings were her results on how the visitors’ concepts of what “scientists” are like changed after seeing them speak. Seakins asked them to describe what they think of scientists before and after the events.

    Scientists are Geeks
    Before, the common theme from the answers was that scientists are socially awkward boring geeks fixated on their single topic. These are obviously negative constructions. If this really is how the average person (who is engaged enough in science to visit a museum about it) sees us then there is a problem. Thankfully it’s a problem that formats like the NHM’s Nature Live can fix… (more…)

    Petrie Menagerie: The Aviary and Insect House

    By Edmund Connolly, on 6 September 2013

    And so we arise from the submerged depths to soar into the Egyptian firmament on the wings of their birds and beetles. Aviaries were a very early element of the menagerie and zoological garden, and were very accessible to Petrie’s peers.

    Petrie’s Menagerie #6: The Aviary and Insect House

    There are numerous iconic bird images in the Egyptian corpus: the hawk, ibis[1], and vulture being some of the most common. I will focus on the latter, considering their potential relation to Empire and Colonialism, so prevalent in the 19th century mind.

    I’m generally apathetic towards insect houses, however, the insect we are looking at today is perhaps one of the most versatile and widely used animals of our entire menagerie. Scarab beetles (Scarabaeus sacer) is a good example of a rather common place animal, the dung beetle, being revered and represented in more mystical ways due to its prevalence in Egyptian mythology.

    The Object:

    Scurrying back to my more specialist material I present this stele featuring a bloke (perhaps a priest) in Roman garb burning incense on an altar before Isis and Anubis (two gods associated, among other manifestations, with the afterlife).

    A roman stele with the scarab at the top

    A roman stele with the scarab at the top

    (more…)

    Petrie Menagerie: The Aquarium and Reptile House

    By Edmund Connolly, on 30 August 2013

    Our animal companionship has grown, with horses meandering along Egyptian groves, alongside languid hippos and regal lions. Returning to our first specimen, the hippo, we will dive once more into the waters to cavort in an aquarium of fish and chill in the boreal shades of a reptile house.

    Petrie Menagerie #5: The Aquarium and the Reptile House

    Egypt has two major water sources: the Nile which acts as a spine for the country, running down into Africa, and the Mediterranean sea. Both were essential for the trade routes, travel and artefacts that Ancient Egyptians are so famous for. In addition, these important bodies of water held swarms of fish, which were a key element of the Ancient Egyptian diet. Reptiles appear in Egyptian iconography principally as snakes, scorpions and crocodiles[1] in a host of iconographic, religious and spiritual incarnations.

    An Egyptian flat fish

    An Egyptian flat fish

    (more…)

    Petrie Menagerie: The Petting Zoo

    By Edmund Connolly, on 9 August 2013

    Our menagerie has now gained two members which, by most standards, its not very many, so I am now going to throw in 4 more all under one child friendly umbrella: the Petting Zoo.

     

    Petrie Menagerie #3 Domestic (including small and pick-up-able) Animals:

    Thanks to the Nile, Egypt has areas of impressive fertility, granting the locals good crops and a regular cycle of irrigation and growth. In addition to arable produce, livestock were prevalent, including chickens, sheep and donkeys (and associated hybrids).

     

    The Objects(s):

    Given the prevalence of these creatures, it’s not surprising there are many representations of them:

    A leggy pig

    A leggy pig

    (more…)

    Petrie’s Menagerie: The Hippopotamus

    By Edmund Connolly, on 26 July 2013

     

    The link between the Petrie collection and Egypt is pretty obvious, founded in 1892 the collection incorporates roughly 80,000 Egyptian and Sudanese objects ranging from human remains to socks. The collection is still viewed and used by thousands of visitors a year, but I am intrigued by the Victorian audience, what would they have made of this collection? More precisely I am researching[1] the animals on display in the Petrie collection and how they may have been received and the vibrant history they were thrust into when brought to London. This series of 7 blogs will include material from the Petrie collection and archive, as well as some cross-collection references.

    Specimen #1: The Hippopotamus

    The name comes from the Greek (ἱπποπόταμος) meaning river horse, personally I see it more as an oversized pig, but hey who am I to argue with the Greeks, these aquatic equestrians are a common feature of children’s media[2] and the Africa vista. Egypt is the northern-most point that the Hippo is found naturally, gallivanting around in the Nile’s cooling waters.Hippo-3

    (more…)