The poor people who know me in the real world are well aware of my fascination with animals, creatures great and small. Particularly any type of amazing cinematography of everything associated with David Attenborough. I have always dabbled with the idea of becoming a zoologist, but had a distinct lack of confidence in my scientific ability, so I hot footed it to the alternate end of the alphabet and became an archaeologist instead. But that hasn’t stopped my growing interest and enthusiasm for animals (apart from cats. I do not like cats). I am also very interested in the display, interpretation and curation of Natural History in museums. It just so diverse and I cant get enough! I loved the Hancock Museum’s Natural History collection when I was growing up, particularly the massive Japanese spider crab, which still on occasion gives me nightmares. So being in London, I am spoilt for choice by Natural History collections all over the shop. However, despite being a part of UCL, I had until a couple of weeks ago, never set foot in The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. Partly because I could never find the entrance. So I jumped at the chance to go see it, when I launched whole heartedly into a over excited worldwind of a project idea working with QR codes , tales of things, and the Grant Museum. I can not thank Mark the curator enough for not giggling too much at my puppy dog enthusiasm and for his absolutely brilliant ‘yeh, lets try it and see what happens’ attitude (As well as Andy and the guys over at Tales of Things who are also brilliant for letting me run wild). Despite meeting Mark at an event where he was talking about Video Games (I blogged about that here) I had previously seen him give a hilarious talk about how he hates the sea because of a whole manner of awful creatures who do quite disgusting things in it. Excellent. And the rest is history. We set up a project within a week of the initial idea and best of all I got to go to the Grant Museum! Which is a fantastic place, absolutely full of stuff, big stuff, little stuff, medium sized stuff, stuff in jars. Its brilliant. Mark also took me into the stores, which if you do work in museums is pretty mundane, its the collection you work with every day, but if you don’t work in museums, or its a collection you’re not familiar with, then its like a sweet shop! Whilst been showed around, I tried to stifle my poor brain going “oooooooooh!!!! What’s that!!!!! Oooooh what’s that?” at absolutely everything, and I think I managed to only ask a few stupid questions… “is that a jar full of moles?” and “where’s its head?” and “why have you got an exploded skull in your office?… oh so its not actually a skull that’s exploded, that is slightly disappointing”.
The Tales of the Grant Museum project so far has been brilliant fun, you can see what we are doing over at the Tales of Things site. Its providing an opportunity for anyone and everyone to scan a QR tag of an object and write what they think about it. It is also giving mark an opportunity to highlight some contentious issues in museum practice, is it right to display the label ‘bambi’s dad’ on a Red deer specimen? Is this an appropriate label? Is it too humorous for a museum? Is it trivialising death? All important questions for museums to discuss. As well as ideas about display and interpretation of objects with unknown provenance.
Sadly the Grant Museum is closing at the end of June, and Ive only just discovered it! But fear not it will be reopening in a new location in February next year. But in the mean time, if you are pootling about UCL before June 30th definitely check out the Grant Museum its an amazing place, and if you have and Iphone (you can download the Tales of Things app here) or android phone get scanning some QR tagged specimens, including the Grant museum itself.