This is where the world of Thomas Huxley (grandfather to Julian, Aldous and Andrew), Damien Hirst, glass models, slices and slides are gathered – it would be one horrendous, smelly, gory, bone shattering mess if they were to collide.
|Inside the Grant Museum|
Bearing in mind that Damien Hirst’s art fits in cosily here ... you might want to drop down and pass this post by ... equally you might be entertained by the squeamish ... on your head be it ... there are bisected heads (.... of animals I hasten to add) ...
This museum is a place to explore often ... to revisit and marvel ... to find new ‘treasures of surprise’ that occurred or occur on our living planet, zoological specimens covering the whole range of the animal kingdom whose specimens can be sponsored ...
... a great fun way to fund raise, while giving an interesting gift to relative or friend (as Old Kitty commented this had happened to one of her colleagues) ... while the Museum looks to provide a new environment for its collections ... a move, personally, I’d hate to organise and do!
|Early slides and photos or lithographs|
The Museum is described as a Kingdom in a Cabinet and I don’t think I can do it justice ... the place is dusty, musty and stacked high and tall ... not remotely dull ... the contents might put one or two off – yet this is the stuff of life – our life.
A great resource for zoologists, botanists, medics, biologists ... there are over 67,000 specimens here, with all the research papers and records to match, some going back nearly 200 years (1827 and beyond).
|Blaschka glass models - these have all been|
adopted for fund raising!
Robert Edmond Grant (1793-1874), after whom the museum is named, came to London from Edinburgh to lecture at the newly established University College London ... where he mentored the young Charles Darwin, who was studying medicine, a course he left unfinished ...
Grant’s specialist interests were sponges and other marine invertebrates ... and while on research expeditions back in Scotland with his young pupil ... Grant talked of early evolutionary theory ... setting Darwin off on his life’s work ...
|Glass snail - the shine, the slime can|
all be seen ... by the Blaschkas
It was Grant that set about building a collection of teaching resources from scratch, bringing his own collection to the Museum, and using a modest fund from the University to build on his collection. At his death in 1874 these 10,000+ specimens formed the basis of the Museum today.
I was specifically interested in the Blaschka glass models ... as I’d originally seen the glass flowers at Harvard way back when! Those botanical glass models, perfectly reproduced, have made a lasting impression on me.
Here we have early glass models of marine invertebrates ... extraordinary to think they were made of glass – all of glass! I will write more about the Blashkas and their legacy anon ...
|Anaconda wrap around skeleton -|
Natural History abounds in twists and turns ... the 250 kg anaconda skeleton – six metres long – sinuously wrapped without its flesh amongst other reptiles ...
Huxley was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” ... and his huge collection came over to the Museum once Imperial College closed its Zoology Department in the late 1800s. Huxley had dissected many of the specimens himself.
Sir Victor Negus was a laryngologist who did much to shape the course of the modern ear, nose and throat research ... the specimens preserved and shown may remind us of the artist Damien Hirst’s work.
|Walrus head with tusks|
The Finzi Lepidoptera Collection can be found here ... over 7,000 specimens held by the Museum ... some of them still have their original labels, providing an insight into Victorian taxonomic thinking.
This is a very valuable collection as it includes many specimens that are now nationally scarce, have become extinct during the last century, or are seriously endangered.
I didn't take any photos of the Lepidoptera collection ....
|Tape Worm ... with parasatic worms ..|
I see also sponsored!
There’s an Invertebrate Collection – animals without bones, comprising around 97% of animal life today. They were the first animals to appear on Earth, around six hundred million years ago, and all vertebrate life has evolved from them. They occupy most niches in most habitats.
The Vertebrate Collection covers animals that have bones ... these are separated into five groups: birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
|Back Wall of museum with display|
Then there are the Extinct Animals – the Dodo has probably become iconic because it was the first time humans realised they had destroyed a species.
In the three centuries since lots more species have disappeared ... the Museum holds many specimens, which were collected in the 1800s, from species that have since disappeared.
While going back further in history ... through its palaeontology collection of fossil animals – scientists can study this prehistoric life to determine organisms’ evolution and interactions with each other and their environments.
|A Dipetera - to me looking uncannily like a mozzie ...|
While my main reason for visiting was the see the Micrarium – a place of tiny things ... lived up to expectations.
These back lit slides highlight and remind us that about 95% of known animal species are smaller than our thumb ... so it is great to see this wonderful display of microscopic creatures ...
· “Legs of Fleas showing muscles”;
· Whole squid, just a couple of millimetres long;
· Beetles which have been sliced through their entire body, through the antennae, head, legs and body ... 1/10th of a millimetre thick;
· Scattered amongst the miniature creatures are a handful of tiny pieces of giant animals on microscopic slides, including whales, mammoths and giraffe ....
|Another shot of some of the slides in the Micrarium|
Then the Glass Flowers remind me of a happy visit to the States and to Harvard in 1976 ... I have to say since I started writing this post I cannot get photos and memories of skeletons, creepy crawlies, light-box slides out of my head ...
Welcome to a brief note on the world of natural history courtesy of the Grant Museum.
Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, Rockefeller Building, 21 University Street, London WC1E 6DE
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