Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Grant Museum of Zoology ... Creepy Crawlies, Slippery Slitheries, cabinets of curiosities and odd oddities ...


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 ...

 
Sorry forgot what this chap is!!
... 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 -
also sponsored
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
cabinets ... 
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

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

56 comments:

JoJo said...

I would love to have seen the glass flowers but alas in 1976 I was only 11. These creepy crawlies are pretty icky yet I can't look away.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Wow these are some unique treasures to say the least haha. I like the Anaconda skeleton. That's awesome!

D.G. Hudson said...

Museums are something I love to explore especially if it speaks of our past era when new ideas were rampant (Darwinism) - I have no problem looking at dead things in a museum. (it's the live ones that make me squeamish).Thanks for the tour of the museum. I was one of those kids in school who loved looking through the microscope.

I've been to many kinds of museums and never met one I didn't like.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So a lot of the creatures in glass aren't real but made of glass? I bet that's a lost art form.
The anaconda photo is freaky. That snake was big.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

A Kingdom in a Cabinet, huh? Many, many cabinets, I'd say. A Kingdom OF Cabinets!

Julia Hones said...

Lovely tour, Hilary. The micrarium still intrigues me.
Did you see any tiny mammals?

M Pax said...

What a fascinating museum, Hilary. Those tusks on the cat are huge.

Val Poore said...

You are a braver woman than I, Hilary. I find it very hard to look at some of these specimens, but I'll admit the museum is fascinating!

Inger said...

I would love to see their microscopic department. That must have been so interesting. And those walrus tusks are amazing. How could he even move around with those.

Mark Koopmans said...

Oh my, Hilary!

If my three boys and I are ever in the neighborhood of the Grant Museum, we will plan to spend a *day* there!

We have something called the Bishop Museum, but it's more Hawaiian culture than Hawaiian creepie-crawlies :)

What a fun time you must have when you visit the Grant. Thanks for sharing :)

Sara said...

You do visit some very unusual places, Hilary:~)

I liked the idea of the Micrarium – a place of tiny things – that's so so cool.

The snake skeleton is really fascinating to me. It's so big!

I would have enjoyed seeing Blaschka glass models -- they sound lovely.

This a place I want to visit:~) I also like that there are species that are no more -- a reminder of the importance of keeping specimens, even if a sad one.

What's this about "Legs of Fleas showing muscles? Could you really see muscles or am I not understanding. If you could, that is amazing!!

Thanks for sharing about this cornucopia of wondrous things.

Hope things are going well for you this summer. I hear the weather has been rather nice. All we've had is gloom and rain. Such is the changing whims of weather.

Janie Junebug said...

Models made of glass would be really great to see, but in spite of my strong stomach, I suspect this museum has articles about which I don't want to know.

Love,
Janie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo-Jo .. I believe the glass flowers are once again on show at Harvard ... they were dusted off and given a clean bill of health .. I imagine they're sparkling now.

The creepy crawlies are very interesting aren't they .. !!

@ Keith - they are certainly unique, especially displayed as they are .. coils upon coils of them - as the Anaconda amongst other snakes ..

@ DG - lots of history here .. centuries of it. Yes, the live things are pretty grotesque aren't they .. so I'd agree with you there ... I prefer these old exhibits ..

You would love this museum - it is jammed packed full of specimens ..

@ Alex - that's right they are now under glass to (I guess) keep the dust off) ..

... also, that's right the soft bodies of marine invertebrates are particularly difficult to preserve, so the Blashkas were commissioned to make some out of glass - the style of which they continued when they left Europe for America ...

Yup .. a six metre anaconda would not be a happy reptile to meet up with!

@ Dianne - I thought about altering it to cabinet(S) .. but left it as it was described ... though you're right there are display cases and display cases of the specimens and definitely more than one cabinet!

@ Julia - it is an incredible place .. the Micrarium is a small alcove - and there were some kids around, so I didn't have that much of a good look .. but reading the blurb - certainly small tiny mammals may well have been there ... when I go back I'll have another look!

@ Mary - the tusks are from a walrus, a large marine animal .. but an amazing size ...

There was a tiger, lion, bear etc on display - but I didn't get photos of these ...

@ Val - these were fascinating and so informative .. not having the ability to study the exhibits that well - I rely on the notes etc ..

.. and the 'slices' were really interesting and I need to study more!!

@ Inger - 200 years of slides - must be so amazing, while the slides today and the new ones must offer so much in digital resonance ..

You should see the Asian Water Buffalo .. quite extraordinary that the antlers could be held up ... the walrus' tusks are minor by comparison..

However one thing I noted was the fact that these older specimens were larger than those of today .. they were more mature than those we have now ..

@ Mark - oh yes . your little ones would be over the moon here!! 3 days more like?!

Your Bishop Museum sounds appropriate to the Hawaiian culture .. pity about the creepy crawlies - perhaps someone will take up the niche?? Then your sons could help and could perhaps influence a new musuem ...

I'm looking forward to revisiting sometime later in the year .. that is for sure!!

@ Sara - well I enjoy different things - I do hate following and being like everyone else ...

The Micrarium is fascinating and again I need to revisit to spend a little more time taking it in ...

That Anaconda is a huge snake!

The Blaschka models are still at Harvard - newly cleaned since I was there .. and they are beautiful ..

Once you come over again and see your daughter .. I hope you'll get time to visit the Grant ...

Well apparently you can see the muscles showing on the legs of fleas ... I'm not sure which slide it is on - perhaps even it is one that is still stored away ...

Except if I'm sure it was pointed out to us - we could see those muscles!

A good word/phrase 'cornucopia of wondrous things' ...

The summer has been rather good in the south east .. and when I went north I was lucky that the wet part was in the train ... back here now it is very clement and beautifully sunny - love England in this weather!

@ Janie - the glass models are in Harvard too .. if you can get to see those ...

Thankfully I can look at most things .. these, depending on your outlook, could be pretty gruesome .. though Damien Hirst's art revolts me ...

Well so pleased everyone is enjoying these exhibits .. I must say I need more time with them ..

Cheers Hilary

Chuck said...

What a fascinating place. I could easily spend hours and hours in and among all those displays (if not more). Great historical post, Hilary.

Rhonda said...

Looks like a really interesting place. While I love all the bones, it's the glass models that I stopped and thought about the longest. Thanks for sharing so much detail.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Chuck - well I'm certain some people must spend hours and days there .. it is chock-a-block full .. and just wonderful. Thanks so much .. so pleased you enjoyed the little tour around ..

@ Rhonda - certainly if on your travels you get to the east coast USA ... and can get to Harvard - they are well worth having a look at .. the Glass Flowers blew me away years ago .. just lovely.

Thanks Chuck and Rhonda .. cheers Hilary

Lynn said...

Now I want to see the Glass Flowers - I'm glad that was a happy visit to the states.

What a wonderful museum visit you had. It's wonderful you take the time to do things like this.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lynn - well that's great .. I hope you can get up to Harvard to see them ..

A great three days .. just rather a lot! But it's the kind of thing I enjoy doing ..

So pleased you enjoyed the post - cheers Hilary

Bish Denham said...

This is definitely something I'd go see. After all, I went to the Smithsonian Medical Museum in Washington, DC. Talk about some strange and weird stuff...

Karen Walker said...

looks really interesting Hillary - you do such a good job of reporting and taking pics

Chatty Crone said...

Okay, okay - it is interesting and yucky. There is a science museum in Chicago that has things like this. We went underground and learned and saw all about roaches. It was so scary. sandie

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Dreadfully sorry for not visiting as of late. I've been rather busy looking for a clone, or a clone machine.

I hope you don't mind if I keep my comment rather short. I immensely enjoyed this posting. To read this and to see the photos, reminds me how much time I've spent in the past getting lost in various museums, including the one you refer to.

Must go. Desperate for a clone!

Gart

Christine Rains said...

That is so fascinating. It's the sort of museum I'd like to spend hours in. Thanks for sharing!

Jo said...

What a jumble though, you really would need to spend hours to see anything like most of it. If they do move, I hope they will have lots of room to spread out.

Diana Wilder said...

I have been savoring reading this post until I actually have time. And tonight's the night. What a feast of details, photos, muttered 'Good Grief' and head-shakiung. I love the anaconda skeleton - odd that I found the skull surprisingly dog-like. But the glass flowers caught me. I'd heard of the collection at Harvard - and I have no excuse whatever not to have visited them years ago, since I am less than 120 miles from there. I had no idea there were any other such things anywhere in the world. How they can do such things with glass - ! What did Hamlet say to Horatio about the wonders of the world far exceeding science?

Diana at About Myself By Myself

Linda said...

An amazing collection. Thank you so much for sharing.

Gattina said...

I have never heard about this museum, looks very interesting, but I don't think I would visit it. But at least you gave me an idea what is shown there !

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bish .. if you get over to the UK - then it's in London and open regularly ... I need or would like to visit the Smithsonian sometime .. yes I haven't really talked about the weird and wonderful ..

@ Karen - thanks so much .. glad you enjoyed the post ...

@ Sandie .. yes it is yuckie .. I wonder would Andy enjoy visiting here .. then the roach underground would be fascinating to see ... I only encountered roaches in volumes in New York!!

@ Gary - not to worry .. I would think a clone machine would be hard to find - particularly for you or for Alex ...

If you went in to the Grant Museum .. lots of nooks and crannies to get lost in ..

@ Christine - you'd love it .. your 'horror' stories would have added interest .. lots of descriptive thoughts ..

@ Jo - I noted that they'd only moved in 2011 ... they must be dreading it - but it would be great to have a little more space to see everything ...

@ Diana - the head is lower down I think .. but there were loads of interesting items - another post coming up on the oddities.

Hope you can get up to see the Harvard exhibition .. but I'll write about them too very shortly...

The ability of the Blashka flowers has yet to be found out .. no-one can establish how they created their specimens ...

I don't know re Hamlet to Horatio .. I'm away - I'll have to check on my return ...

@ Linda - thanks- it's fun isn't it ... glad you enjoyed it

@ Gattina - yes it's a great one to have a look around ..

Cheers everyone - lovely to see you all .. Hilary

michelle said...

A wealth of information ... and think about the immeasurable amount of history, all in one spot!
A real visual treat here at your place!
The microscopic specimens are fascinating...
What an amazing place Hilary.
You sure do get around a lot... thanks for sharing...
Writer In Transit

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Love museums and this one sounds particularly interesting. Great post well done. Have a good weekend, Diane

Julie Flanders said...

Wow what a fascinating place. That anaconda wrap skeleton is amazing and a little creepy at the same time. Thanks for letting us take a virtual trip to this museum, Hilary.

Amanda Trought said...

Hi Hilary,

Whilst I am not a fan of creapy crawlies, this museum does sound like it is filled with so many interesting things, and it is right on my doorstep, thanks for sharing, I am going to pay it a visit! Have a great weekend!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I'm sitting here shuddering. I'll pass on the creepy, crawlies.

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like an excellent place to spend a few hours exploring. Life in all its forms is endlessly fascinating. There's a similar place in Brighton called the Booth Museum which is probably on a smaller scale. It features mostly stuffed birds, but also some creepy crawlies etc.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Leg muscles on fleas? LOL That just seems wrong. At least the mosquitoes were dead. The museum does indeed look fascinating.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Michele - well you've got it right .. so much information is found within the walls of the Grant Museum ... which is still being used for research of all kinds.

The Micrarium is a very clever way of displaying a few of their slides .. again the variety of specimens boggles the mind ...

Thanks - it was a great place to find out about and to visit .. and I look forward to going back ...

@ Diane - it really is such a fascinating museum to have visited ..

@ Julie - the anaconda wrap was pretty extraordinary to see .. but all the specimens too - I'm so pleased I visited ...

@ Amanda - good to see you .. I thought you (and your son) might be interested - so am delighted to read you'll be paying it a visit ...

@ Susan - at least I put a caveat at the beginning of the post! Quite understand you passing though!

@ Nick - thanks .. I've thinking about getting over to the Booth museum for ages - but ended up at another new gallery for endangered species ... which opened other doors ... but I'd like to see their taxidermic exhibits ... as these will show the birds, etc as they once were ...

@ Joylene - leg muscles on fleas .. fascinating to think they have them isn't it! The specimens on the slides were very dead ... but imagine them all coming to life .. ?? It is an amazing place ..

Thanks everyone .. so pleased these creepy crawlies didn't put you all off! Cheers for now - Hilary

Connie Arnold said...

Very interesting, fascinating yet creepy. Seems like the kind of place my grandkids would enjoy seeing. Thanks for sharing!

Marja said...

A great museum Here in the Canterbury museum we have a great zoologie department which is mainly for the children. It has lots and lots of drawers with bugs and other animals, my favourites the butterfly collection.

juliet said...

I'm catching up now after being away. I've just learned a new word: micrarium. I would be fascinated in the tiny worlds too. So much to see here; you'd have to spend weeks looking at it all.

Morgan said...

Zoology was one of my favorite classes in high school! These pictures are fascinating. I want to go there! Next time I'm in London...

Great post, Hilary. :)

cleemckenziebooks said...

Well, that anaconda got my attention. What an amazing articulated creature that is. Those tusks aren't too shabby in the amazing department either.

Sharon Himsl said...

Hi Hilary. Thank you so much for joining my blog. The Africa Mercy posts are random emails from my good friend on board this amazing ship. I am as thrilled to read them as you! (Sorry for the posting hassle...have changed settings).

Sharon Himsl said...

p.s. I should comment on this incredible museum you describe. Muscles on fleas? Now how cool is that? I could get lost for a day in this museum.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Connie - I'm quite sure you're right re your grandkids .. they'd love the museum and all the creepy crawlies!

@ Marja - that's great that you have a similar museum nearby .. and that the children are encouraged to look and learn ... and butterflies are just beautiful to look at ...

@ Juliet - yes the Micrarium stood out for me when I read about it ... and yes, you could easily spend weeks here absorbing information ..

@ Morgan - you'd love it .. you'd be like a little girl in a chocolate box full of chocolate creepy crawlies! I do hope you can get over to London sometime to see the museum itself ..

@ Lee - the anaconda could easily feature in one of your stories? It was a stunning display - but not easy to photograph ... and the walrus tusks were amazing too ...

@ Sharon - lovely to see you here.

Glad the glitch has been fixed and I'll be over again to read the next instalment of the Africa Mercy posts .. fascinating updates on life in west Africa ...

I didn't look at the slides properly either .. and must do when I go back ... it does seem slightly strange that fleas might have muscles ... but apparently they do! It's a great museum full of funny things!

Cheers to you all - thanks for commenting - Hilary

Karen Lange said...

Wow, what a grand collection! This would be an adventure, that's for sure. Thanks for sharing with us!

Have a great week,
Karen

Denise Covey said...

This must be heaven to those who love creepy crawlies and all things natural history. A wonderful compilation as always Hilary!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Karen - lots of the children were having a grand time! While there were many adults peering intently .. it's very interesting ..

@ Denise - it's very compact and must 'amuse' many .. there is just so much to see - while the Micrarium has really opened up the tiny world around us ..

Cheers to you both - Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

I love stuff like this, Hilary!
I remember when I started at university, one of the first things I did was visit the medical building - though I had no classes there - because I'd heard the lobby had a display of "things in jars" :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz .. as an elder 'statesman' of life now .. I'd love to be a part of an institution and be able to visit and see things hidden away from the public ... something I never contemplated, or was able to do earlier in life ..

So quite understand your visit to the medical centre ... to see "things in jars" - this museum is choc-a-bloc with them! If you get to London I hope you can get a chance to visit ..

Cheers and good to hear your story of early Uni .. Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

This has got to be one of the best museums EVER! I love everything you told us about, and would love to see it all... everything!... with my own two eyes. (My hubby would have to drag me out!)

L.G. Smith said...

What a wonderful time to have been a scientist! I often think I would like to time-travel back to those days when the first naturalists like Darwin were making all their discoveries and thrilling the world with their findings. Amazing stuff.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - well it's eye boggling that's for sure ... masses of stuff packed to the gunwales - it's everywhere and must be in drawers and cupboards in the archives too ...

I'd love to see you there .. I think I'd sit quietly somewhere as you peered into and around cabinets, then your jumping reaction to all the goodies and look of delight at the exhibits ...

Also would hubby drag you out by your hair?!

@ Luanne - you could be anything in those days and find so much new treasure ...

I would love to have been born a polymath ... and yes been a naturalist, or engineer, or artist ... or ...

Thanks Susan and Luanne .. love your enthusiasm for the quirks of a zoological museum. Cheers Hilary

TALON said...

So cool! I would find that place endlessly fascinating. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talon ... I agree and it's one of the museums I could visit and revisit .. Cheers Hilary

Tina said...

Places like these take many visits to get the full effect of all they have gathered. The Darwin connection is fascinating to me. I don't think I could have looked away from the creepy crawlies...even though they do make me a bit squeamish!
Tina @ Life is Good

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. it was interesting to uncover a little of Darwin's early life via this zoological post - as I had no idea either how he started out on his quest for knowledge of the natural world ...

The museum is choc-a-bloc with creepy crawlies - every where you look ... wonderful place to visit.

Cheers Hilary