In Pictures: University College London's Grant Museum of Zoology gets ready for reopening

By Ben Miller | 10 March 2011
A photo of jars containing animal heads on shelves inside a museum
© UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton
The University College of London Professor of Genetics, Steve Jones, quotes Dylan Thomas when he discusses the Grant Museum’s reopening after an eight-month closure.

“He described Swansea Museum as ‘a museum that should have been in a museum,’” says Jones. “That was meant as something of an insult, but for the Grant Museum it is praise indeed.”

A photo of a skull and butterflies on a museum shelf with an iPad in the foreground
© UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton
The home of this London labyrinth was a library in Edwardian times, crammed with bottles of preserved moles, extinct zebras, lost dodo bones, extinct half-striped zebras (conventionally known as quaggas), three-metre Irish elks and limbs only recently identified as dodo legs.

Many of the 70,000 remains were collected by Robert Edmond Grant, a professor who taught zoology to Charles Darwin and was the first oracle on comparative anatomy in England. It was founded in 1828 as a teaching collection.

A photo of a skull of an animal in close up on a museum shelf
© UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton
The jars and shelves have also been turned over to technology. A new bespoke project, Qrator, is allowing visitors to use iPads scattered around the museum or their own smartphones to answer uncompromising questions.

They include “what makes an animal British?”, “can keeping pets be justified given their impact on wildlife?” and “should science shy away from studying biological differences between races?”

A photo of clear jars containing brains inside a cabinet shelf
© UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton
“We want to give our audiences unprecedented opportunities to engage in the museum’s work and feed into how our museums should be run,” says manager Natasha McEnroe.

“These are opportunities for them to tell us what they know and need to know about the life sciences and the issues they care about and want museums to raise.”

A photo of skeletons on hooks in a museum
© UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton
  • Reopens March 15. First Chance to See on March 15, 1pm-8pm. Visit the online programme for full listings.
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