Have you ever seen a jar of moles or a penis worm? What about some dodo bones, or the almost complete skeleton of a quagga? Well thanks to the Grant Museum I can tick those visions that have been missing from my life off the never ending list of bizarre and wonderful things to see at a museum.
I appreciate ‘stuff in jars’, as my boyfriend and partner in museum visits eloquently puts it, is not everyone’s cup of tea. Words like morbid, a bit gross and creepy have definitely be mentioned by friends who aren’t fans. But this place is just so crammed full of interesting, unique and beautiful creatures. It’s sad that they are dead, yes, but they can still inspire people to protect them, we can learn more about them and no-one needs to be killed for this purpose, providing we care for the collections that are available.
There is a case dedicated to UCL students, who are given a specimen to identify and asked to write a label for it. An excellent project and something that is mirrored in the Grant Museum’s excellent online presence with features like ‘specimen of the month’.
The Grant Museum also has a wonderfully friendly vibe. It’s small, but it was bustling with people. Families were doing craft activities and there were staff and volunteers on hand to chat to. The museum office is visible from the visitor route and a sign said that they would love to chat with visitors and just to ask. The adopting a specimen scheme is also a brilliant idea, not only helping with funding it lets people feel an ownership and an affiliation with the collection. Kudos to the person who had adopted the penis worm – excellent shout.
It’s also a space that creates conversations. It’s not a silent, dead space – the amount of visitors calling out to each other to point out specific things that they had seen is wonderful and fuelled by having so much on display in such a small space; I can guarantee that you’ll see new things every time you go. This time I spotted the skeletons looking over the balcony and down onto the museum space.
The Micrarium is a stroke of genius. It’s essentially a light box, that you can step into and explore 20,000 microscope slides containing 2,323 tiny specimens in one beautifully lit space. I’m in love with the space as such slides usually get hidden away in museum stores because they are considered ‘too small’ to display. But people love this space, there is so much to see in one small surface area that is almost overwhelmingly fascinating. The glass roof reflecting the specimens back means it’s basically the best museum selfie spot ever (check out the amount of photos that are taken there for #MuseumSelfie day).
So if you like ‘stuff in jars’ it’s a true treasure trove of wonder, even if you don’t I recommend you pop in because everyone should learn about the quagga and the dodo. And it’s just around the corner from The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, so you could see two excellent little (in size but not content) museums in one go.