LONDON’S GLOBAL UNIVERSITY
About UCL Museums & Collections
An estimated 20,000 objects on public display
More than 50,000 visitors each year
More than 800,000 objects and specimens
Hundreds of events throughout the year
Museums and collections have a singular power to spark dialogue and debate, breathe life into learning and trigger new ways of thinking. UCL’s outstanding collections play an unparalleled role in the university’s ethos of opening up and transforming education. These extensive, historically important collections were created by pioneers of academic research and are integral to UCL, London’s global university. Interdisciplinary teaching and research are core to its mission. Five collections – UCL Art Museum, the Grant Museum of Zoology, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Geology and Archaeology Collections – are open to the public. Others such as Historical Science, Pathology, Anthropology and Library Special Collections continue to be developed for teaching and research and can be viewed by the public by appointment. UCL’s collections come from across the globe. The university strives to ensure that they, and the expertise of collections staff, are available around the world including at UCL’s international operations in Qatar, Australia and Kazakhstan. To continue to build on its heritage and innovating spirit, UCL runs a huge array of popular events, successful partnerships and research programmes.
Technology and innovation
UCL’s museums and collections strive to maintain the spirit of the visionary founders, by pushing the boundaries to look at the collections in a new light and make them accessible to more people. An award-winning digital engagement project allows visitors to use iPads to participate in debates sparked by displays and shape decision-making in the museums. UCL is pioneering the use of imaging technologies in the heritage sector, having created 3D digital replicas of artefacts in the collections. A collaboration with academic departments involves the public in transcribing Jeremy Bentham’s unpublished manuscripts online. Staff and collections take part in wide-ranging research projects. These cover subjects such as the role of technology in museums; the changing nature of ‘likeness’ in portraiture and medical images of the face; the ethics of acquisition, disposal and use of collections; and the role of collections in promoting inclusion and social justice. Heritage in Hospitals is a collaborative study with UCL healthcare researchers and University College Hospital to investigate the relationship between handling museum objects and patient wellbeing. The Octagon Gallery in the Wilkins Building employs the latest technology to foster a dialogue about the exhibits, while a variety of social media keeps supporters engaged with developments wherever they are. 3
Engagement and outreach
In line with UCL’s founding principles, the collections should be available to as many people as possible. According to an independent evaluation by Culture: Unlimited, the department’s outreach work is “high-quality, much-valued and mission-driven”. The team of learning staff, librarians and curators offers a wide range of free activities for organised groups from primary schools to postgraduate students and adult learners. Sessions are provided on-site at the museums and libraries and through outreach visits to schools. Downloadable lesson plans and loan boxes containing objects are also available for teachers. Collections staff innovate and support university teaching and research. In addition, staff seek out collaboration opportunities to exhibit the collections in a new light or environment, to research new uses or to explore new horizons.
UCL is home to three museums: the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, the Grant Museum of Zoology and UCL Art Museum. They house exhibits of international and historical significance, such as coffin masks from the time of Tutankhamun, art by Rembrandt and Turner and skeletons of extinct animals, including the quagga and dodo. The museums started life in the 19th century, founded by intrepid and pioneering staff and students who believed in the value of what today is called â€˜object-based learningâ€™. As university museums are increasingly rare, particularly in London, these museums provide a distinctive, inspirational facet to UCL teaching and research. They also run numerous activities to ensure that everyone can experience them.
UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Listed as one of the Daily Telegraph’s top 50 unusual museums and dubbed “The British Museum without the crowds” (Time Out) the Petrie is home to 80,000 artefacts spanning 40,000 years. The museum is one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world. This unusual and extensive insight into Egypt during the times of the Pharaohs, Romans and Copts through to the Islamic Period, is thanks to William Matthew Flinders Petrie, Britain’s first ever Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology.
Petrie – also known as the ‘father of scientific archaeology’ – spent more than 50 years excavating sites throughout Egypt to form a world-class teaching and research collection. After 1945, the museum grew in scope to include the archaeology of Sudan, in particular the remarkable royal and daily life finds from the ancient capital Meroe. Greek portraits from 2,000 years ago rub shoulders with images of the famous boy-king Tutankhamun, alongside intimate items from everyday life, including ancient dresses, weapons, jewellery, tools and the first wills on papyrus. In addition, Petrie’s vast and unique sequence of pottery demonstrates how archaeologists first began to date ancient remains.
UCL Grant Museum of Zoology
The Grant Museum of Zoology provides a unique window on the entire animal kingdom. It is the only remaining university zoology museum in London. Packed full of skeletons, mounted animals and specimens preserved in fluid, it offers a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with around 67,000 specimens. Breathtaking endangered and extinct animals, such as the Tasmanian tiger, the quagga and the dodo, are on display, alongside spectacular collections of dissected heads and exquisite glass models.
Professor Robert Edmond Grant â€“ a zoologist, radical, scientific and medical reformer who exerted a decisive influence on the young Charles Darwin â€“ founded the museum as a teaching collection. His revolutionary spirit is still prized today at the museum, which has garnered awards for using cutting-edge technology to bring the collection to life and involve visitors in discussing the role of science in society. The museum runs an innovative programme of events as well as exhibitions co-curated with UCL staff and students to engage visitors in research going on at the university. Small wonder it is one of the Guardianâ€™s top 50 free things to do in London.
UCL Art Museum
UCL Art Museum is home to more than 10,000 works of art, dating from the 1490s to the present day. Works separated by centuries are linked by a desire to experiment with new materials, theories and reproduction techniques in order to produce new meanings, share ideas and inspire. This spirit is present in early printmaking techniques as used by DĂźrer, studio model drawings employed in Renaissance artistsâ€™ workshops, neoclassical plaster modelling, annotated prints by Turner, the study of the human figure in the life room, Japanese colour woodblocks, early computer art of the 1970s and contemporary digital media.
Many artworks relate to the history of teaching at the UCL Slade School of Fine Art. Outstanding examples often show stages in the creative process, from preparatory studies for murals by Winifred Knights to torn up sketches by Augustus John saved by his peers â€“ as well as drawings by Slade professors such as Henry Tonks and William Coldstream. The museum is located in a traditional print room at the heart of UCL. Its international collections are publicly accessible through temporary exhibitions, displays across the university campus and in the novel format of one-hour pop-up displays curated by UCL staff and students. The Flaxman Gallery showcases outstanding examples of John Flaxmanâ€™s sculpture in a unique architectural setting.
In addition to the public museums, UCL holds several teaching and research collections, including library collections. Since the foundation of UCL in 1826, material has been collected and donated to support teaching and research. Spread across numerous departments and fields of study, objects and archives form important historical collections. These include world-firsts, Nobel Prize-winning experimental apparatus, historical teaching aids, prototypes, samples and archive material relating to notable members of the university. Learning with objects is integral to the study of geology, archaeology, biological anthropology, ethnography, pathology and anatomy, and continues to be a strength of the collections at UCL. These departmental collections are an essential resource, allowing students in London to study the whole world in a single classroom. Objects from the teaching and research collections regularly feature in exhibitions on campus and within parent departments, and are lent to external heritage and research projects.
UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections
The Institute of Archaeology is one of only a handful of university archaeology departments with a public gallery space. The Leventis Galleryâ€™s permanent and temporary exhibitions draw upon collections of 80,000 artefacts, as well as photographic and field archives from excavations all over Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and Central and South America. Highlights include early tools from the African Rift Valley, stone artefacts from Swanscombe and Grimes Graves, Indus Valley material, the Petrie Palestinian Collection, a large selection of Scandinavian stone tools and weapons and objects from UCLâ€™s former Museum of Classical Archaeology. There are also extensive collections of botanical and zoological reference material. The institute celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012 and is one of the largest archaeology departments in Europe, with an engaging events and outreach programme.
UCL Galton Collection
The Galton Collection houses the scientific instruments, papers and personal memorabilia of the influential Victorian thinker Sir Francis Galton (1822â€“1911). His interests included statistics, anthropology, eugenics, geography, meteorology, fingerprints and photography. The collection contains around 500 items and brings together Galtonâ€™s travel souvenirs, diaries, notebooks, family portraits and prints, as well as materials from his professional and scientific endeavours. Combined with a selection of records and objects from the Galton Laboratory, and complemented by more than 50,000 items of archival material held in UCL Library Special Collections, this collection is a significant research resource.
UCL Ethnography Collections
This collection contains approximately 1,300 objects that represent art, technology and material culture from a wide range of civilisations from all over the world. As the only ethnographic collection held by a London university, and one of a handful across the UK, the collection is highly valued as a teaching and research resource. Much of the material was donated in the mid-20th century and acquired through scholarship fieldwork, principally by Daryll Forde, the founder of UCLâ€™s Anthropology department. The Biological Anthropology Collection houses approximately 1,200 specimens of skeletons and casts, covering a range of primates, including humans. Founded as a teaching resource, the collection has a rich history dating back more than 100 years and is expanded with new fossil casts each year. The collection has a spectacular collection of hominin casts, including part of the first casts of Homo erectus from Zhoukoudian made by Franz Weidenreich. The collection also contains many of John Napierâ€™s original specimens, as well as his casts, photographs and X-rays.
UCL Pathology Collections
UCL houses a diverse collection of approximately 6,000 human pathology specimens. The majority of specimens are preserved in fluid along with some skeletal material, foreign bodies, wax and plaster models and histopathology slides. It represents an important and irreplaceable collection with clinical teaching and research significance.
Many specimens demonstrate common historic diseases such as rickets and tuberculosis that, despite the advances of modern medicine, are on the increase today. The collections have grown through the incorporation of specimens from several London teaching hospitals, including University College Hospital, the Middlesex Medical School, the Royal Free Hospital and the historically significant collection from Great Ormond Street Hospital, the world-renowned British institution.
UCL Historical Science Collections
Many scientific discoveries and engineering innovations have been made at UCL and these important collections demonstrate the enormous contribution UCL has made to the advancement of science.
Geomatic Engineering The UCL Geomatic Engineering Collection includes one of only two known examples of an astro-clinometer, used by the RAF on long-range desert missions during World War Two, as well as historical surveying and engineering instruments.
Chemistry Highlights of the UCL Chemistry Collections include the Nobel Prize Citation to Sir William Ramsay for his discovery of the noble gases and Britainâ€™s very first X-ray photograph used for clinical purposes.
Physics The UCL Physics Collection houses historic laboratory and experimental apparatus dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. There are items as diverse as photographs, reflecting galvanometers and wave simulators. 20
Electrical & Electronic Engineering In 1904, Sir Ambrose Fleming developed one of the most important inventions of the last century â€“ the thermionic valve. This collection houses Flemingâ€™s valves, academic papers and items relating to his long-term collaboration with Marconi and the telecommunications revolution.
Physiology The UCL Physiology Collection, from the leading university in the study of this subject in the early 20th century, includes published papers from the 1860s, departmental photographs and handbooks, scientific apparatus, thermopiles and a portable Haldane, used to measure oxygen levels in blood.
Medical Physics The UCL Medical Physics department is one of the oldest in the world, and its collection includes objects such as a prototype of the Farmer-Baldwin Dosemeter, used for measuring radiation for X-rays, early X-ray tubes and an X-ray of the hand of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, made as a memento of her visit to the department in 1935. 21
UCL Geology Collections
The Geology Collections at UCL date back to the earliest days of the university. Today, the collection incorporates 125,000 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils spanning millions of years. The collections feature the Johnston-Lavis collection of Italian vulcanological specimens, books, photographs and prints bequeathed in 1920 by Henry Johnston-Lavis, a physician practising in Naples and an intrepid amateur volcanologist. They also include the Planetary Science Collection, which houses the UK’s only NASA Regional Planetary Imaging Facility, and the internationally-recognised Micropalaeontological Collections. Highlights from the collections are on display in the Rock Room and include basalt column sections from the Giant’s Causeway; preserved footprints from creatures walking the Earth’s surface 500 million years ago; and gouaches and engravings depicting eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. 22
The auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham
The auto-icon of the great jurist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham has resided at UCL for more than 160 years. Throughout that time he has survived wars and student pranks, and retains the same clothes and attitude that he requested in his will. For the past 65 or so years, he has sat in the South Cloisters and has become a must-see for visitors to UCL.
Bentham is often credited as being the spiritual founder of UCL, as many of the universityâ€™s founders held him in high esteem, and the creation of UCL embodied many of his ideas on making education widely available. His voluminous manuscripts are held by UCL Library and are the subject of the award-winning project, Transcribe Bentham, led by the Bentham Project.
UCL Library Special Collections
UCL Library Special Collections comprise more than half a million rare books, manuscripts, and archives dating back to the fourth century, spanning several continents and cultures. The holdings encompass many important early printed books as well as medieval manuscripts and unique archive collections received from institutions and individuals. Science, medicine, law, art, archaeology, architecture, languages, literature, social history and politics are particularly well-represented. Highlights include rare or unique works by Euclid, Dante, Galileo, Newton, Milton, Flaxman, Bentham, Joyce and Orwell, alongside an important collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean manuscripts. Nearly 200 works in the collections were printed before 1501. Integrated into UCLâ€™s teaching and research programmes, the collections are open for viewing by members of the public and scholars alike by appointment, and used in pioneering collaborations with cultural institutions and community groups. Workshops, festivals, exhibitions and digital projects are increasingly popular and accessible platforms within UCL and beyond for engaging with this material.
www.ucl.ac.uk/museums www.ucl.ac.uk/library/special-coll +44 (0)20 7679 2000
100% This publication was printed on recycled paper using only vegetable-based inks. All paper waste from the manufacturing of this publication was recycled and reused. Production: UCL Communications
Image credits: John Carey, Matt Clayton, Mary Hinkley, Tony Slade, Fred Langford-Edwards, UCL Library Special Collections UCL Museums & Collections
An introduction to UCL's fascinating collections and three museums; the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, the Grant Museum of Zoology a...