24 August 2016 | 29 °C

Pickled Moles And iPads: Grant Museum Set To Reopen

Pickled Moles And iPads: Grant Museum Set To Reopen


What's the collective noun for moles? Probably not 'a jar', yet this is one of the first sights that greets you on walking into the new Grant Museum. (By the way, see if you can guess how many of the critters are housed in this unusual preserve.)

The Grant Museum of Zoology contains some 68,000 animal specimens, some dating back to the early 19th Century. The UCL facility closed over a year ago in preparation for a move to larger premises. The new-look museum opens to the public on 15 March, and we urge you to go see this educational necrocopia for yourself.

The more spacious environment retains all the learned glory of the previous venue, and then some. It now inhabits an Edwardian medical library. Many of the period cabinets and book shelves are retained, and decorated with the skulls and bones of diverse animals. Take a look around by clicking through this gallery:

Would you...care for a mole?
Would you...care for a mole?
One of the museum's most famous exhibits, 'Elkie', not quite ready for her public.
One of the museum's most famous exhibits, 'Elkie', not quite ready for her public.
These may not be genuine specimens.
These may not be genuine specimens.
Tiger skulls.
Tiger skulls.
A walrus penis bone.
A walrus penis bone.
Skeletons in the library. Sorry about the blur.
Skeletons in the library. Sorry about the blur.
A shelf of skulls.
A shelf of skulls.
Turtle trio.
Turtle trio.
A skeletal anaconda wraps itslef around the display case like a mad roller coaster.
A skeletal anaconda wraps itslef around the display case like a mad roller coaster.
Guess the animal.
Guess the animal.
A wider shot of the new museum space.
A wider shot of the new museum space.
An unusual office partition: a hippo skeleton is all that currently separates the museum from its staff area.
An unusual office partition: a hippo skeleton is all that currently separates the museum from its staff area.
Elephant skull, sans tusks.
Elephant skull, sans tusks.
A quagga skeleton in the cabinet of extinct and threatened animals.
A quagga skeleton in the cabinet of extinct and threatened animals.

But something very new is coming. The museum has teamed up with UCL's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) to bring the exhibits into a wider realm. Ten of the specimens are partnered with interactive iPad displays, through which visitors can learn more about the artefacts and leave comments for others to see. Further, the gallery is liberally sprinkled with Twitter hashtags and QR codes (those blocky bar-code things) to entice the mobile generation into sharing their discoveries.

And what discoveries: a rodent with a barbed penis, the skeleton of an extinct quagga, a pickled otter, a twisting anaconda skeleton, and that jar of moles (have you formed a guess as to their number yet?). Unlike many museums that have over-modernised, with too much emphasis on interactive displays, the Grant has found the perfect marriage of old-school exhibition and unobtrusive social media. The result is more entertaining than a gibbon on a bouncy castle.

The Grant Museum reopens on 15 March in the Rockefeller Building, 21 University Street (near UCLH). Entrance is free. Follow on Twitter, and check out the events calendar.

Last Updated 01 June 2016