31.03.2015
11:24

Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy

Address:

Rockefeller Building, University College London, 21 University Street

Phone:

020-3108 2052

Website:

www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology

Opening times:

Mon–Sat 13:00–17:00 (and other times by appointment)

How to get there:

Tube: Warren St/Euston Square

Entry fee:

Free

Additional information:

For disabled access phone first

On the site of Charles Darwin’s home from 1838–42, the Grant museum occupies one room in the basement of University College’s Department of Biological Sciences. It displays a massed array of animal skeletons and soft-tissue specimens preserved in formalin, and began life as the teaching collection of Robert Grant (1793–1874), the first professor of Comparative Anatomy and Zoology in Britain, at the new University of London founded in 1827. Probably the first person to teach evolutionary zoology in a British university, Grant influenced the thinking of the young Darwin, but later in life refused to accept the advances in his field and died in penniless obscurity.

Over the years the museum has absorbed other university collections and now preserves some 32,000 different specimens, a small but comprehensive selection of which is displayed here in Victorian glass cabinets. On the left of the entrance a small exhibition tells the history of the museum and displays some of Grant’s original collection, including the baculum or penis-bone of a walrus and the dried urino-genitary tract of a duck-billed platypus. Another case contains several rare and superbly delicate glass models of jellyfish, gastropods, sea anemones and cephalopods. They were made in the late 19th century by the Czech father-and-son team, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who went on to supply Harvard’s Botanical Museum with more than 4,000 meticulous glass replicas of flowers. To the right, the museum’s prize exhibits are the skeletal remains of various extinct species: some Dodo bones, and one of only seven complete quagga skeletons known to exist. A type of South African zebra, the quagga had been hunted to extinction by the 1870s for its unusual skin. Also here is the skeleton of a thylacine or Tasmanian wolf, a large marsupial carnivore largely exterminated by sheep- and chicken-farmers. A law protecting the species was passed, too late, in 1936, the year that the last-known thylacine died in captivity.

Retaining the shape and layout of a small Victorian teaching museum, the taxonomical arrangement of some of the specimens has been elucidated with modern labelling. The skeleton of the hedgehog-like—though spineless—Madagascan terek, for example, is enlivened by the information that it has more nipples than any other mammal and is capable of feeding 32 young from its 29 teats. Others are formidable sculptural presences in themselves: the twisting skeleton of an anaconda; several massive elephant skulls; a giant tortoise’s shell; the skeletons of an Indian rhino and a dugong or sea cow.

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Gravatar: MuseumMuseum
22.04.2015
14:50
Update from Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy

The museum began life as the teaching collection of Robert Grant (1793–1874), the first professor of Comparative Anatomy and Zoology in Britain, at the new University of London founded in 1827. Probably the first person to teach evolutionary zoology in a British university, Grant influenced the thinking of the young Darwin, but later in life refused to accept the advances in his field and died in penniless obscurity.

Over the years the museum has absorbed other university collections and now preserves some 68,000 different specimens, a small but comprehensive selection of which is displayed here in Victorian glass cabinets. A case by the entrance contains several rare and superbly delicate glass models of jellyfish, gastropods, sea anemones and cephalopods. They were made in the late 19th century by the Czech father-and-son team, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who went on to supply Harvard’s Botanical Museum with more than 4,000 meticulous glass replicas of flowers. To the right, the museum’s prize exhibits are the skeletal remains of various extinct species: some Dodo bones, and one of only seven complete quagga skeletons known to exist. A type of South African zebra, the quagga had been hunted to extinction by the 1870s for its unusual skin. Also here is the skeleton of a thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, a large marsupial carnivore largely exterminated by sheep- and chicken-farmers. A law protecting the species was passed, too late, in 1936, the year that the last-known thylacine died in captivity.

Retaining the shape and layout of a small Victorian teaching museum, the taxonomical arrangement of some of the specimens has been elucidated with modern labelling. The skeleton of the hedgehog-like—though spineless—Madagascan tenrec, for example, is enlivened by the information that it has more nipples than any other mammal and is capable of feeding 32 young from its 29 teats. Others are formidable sculptural presences in themselves: the twisting skeleton of a rock python; several massive elephant skulls; a giant tortoise’s shell; the skeletons of an Indian rhino and a dugong or sea cow.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

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