One of my daughters gave a talk last night in the Grant Museum of Zoology, so I went along to be a proud mum. In the picture above, taken about half an hour before the start, people had already begun to arrive and were starting to bag themselves seats and look at some of the collection, which is housed in huge Victorian-looking wooden cabinets.
The museum is the last university museum of comparative anatomy remaining in London, and its 68,000 specimens include many from other, now closed, collections. It's still used for teaching, and it is a fascinating place, so long as you're not spooked out by displays on anatomy and physiology. Nearly all the audience yesterday were medics, so of course they were totally unfazed by the somewhat grisly things - bones and pickled specimens - which surrounded us.
I was particularly interested in the museum's specimens from extinct animals. One of the star exhibits is their very rare skeleton of the quagga, hunted to extinction in the 1880s.
The quagga looked a bit like a zebra - see above.
There were dodo bones and a skeleton and Huxley's dissection of a thylacine. The last known specimen of this Tasmanian animal was filmed in 1933 - see it here (makes me mad to see it kept in a cage, actually).
I absolutely love the astonishing glass sea creatures that were created by Leopola Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf (1857-1929).
The secrets of how they made their glass wildlife specimens died with the Blaschkas, but the National Museum of Wales has a collection of over 200 sea creatures, and Harvard's collection of over 3000 Blaschka glass flowers is definitely something I want to see some day.
The museum has fairly recently moved into a spacious and very interesting hall in the UCL Rockefeller Building in the heart of London's Bloomsbury. The hall used to be a library, and even without the specimens it would be full of atmosphere and personality. It reminds me a little of Oxford's Pitt-Rivers Museum of anthropology, with its crowded cabinets and hand written labels.
There's a touch of humour in the exhibits. We all agreed that these members of the audience, in the gallery above, were extremely well behaved. .