#SciFri: Visiting the Grant Museum of Zoology

The Grant Museum of Zoology is a small natural history museum that is open to the public, in central London not far from Euston Station. The museum itself is part of University College London (UCL) and was established by Robert Edmond Grant in 1828. The purpose of the museum was a teaching collection of zoological specimens which it still functions as today. It is one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK, and unfortunately is the last remaining university natural history museum in London (and one of only a handful left in the UK). The museum houses a number of rare and unique specimens such as a jar of moles, dodo bones, fossils and some intricate Blaschka glass models.

The Grant Museum of Zoology visitor entrance on University Street

The museum first opened to the public in 1996 when the collection was still housed in the Darwin Building. In 2011, the museum moved to it’s new location in the Thomas Lewis Room of the Rockefeller Building, formerly the UCL Medical School library. The Museum contains around 68,000 specimens, many of which are very rare which makes it a treasure trove the zoologically inclined. It is quite small and I can see it easily becoming crowded in the school holidays but don’t let this put you off. You only need about an hour or so to wander around and view all of the specimens, which is a great way to spend an afternoon. Admission is free but it’s always good practice to leave a donation (or in my case, adopt a specimen once you’re home).

The interior of the museum, as you can see the specimens are quite tightly packed!

As you can probably tell from the image above, the museum makes up for it’s small size by cramming in as much as it can. It’s like the trickery that home designers use to maximise space for wine racks and wardrobes etc. But in that case, it’s zoological specimens – all housed within cabinets and drawers of a similar theme. Unfortunately some areas of the museum are poorly lit and seeing all the specimens may be hard unless you’re Mister Fantastic. There is a wonderful herpetological display with an African rock python coiled around a tree – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before! The museum also houses a number of different frogs, newts and olms. It is a truly rich cornucopia that reveals more secrets the deeper you look. A great example of this is the Micrarium (photographed below) that aims to illuminate the tiny things we often ignore. I could spend hours just looking at the slides – if you visit please let me know what your favourite one was. Mine was some cross sections of a newt eft.

One of my favourite parts of the museum, The Micrarium

In summary, I had a great time at the Grant Museum and I would highly recommend it to anyone else in the area. If you do plan to visit, just make sure the museum is open when you intend to visit and don’t forget your camera!

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