Days Out in London: Grant Museum of Zoology

‘Let’s go to the Grant Museum of Zoology.’ suggested my friend and fellow lover of the weird and wonderful, Aril, from Gnat Bottomed Towers. To lure me in she added, ‘It’s got a jar of moles.’ I’m being honest when I say that the prospect wasn’t overwhelming but I’m easy going. It was just around the corner from the Wellcome Collection where we planned to spend the morning. So I agreed.

The museum is housed in one of those wonderful buildings that screams Victorian at you as you walk in. Actually it dates from 1827, just before then, but maybe Mr Grant was before his time. It houses his collection that he put together when he was professor of zoology at the University of London. The collection is owned by UCL today. These guys greet you as you walk in.

It isn’t just about old bones you know. There’s eggs too. That elephant bird on the left is massive. It makes the one of the King Penguin at the other end look like a quail laid it. The elephant bird is now extinct by the way. Probably because some 19th century bloke kept nicking her eggs!

Although the place retains the flavour of an old-style museum there are a couple of funky exhibits. This is one. Thousands of slides housed in a open sided box with a mirrored ceiling. Great for selfies!

Of course there are lots of questions about how many of the exhibits were sourced. Some, like massive elephant skulls and the creature’s heart might have been the product of early trophy hunting. And how this joey came to be separated from his mama at such a young age is probably heart wrenching. However on the plus side the collection is a very valuable academic resource that is still used by students today.

And I can’t go without showing you the jar of moles, prominently displayed near the entrance. When? Why? How? What an absolutely bizarre thing to bottle. Yet another example of why this collection might have a very disturbing past.

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