Museum adventure- Exploring the collections

In this weeks blog Heather Kennedy, an MLitt Museum Studies student, tells us about her collections adventure at the University of Aberdeen. Heather is one of the students currently curating the next King’s Museum exhibition. The students’ exhibition will be focusing on the Victorian period and opens on the 9th June!

Myself and five other lucky Museum Studies students recently visited several of the museum stores to see some more of the collections and get ideas for objects we could use in our Summer exhibition at King’s Museum.

Our first stop was the Zoology Museum, which is in the process of being refurbished, to look for Victorian taxidermy specimens and other Victorian material on display. Our eyes were immediately taken by the tapir skeleton, which came from a tapir used in a Victorian travelling menagerie. We thought the story behind it was fascinating. We also liked the orangutan specimens, the Victorian birds of paradise in a glass case, and the brightly-coloured Audubon bird skins on display. The whale models which hang from the roof were also fantastic, but sadly not moveable due to their size – and probably impractical for our exhibition in King’s Museum!


The tapir skeleton which can be seen at the Zoology Museum

Next up were the Zoology stores, where we saw lots of bones, a wonderful stuffed giraffe and a selection of the bird eggs which the University holds in its collections, including the rare Great Auk egg. We also got to see a model horse hoof, manufactured in France by the model-maker Auzoux, designed to teach cavalry soldiers how to take care of their horses’ hooves.


Auzoux horse hoof model

After a quick caffeine break, we headed to the Herbarium. This contains all of the University’s plant specimens. Many of these were collected by William MacGillvray, a Victorian naturalist and ornithologist, who was known to have walked from King’s College in Aberdeen to his home on the island of Harris (see Ruth’s blog for more on this amazing man)!


The University of Aberdeen Herbarium

Our final destination was the Geology collection where we saw some of the fascinating fossils the University holds in its collection, such as the tooth of a Plesiosaur and some beautiful jewelry made of precious stones like fire opals and jet.

I felt incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to see so many amazing things in the University collections, and can’t wait to share some of them with the public in our upcoming exhibition.

If you would like to go on your own virtual collections adventure you can search the University Museum collections here.


About uoamuseums

The University of Aberdeen's Museums include King’s Museum and the University's Zoology Museum. The museums can claim to be Scotland's oldest, with records of museums and collections as far back as the late 17th century. Thanks to their status as a Recognised Collection of national significance, the Zoology Museum’s displays are currently being improved, while King's Museum hosts changing exhibitions drawn from across the collections, particularly those formerly in Marischal Museum. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the museums, and there are no charges for admission. Marischal College now houses the Museums Collections Centre, caring for and conserving many of the collections.
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