Bright Ideas turning off its lights

After 6 months of illuminating our display space, the student exhibition ‘Bright Ideas’ is turning off its lights and making way for a new exhibition, opening 5th January 2016.

Bagi Stack Lighthouse Lens

Bagi Stack Lighthouse Lens

The exhibition curated by last year’s MLitt Museum Studies class discussed the theme human interaction with light. This was explored through various topics, including the science of sight, art and power, and illuminating the world. We hope you enjoyed the exhibition and the chance to see some of the University Museums’ extensive collections, including Ancient Egyptian artefacts, scientific instruments, zoological specimens and a variety of objects from the human culture collection.

Particular thanks go to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses who loaned an impressive lens from Bagi Stack lighthouse to King’s Museum for the exhibition. Illuminated with an ordinary (yet colourful) lightbulb, the effect was impressive and allowed visitors to see how the Fresnel lenses used in lighthouses can create a beam that can be seen from afar. Unsurprisingly this part of the exhibition was particularly popular with visitors.

The exhibition has also held lunchtime talks from some of our volunteers. Discussing their favourite aspects of the exhibition, our volunteers have discovered some very interesting facts about the objects:

Douglas Strachan Stained glass window

Douglas Strachan Stained glass window

Kirsty Kernohan, a fourth year history and anthropology student, did her research into the Douglas Strachan stained glass windows which revealed that one of the stained glass windows appears to display the coming together of religion, creation, and knowledge (appropriate for its position in the faculty of science). The other stained glass on display references the Aristotelian term ‘entelechia’ which translates roughly to the idea that ‘the orderly world that we now inhabit was predestined even in the earliest chaos of the universe’. This points to the windows representation of creation and science.



Gustaf Dalen

Gustaf Dalen

Rachel Job, a fourth year anthropology student, told us some very interesting facts about the lighthouse lens:

  • The word ‘lens’ has the same Latin root as the word ‘lentil’ as they are often the same shape.
  • The flasher unit that was used inside of this lens was invented by the same man who invented the AGA cooker, Gustaf Dalen, who was blinded in an accidental acetylene explosion (acetylene was a gas burnt to light lamps). He invented the cooker during his convalescence to help his wife who was exhausted by the hard work of cooking and running a household. He also earned a Nobel Prize for his sun valve invention, which automatically turns on lighthouse beacons when darkness falls and switches them off at dawn.

Japanese Temple Lamp

Japanese Temple Lamp

Moira Blackmore, an archaeology student, discussed Japanese lamps, and the way in which their design was introduced from China in the 6th century. She discussed the lamps’ origins as stone lanterns and their evolution in to hanging lamps that can be found in temples.

Lunchtime talks will continue in our next exhibition, Imperial Possessions: Sir William Macgregor – doctor, governor, explorer, collector, opening 5 January 2016.

Watch this space!


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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