Grant Museum of Zoology, London: The Lovely Bones

I’ve long run out of humorous excuses for neglecting this blog, the pathetic truth being that I neglect it because I don’t think many people read it, which of course engenders a chicken-and-egg problem which is so totally first-world I’m ashamed to even be talking about it. So let me launch right into the good stuff, and by good, I mean good if you’re into skeletal remains and cute furry things entombed in glass formaldehyde coffins.

Anyone who understands London at all will know that you can live there for years and still only scratch its surface, unless you happen to be Peter Ackroyd, in which case I want to transplant your brain into mine. The Grant Museum of Zoology is a classic example of how I managed to live five minutes’ walk from an intimidatingly long walrus penis bone for four years and not know it. It’s one of UCL’s museums, small but very charming, and of course like almost every other museum in London, you can enjoy it for free – something I always appreciated about London, but even more so after I’d visited New York. I realize that as someone who used to enjoy taking spontaneous detours past the Rosetta Stone or Elgin Marbles on the way home from lectures or shopping, I have been extraordinarily spoilt, but that’s just what London does – it spoils you for anywhere else.

But I digress – onwards to the walrus schlong. (Actually, don’t get your expectations up too high, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, it’s big, but I shamelessly exploited it to sucker you into reading a post about a dusty little zoological museum.)

Here’s a thumbnail gallery to help with page loading time, and so that the full-size horrors of the Surinam Toad or the Jar of Moles aren’t plastered across the front page of this blog, but the full post follows under the thumbnails.

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery

You step off pavements crowded with braying medical students into this quiet, wood-panelled sanctuary, one of those beautiful tiered library rooms which I suppose are fairly common in old British universities, but which never fail to enrapture me. From the upper tier, four jaunty skeletons survey the floor below.

Skeletal onlookers

It would probably be a bit tasteless if the museum played We Are Family in the background and mechanised them to do Sister Sledge choreography. But you can go ahead and imagine it.

Skeletal onlookers (closeup)

The museum attendant was busy sketching one of the specimens.


The rarest skeleton in the world! (Seriously, how cool is that?)

One of the rarest skeletons in the world

Mammoth hair!

Mammoth hair!

An incredibly disgusting method of toad reproduction!

Surinam Toad

A jar of moles, if Christina Perri ain’t “underground” enough for you! Okay, joke fail.

Jar Of Moles

A baby orangutan, rather far from home. :(

So far from home

I’m not sure how significant tree shrews are zoologically speaking, but I just thought it looked beautiful.

Suspended animation

And there you have it.

Walrus penis bone

4 Responses to Grant Museum of Zoology, London: The Lovely Bones

  1. Pingback: New Loves In Old Haunts | syntaxfree

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  3. Naomi says:

    These are so cool, I’d say there were loads of things to picture. The jar of moles is bizarre, I might use it as an idiom! Alec’s probably told you that we have a place like this called the Dead Zoo in Dublin, think it’s a bit dustier though :)

    • Michelle says:

      He hasn’t told me about that, actually! Will ask him about it the next time we visit – dusty or not, it will help break up our usual hectic Irish schedule of endless cups of tea.

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