The UCL in Bloomsbury has many uses a working hospital in UCLH; a centre for scientific revolution; home of Jeremy Bentham’s infamous auto-icon. But its crowning glory, at least when you’re not in need of medical assistance, is undoubtedly its museums.
One of the finest is the Grant Museum of Zoology, which stands just round the corner from Euston Square and houses the finest collection of zoological curiosities in London.
The collection contains exhibits from London Zoo, The Hunterian Museum and Imperial College London, and it was here that the connection was first made between the horseshoe crab and the arachnida. The museum’s founder and namesake Robert Edmund Grant is most famous for proving that sponges (the sea variety) are in fact animals. He even has a sponge named after him, and his work influenced the young Charles Darwin, no less.
The Grant has an eerie quality to it, not hindered by the human skeletons watching you from the rafters. There are also some truly odd specimens in the cabinets: a jar of moles is their star attraction and their other exhibits certainly live up to the ‘Strange Creatures’ title, if only for the way they are presented. Half a cat sits in one corner of the packed one-room museum, and the skeleton of a penguin stands (still in squawking position) in another.
The smaller insect slides are slightly easier on the eye, and lit up from floor to ceiling on all three sides of a purpose-built alcove (with a glass ceiling) they make a stunning addition to the museum’s unique collection.
Other exhibits range from a dodo to the lesser-known quagga – both species are sadly extinct but their spirit lives on in the museum (and it wouldn’t surprise me if that is literally).
Nearest Tube: Euston Square
More information: www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology