Institute of Archaeology

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First for Archaeology in UK 2015

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Museum Studies students shed new light on UCL Collections

15 July 2014

A selection of plaster heads from the Noel Collection at UCL (Image courtesy of UCL Museums and Collections)

Research by MA in Museum Studies students at the Institute has shed new light on a mysterious collection of 30 plaster cast heads.

The collection, produced by German phrenologist Robert Noel over the period 1837 – 1845, was acquired by UCL in 1911. As a phrenologist, Noel used the casts to attempt to show the typical facial features of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types of people.

Until recently, very little was known about the people whose heads had been cast - that is, until research undertaken by students as part of the course ARCLG192 Collections Curatorship helped to locate the last known copy of Noel’s book on the collection.

The Collections Curatorship course introduces students to the core skills of a curator: to understand objects and how to research them. It also helps students to understand collections and the added meaning that forming objects into collections and articulating them in exhibitions can create.


Watch the video

The relevance of the collection is highlighted in this short film: