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Intimate encounters with desirable objects at UCL

Publication date: Jun 13, 2006 11:00:30 AM

A blind date with a difference being held at UCL (University College London) on 15th June will enable participants to enjoy a chance encounter with a range of items from the university’s unique collections, including the penis bone of a 19th century walrus, and the original fingerprinting kit of Francis Galton, whose discoveries revolutionised policing and enabled the conviction of thousands of criminals.

The event marks the launch of ‘Inspire’, a book celebrating UCL's extensive range of collections, and will enable guests to be paired with 50 of the most intriguing artefacts and specimens held within them. As the third university to open in England, in 1826, UCL’s museums and collections were originally assembled to support the teaching of students in areas such as zoology, geology, archaeology and art. The collections have grown to comprise four public museums, twelve departmental collections and a huge archive of rare books and manuscripts.

In recent years they have played an important role in the university’s engagement with the wider community and UCL now plans to create an Institute for Cultural Heritage, scheduled to open in 2010, to enable it to open up its collections to the public in dramatic new galleries and presentations.

Items from the following world-renowned UCL museums and collections will be on show at the event:

· The Grant Museum of Zoology, founded in 1827 and housing around 30,000 specimens covering the whole range of the animal kingdom;

· The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, whose 80,000 pieces include the world’s oldest surviving dress;

· UCL Art Collections, comprising over 10,000 works including pieces by Durer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Turner and Constable.

"UCL is exemplary among universities in recognising that its world class collections are among its greatest assets, both for academics and the wider community,“ says Sally MacDonald, Director of UCL Museums and Collections. “In the Institute for Cultural Heritage we will display not only outstanding collections but the research behind them. It will be a unique venue - a kind of public laboratory."

Notes for Editors

1. For further information, copies of Inspire, or to attend the event, please contact Dominique Fourniol in the UCL media relations office on 0207 679 9728, or 07917 271 364.

2. Images from the collection are also available on request.

About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.

UCL is the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2005 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Mahatma Gandhi (Laws 1889, Indian political and spiritual leader); Jonathan Dimbleby (Philosophy 1969, writer and television presenter); Junichiro Koizumi(Economics 1969, Prime Minister of Japan); Lord Woolf (Laws 1954 – Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales), Alexander Graham Bell (Phonetics 1860s – inventor of the telephone), and members of the band Coldplay.