FAQs for Adopters and Friends of the Grant Museum

From September 2021, the Grant Museum is launching a new Membership programme. This is a list of FAQs for our Friends and Adopters about the new programme.

Why has the Membership programme changed?

When we launched our Adopt a Specimen scheme over a decade ago, we could never have imagined how popular it would be. So first and foremost we’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU to our 4,000 Friends past and present, for supporting us so far on this fantastic journey. 
Our offer to supporters was long due a refresh. While we know that the “Adopted by…” labels were very popular, the activity was putting the collection at risk. Continually opening the cases and having to move specimens to position and arrange labels risked harm to the specimens, some of which are very fragile.  It was an increasing concern, given how the increase in popularity of the programme over the past few years the turnover of annual labels was very high. The museum though beautiful, is a difficult space to maintain environmental conditions. Every time we open a case this is made more difficult. We need to prioritise and limit opening the cases for our core activity of teaching and research.
Our commitment to making the museum accessible to all visitors has made us rethink our use of labels. The space around the specimens had become overcrowded and hard to read. By changing this there will now enough room to develop interpretation of the specimens.    
This means an end to adoption labels in our display cases, and all have been removed from the museum.  
Our new Membership is a richer offer with free members-only events, priority booking to all other public events at the Grant Museum a newsletter full of news intriguing stories behind the specimens. 

Can I still choose a specimen to adopt?

No, specimen adoption is not part of the new membership. We’ll be bringing you lots of carefully curated story from our collection, focusing on some of the key specimens and activities that make the museum special. In addition there’s a programme of events that will let you get up close and personal with the collection.

Our Family membership offers a free kids’ certificate to download, colour and print. Kids can write their name on the certificate and nominate their favourite specimen – they might want to bring their certificate with them the next time they visit the museum to decide!

Does it mean I’m not able to renew a specimen I adopted in the past?

That’s right, we are no longer renewing specimen adoptions. We hope that you will love the offers in our new Membership including the programme of free members-only events that will allow you to learn and discover more about the collection and the work of the museum.

What do I get in the new Membership that I did not get before?

The new Membership provides more benefits than the previous Adoption offer.
Individual Members get exclusive access behind-the-scenes to discover more about our amazing specimens; a quarterly newsletter of insider stories of our specimens; invitations for themselves plus a guest to members-only events; and priority booking on other Grant Museum events. 
Family Members get exclusive early access to the Museum on the last Saturday of every month, while special family activities are taking place. They will also get a Family edition of the quarterly newsletter, an invitations to online members-only events. 

I adopted a specimen for life. What has happened to this?

We are now celebrating and thanking our lifetime supporters on a Digital Honour Roll. If you have not yet been added, but would like to be, please email us. We will include the information as it appeared on your gold label. However, if you want to change this or add a dedication message, just let us know.

Why didn’t you leave the life adoption labels in place?

We are enormously grateful to everyone who chose to support the museum with a Lifetime adoption. We understand how much supporters treasure their relationship with their adopted specimen, and having their name in the museum. We did not take the decision to remove the lifetime labels lightly. However, we felt it was necessary in order to responsibly steward the collection in the long term. In recent years the popularity of the adoption programme highlighted that adopting specimens for life was unsustainable, as choices for new adopters diminished.We are proud to be interrogating the history of the specimens and deepening our understanding of how they came to the museum and became part of our current collection. This includes work such as our recent exhibition Displays of Power: a Natural history of Empire.  
With this goal, and being mindful of our role as temporary custodians of a dynamic and active collection, the system of adding label with individuals’ names now feels out of place as it perpetuates the narrative of ownership and permanence.  The collections and their histories must always be re-examined and re-interpreted, and it is part of our duty of care to look critically at how we display the specimens and be willing to make changes that will promote responsible stewardship of the collection now and in the future. 

Have any more questions? Contact us at museums@ucl.ac.uk.

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