UCL News


UCL Event: Object Retrieval: You are the Routemaster

1 October 2009

This October, a red bus will offer Londoners a different journey to their normal commute - one which calls on their help to trace the origins of a precious relic on display in an adapted Routemaster bus parked in UCL (University College London)'s main quadrangle.

'Object Retrieval: You are the Routemaster' invites you to a week-long interactive exhibition to investigate the history of an unusual object from UCL's museum collections, which will be unveiled on Thursday 15 October 2009. The project is the brainchild of internationally renowned artist Joshua Sofaer and UCL Curator Simon Gould.


Members of the public are invited to join a team of researchers exploring this mysterious object from any and all routes - be it art, archaeology, biology or chemistry - involving amateurs and academics alike. Over the week, your knowledge and those of other professional and lay visitors will help create a vast biographical network of information around the object. The identity of this object will remain hidden until Object Retrieval opens, but could be anything from a priceless Renaissance artwork to the skeleton of the long extinct Quagga, a 5,000-year old Egyptian dancer's dress or a large hunk of lava from the Great Cone of Mount Vesuvius.

A series of events open to the public, free of charge and taking place on the top deck of the bus includes:

  • 'What's your poison?' (Thursday 15 October) - sip a cocktail while watching 'street' chemist Andrea Sella and Mark Miodownik, founder of the extraordinary Materials Library, perform some unusual experiments.
  • 'Karaoke with the Curator' (Friday 16 October) - London's hottest karaoke act 'Hot Breath Karaoke' meets artist Joshua Sofaer in conversation with UCL Pathology Curator Paul Bates.
  • 'Scrap Book Challenge' (Saturday 17 October) - this children's workshop will offer kids the chance to model their own transport of the future from a pile of scrap.
  • 'Midnight Feast' (Wednesday 21 October) - help Object Retrieval cross the finishing line while stuffing your face with midnight treats.

Simon Gould, UCL Contemporary Projects Curator, says: "The object we choose to display should spark a thousand trains of thought, rapidly becoming the centre of fascinating and revealing research. If, for example, we chose a Roman wine bottle, we might trigger anthropologists' interest in wine as a ritual in various cultures, economists looking at the economics of wine trade in the current recession, cultural geographers talking about trade routes in the Roman Empire along which wine merchants travelled, a liver specialist comparing alcoholism in Roman times and now, a graphic designer examining the label, or product designers critically evaluating the shape of the bottle. Members of the public may want to share their drinking songs and games, or experiences of drinking, or passions of wine-making. The bottle might spark a debate about the growing use of screw caps over corks."

Joshua Sofaer, artist, says: "Londoners and other visitors will play a critical role in this event - we need your help to build an enormous biographical network of information around the object we reveal on the 15th October. We'll be asking for your anecdotes, facts, memories, videos and other titbits of accumulated knowledge, while UCL's scientists, artists, sociologists, engineers and other experts will carry out a range of investigations on the object."

Notes for Editors


1. 'Object Retrieval: You are the Routemaster' is an interactive exhibition open to the public, free of charge, in UCL's Main Quad, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT. The exhibition will run Thursday 15 October to Wednesday 21 October 2009. More information on the exhibition and individual events can be found at www.objectretrieval.com.

2. Journalists who wish to attend an event or find out more should contact Jenny Gimpel at the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9726, mobile +44 (0)7747 565 056, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail: j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk.

3. Images are available from the UCL Media Relations office.