The Grant Museum of Zoology is a lot of fun and a must-see if you want to hunt out the rare and unusual during your trip to London.
It is a place of serious learning and research, continuing to function as a resource for students at the famous University College London.
But it's also a great place for you to take a squeamish friend just so you can hear them go "Yuck" and "Gross!" as they turn a slight shade of green!
With pickled brains and preserved animal heads cut in two, let alone countless skeletons and other anatomical specimens, this small museum might not be for the faint of heart, but it will certainly appeal if you have a love of science and a healthy curiosity.
Admission - Free
Mon - Fri 1pm - 5pm, Closed on public holidays
Address - Rockefeller Building, University College London,
21 University Street, WC1E 6DE
Tel 020 3108 2052
The Grant Museum is nearly two hundred years old and is named after its founder, Dr Robert Edmond Grant.
In the early nineteenth century, the University College London had just been established and Dr Grant needed specimens to be able to teach his students anatomy and zoology.
Over time, he brought together a huge collection of animal specimens, drawings, notes and other material and it is this collection that forms the basis of the museum today.
The Grant Museum now represents nearly the entire animal kingdom with over 67,000 specimens!
As a result, it continues to be a valuable resource for students and other academics studying animal anatomy. During the mornings, when the museum is closed to the public, people can make an appointment to gain entry for study and research purposes.
In 2011 the collection was moved to its new premises in the Rockefeller Building on the corner of University Street and Gower Street, just over the road from where it used to be in the Darwin Building.
Even though this is a small one-room museum, it has many highlights. Make sure you don't miss seeing:
A Jar of Pickled Moles.
Yes, you did read that right. I guess the university needed supplies of dead small animals for students to practice dissection on. I can't think of any other reason you would want a whole jar of preserved Talpinae, but here one is. You can find it almost straight in front of you as you walk in the entrance. It certainly is a peculiar sight.
The Quagga Skeleton
I think this is one of the museum's most famous exhibits. Just round the corner to the left as you walk through the entrance, this used to be a type of South African zebra. The species has been extinct since 1883 and the museum information states that this is one of the rarest skeletons n the world!
A Collection of Brains
So how would you like to see a whole collection of preserved brains? Big brains, little brains, reptile brains, mammal brains, all in different sized jars. You want brains? They've got 'em!
I'm sure you have heard of the flightless bird the Dodo, even though it's been extinct since the late seventeenth century? In this display you can see the actual bones of the creature made famous by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.
A Collection of Bisected Heads
If you like Damien Hirst's modern art, you'll be fascinated by this collection of preserved animal heads cut in half. The purpose was to be able to compare the anatomy of different species and includes various apes and monkeys, a red panda and even an alligator.
The Grant Museum is a wonderful place and is one of the more intimate museums in London, barely more than a single gallery. If it was part of a larger national venue such as the Natural History, it would count as just one exhibition room among many others.
But that is part of its charm and all to your benefit. You can spend some quality time here as it doesn't get as crowded as the more famous London museums. This means you can get great views of anything that takes your interest and you can enjoy the place without feeling all tired out by the end.
The collection is housed in a beautiful galleried space. One of the things that amused me was that as you are walking round the museum, you suddenly feel like you are being watched. It's only then that you realise there is a collection of monkey skeletons and other animals looking down on you from the balcony above!
As we walked round, there seemed to be something amazing in every cabinet. If you visit, you'll certainly have a few things to tell your friends about.
As well as the items mentioned in the highlights section above, there is a skeleton of an Anaconda snake that previously lived at London Zoo; a hairy frog (I bet you've never seen one of those before!); a giant skull with antlers from an ice-age deer, and too many other fascinating things for me to mention.
One of the good ideas they have used here are QRator ('curator' – get it?) iPads which are attached to selected exhibits allowing you to interact and get involved with conversations about the specimens and current scientific issues.
We combined this trip with a visit to the Petrie Museum which I can highly recommend as well, which is also part of University College London.
We completed our day by spending some time gadget-gazing in the nearby electrical shops in Tottenham Court Road, enjoyed some coffee and hot chocolates in Cafe Nero's and generally had a great day up town.
If you do go to the Grant Museum, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and please give us your review below to tell us what you thought of it!Home > Specialist Museums > Grant Museum