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AW22: Meet Tannis from the Grant Museum of Zoology

August 31, 2022 - Alice Barnes
AW22: Meet Tannis from the Grant Museum of Zoology

Our mission? To find the perfect location to capture the wonderful world of curios and collectables in our NEW limited edition Cabinet of Curiosities collection. And so, armed with bundles of precious jewellery and magnifying glass in hand, we took to the Grant Museum of Zoology, located just a hop, skip and a jump from our Central London store! Bursting with the most interesting ephemera from Dodo bones to the mesmerising Micrarium, this is a place you can spend days exploring: here with her personal highlights is Head of the Collection, Tannis Davidson…

Hey Tannis! Can you describe the Grant Museum of Zoology in five words?

Inspiring, Nature, Specimens, Science, Learning.

What is your role at the museum?

Head of the collection!

Take a 60-second tour of the Grant Museum of Zoology with Tannis

How did this collection come to be?

It was originally founded by Robert E Grant in 1828 who brought together zoological specimens in order to teach zoology and comparative anatomy at (what was then) the brand new university (UCL). The specimens came from other museums, collectors, natural history dealers and Grant’s own collection.

You have some pretty remarkable specimens in the museum, from pangolins to GIANT rhino skulls. Which is the most interesting to you and why?

That’s a tough one! I have many favourites such as the pterosaur fossil which was once thought to be a replica, the section of elephant tusk with an embedded bullet and the preserved possum which had a D-cell battery inside it! These all have interesting individual histories as museum specimens and can also be used to highlight various issues such as natural history collecting, conservation and the history of the Grant Museum.

The short-nosed echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) at the Grant Museum of Zoology.

What is your favourite story surrounding a specimen?

Hard to choose but we have a charming taxidermy echidna on display. If you look closely, you will see that the rear-facing back feet are incorrectly facing forward. This happened because the taxidermist who prepared the specimen had never seen an echidna before. This was the case 150 years ago when unfamiliar animals were collected around the world and brought back to London to be described, studied and turned into museum specimens. The skin on the legs is ripped because the feet were turned the wrong way. I always imagine the taxidermist puzzling over this!


Cabinet of Curiosities model, Emily, wearing our Jewelled Insect Statement Necklace inside the Micrarium.


We shot one of our favourite images of our Cabinet of Curiosities in The Micrarium, can you tell us a bit about this space?

Most of the animals on earth are tiny yet natural history museum displays tend to showcase large animals, particularly mammalian predators or dinosaurs. The Micrarium was conceived as a space where microscopic animals could be represented and made visible to our visitors. The slides are part of a larger zoological microscopy collection and were formerly used by museum zoology students.

 Blaschka glass models of sea invertebrates made by renowned 19th century Czech jewellers.


Invertebrates or four-legged friends? Skulls and wax models


If you could collect one thing, what would it be? Fossils from the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rockies – 500 million-year-old soft-bodied organisms with exceptional preservation.


A must-see at the museum? Blaschka glass models of sea invertebrates


We know there are some Tatty Devine fans in the team… Necklaces or Earrings? Both! I’m partial to earrings and my colleague, curator Hannah Cornish, is a necklace fan.


Favourite piece from our AW22 collection? Jewelled Insect Earrings and Necklace. Pangolin is a close second.


Our Pangolin Necklace, inspired by the Grant Museum’s collection.


Thank you for chatting with us Tannis - we’ll be sure to play ‘spot the bullet in the elephant tusk’ on our next visit. Find the Grant Museum of Zoology at Rockefeller Building, 21 University St, London WC1E 6DE and shop our full Cabinet of Curiosities online and in-store now.


Alice Barnes