Grant Museum of Zoology

Museums , Natural history Fitzrovia Free
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(26 user reviews)
237 Love It
Save it
Grant Museum of Zoology
© UCL Grant Museum / Matt Clayton

The Grant Museum may have moved in 2011 into new premises – a grand room in a former library in the UCL complex – but it looks as if this zoological museum, the only one of its kind in London, has been here for a century or more. Such is the transporting effect of seeing avenues of display cases stuffed to the gunnels with animal skeletons, taxidermy specimens and creatures preserved in fluid, like a true Victorian wunderkammer. Nods to current trends in museum display – iPads attached to displays invite you to ponder questions about the role of science today – are discreet; the museum doesn’t need to distract or over-explain when its exhibits are among the most engrossing (and very occasionally gross-out) in London.

From a jar of tiny moles to a huge elephant skull that helps to explain the Cyclops myth (its large central cavity could well be a monocular eye socket), there is plenty here to draw gasps of amazement. Grimly fascinating is the museum’s collection of bisected heads, created by Sir Victor Negus, which appear quite normal on one side but can be turned to reveal the brain within. They immediately bring to mind the work of Damien Hirst, and the overlaps between science, nature, art and design don’t stop there – a skeleton of an anaconda twists round a branch like a zen modernist sculpture, sections of shark vertebrae look as if they could be maquettes for Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Endless Column’. Created in the mid-1800s, Leopold and Rudolph Blashka’s glass models of jellyfish, sea anemones, gastropods, sea cucumbers and cephalopods are exquisite art works in their own right.

There’s evidence that the curators have had fun with the displays – a trio of Hawksbill turtles are arranged on a wall in the manner of ceramic flying ducks. However, the serious work of the museum, not only as a reliquary for long lost species (a drawer of dodo bones turned up during the museum’s move) but as a site of ongoing research, shines through – in fact the former library’s pigeon holes are used by UCL zoology staff and students to present a visual (and visceral) A to Z of current projects.

Venue name: Grant Museum of Zoology
Contact:
Address: Rockefeller Building, University College London
21 University St
London
WC1E 6DE
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 1-5pm; closed Christmas/Easter period.
Transport: Tube: Euston/Goodge St
Do you own this business?

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:22
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|26
1 person listening
Alexandra L
Tastemaker

There’s something about the vintage romance of museums that has always appealed to me and quite honestly, the older, the kookier and the more of a ‘Mummy’/’Indiana Jones’ vibe they have, the more I love them. Tucked away in a little UCL corner of Fitzrovia is The Grant Museum of Zoology which has old, kooky, adventurous charm in spades plus it’s free and small enough to wander round in an hour but packed full of enough weirdly wonderful artifacts to keep you exclaiming ‘look at that’ for the entirety of your visit. The last remaining zoological museum in London and founded in 1827 as a teaching collection, it’s home to over 68’000 specimens from across every corner of the globe which is a pretty impressive pub quiz fact!


Polished wooden cabinets hold an absolute treasure trove of antiquities and oddities (jars of pickled carcasses, handwritten labelled specimens & ancient stuffed animals are everywhere you look) while the bones of giant – and in some cases now extinct – creatures stand proudly on display…the giant elephant skull is especially mind boggling especially if it’s almost the same size as you are! 


Make sure you glance upwards and check out the various skeletons that prop up the 1st floor balconies looking for all the world as though they should be wearing bowler hats & supping on tumblers of whiskey in the style of old fashioned gents from days of yore while they survey their educational kingdom. There is a nod to modernity though with iPads dotted around to help answer questions you might have about what you’re looking at.

One of the most impressive corners is the Micrarium, a brightly back-lit, three sided, floor to ceiling space devoted entirely to over 2000 microscopic slides of some of the tiniest creatures to ever walk, swim or fly the earth; it truly is a wondrous thing and well worth seeking out considering that most museums focus only on the larger, flashier animals. It’s also lovely that between the cases and shelves you get a glimpse into the space of the research team who work here and in fact, on the day we went there were PhD students in attendance and happy to discuss their work with you.

The Grant museum looks ancient but in a way that is beautiful and inspiring, making you proud to live in a city where places like this are not as unusual as they would be elsewhere. Everyone knows the V&A, the Imperial War & the Natural History Museums and for good reason, they are spectacular. However it’s these tiny hidden gems that make for the most fascinating afternoons sometimes, reminding you to take advantage of the city you live and not just leave it up to the tourists to explore and enjoy.

Susan A

So many interesting animals arranged within the space everywhere I look that I can keep going back to see my favourites, only to discover more each time.

Helena J

Fantastic, quirky displays of things you don't usually get to see, like the skeletons of animals. Kind staff with enthusiasm and ideas - and a huge amount of knowledge.

Sarah S

The Grant Museum is a hidden gem in Bloomsbury! This museum has something for everyone from young children to those looking to browse before catching the train at Euston. My family have gone to the Grant for years and every visit I see something new and interesting.

Gina D

This is an amazing collection, and is now being used for much more than just academic teaching.

Ana M
Tastemaker

A weird and wonderful museum I've visited several times - and you'll certainly like it if you have slightly morbid inclinations. Animals in jars, alongside a number of skeletons, are packed together in a pretty small space - but it's well worth spending some time here. My favourite exhibits are the more unusual, rare animals on offer - particularly the quagga (an extinct zebra) and tasmanian tiger skeletons.

Julie R
Tastemaker

If Wallace and Gromit had created a museum, it would be this one.  It is eccentric and quirky, as if the room had just been discovered after being hidden away for 100 years.  The exhibits include a jar of preserved moles, some dissected animals way older than Damian Hirst's cow and skeletons look down on you from the balcony as if they come to life whenever you look away.


This museum is pretty small, so you won't need long there, but it's a great place to visit as part of a day around Museum Mile.

Tom F

Truly fantastic! so much variety of species - cant recommend it more highly

Rachel M

A gem of a museum, packed to the rafters with interesting zoological specimens. Home to the fantastic and unique Micrarium

Emma N

The most engaging, friendly and exciting natural history museum in the UK

Clare S

A fantastic hidden gem of a museum which is enthralling for kids and fascinating for adults. Great interaction with exhibits and knowledgable staff. Highly recommended.

Tania B

I had no idea this small museum existed until about 4 months ago, when a friend suggested a visit. What a hidden gem - absolutely love the place. I am an artist and for years have collected found bones, stones, skulls etc to draw, or just to 'have'- this place is right up my street. I think the anaconda winding round the tree branch is sheer genius, goodness knows how long that took to assemble..

F F

A massive range of amazing specimens and it's nice and quiet

Ros A
Tastemaker

This place is a bit nutso and I love it. If you don't like museums, you might like this one. It's compact, and creepy and weird, and full of taxidermied animals you didn't know existed.

Sarahb

Amazing collection of specimens, enough to appeal to all ages and levels of curiosity. My favourite is the jar of moles, but the inclusion of someone's cloned pet and the opportunity to dig for millions of years old fossilised sharks teeth have kept me going back. There are rare screenings, bizarre talks and enthusiast fuelled exhibitions. Get on the mailing list and explore some of the quirkier sides of London's Natural History treasures.