Making Other: Exhibition Catalogue
More information and captivating facts on the objects and how they became 'others'. Click on each of the objects to learn more about them!
Kathleen Lonsdale's Anhydrite Crystals
Two Anhydrite Crystals and the envelope they were sent in (Addressed to K. Lonsdale)
Accession Number: 6:1d(8a +b)
Geology and Earth Sciences
Crystal Measurements: 92.2mm x 61.25mm and 67.8mm x 43.8mm
Envelope measurements: 119mm x 82mm
Europe, England (Billingham)
Taxonomic class 1: Sulphates, Chromates, Molybdates
Taxonomic class 2: Waterfree Sulphates
Taxonomic class 3: Aphthitalite – Anhydrite series
Taxonomic Class 4: Anhydrite
Kathleen Lonsdale's Anhydrite Crystals in Making Other
These crystals are what are called ‘bedded nodular anhydrite’ crystals (there are many different formations of the same crystal), and they were found at around 1000 meters below the ground in the North of England in limestone rock (Murray, 1953). The crystal Anhydrite is formed by ancient seawater evaporating and is in a constant cycle of dehydration and hydration as it is naturally buried over thousands of years, and then resurfaces – when it is hydrated it is called Gypsum and the atomic structure of the crystal changes. Perhaps Kathleen was interested in observing these changes in atomic pattern, but we do not know exactly what she used them for, whether they were simply to collect, or to study, or as a memento. She was sent them in the envelope exhibited, after a trip she made with the mineralogical society in 1946 (Bull, 1947), and were given to her by a man who’s name is difficult to read because of the obscured writing style. The envelope is an interesting object – clipped roughly along the edges, it shows where they were sent from, in what year and from which mine. There’s a slogan ‘TAKE NO CHANCES KEEP DEATH OFF THE ROAD’ stamped in black on the top right corner, which was common for the time, along with other slogans. They were little messages to send stamped to the British Public during and after the Second World War - others included a ‘V’ for victory after the war and ‘DON’T WASTE BREAD OTHERS NEED IT’.
Crystals were so important in the way that Kathleen explored the world, she studied them for more than 40 years, became the first female ‘fellow of the royal society’ since its founding in 1660, and the first female president of the international union of ‘The British Association for the Advancement of Science.’
Kathleen had to work against the current, challenging the social environment of her time she was determined to do what she wanted and we can learn a lot from her story. She had to work overtime and shatter the stereotypes of the role of women in society at the time. But there is still a huge underrepresentation of women in science today, and we still have an education curriculum dominated by men (Arnett, 2015). When I went to visit her exhibition cabinet in the Kathleen Lonsdale building at U.C.L. for my research, the cabinet lights were blown and unplugged when I arrived. The cabinet was in dark stairway between two floors at the side of he building, the panels were dusty and the glass hadn’t been cleaned for some time. This scene was very pertinent to me; it is symbolic of the underrepresentation of women in education and museums – something that we still seem to be in denial
Her legacy is enthralling and these objects trace us back to it - We can learn a lot from her story. She teaches us to appreciate the rights of women in society and fight for gender equality in academic spheres and in a wider social environment.
La Divina Commedia
La commedia, by Dante Alighieri (Venice, 1491).
INCUNABULA QUARTO 5 o (UCL0033681), UCL Library Special Collections.
It is the first fully illustrated printed edition of the poem and includes extensive commentaries. It has 307 folios (215 x 315 mm) which are folded in half, resulting thus in 614 pages. La comedia is divided into 100 parts called cantos. For each canto there is an opening illustration and highly decorated drop caps introduce the text. Its function and significance was that of displaying Dante's work as one of Italian most important pieces of literature, enhancing its nation and serving as a cultural emblem. The commentaries also serve for this purpose as they boast about the magnificence of the text.
The Book in 'Making Other'
After imposing themselves upon women, men reunite women in an unbalanced way and together create a new distinction still inside the frontiers of a certain territory: that of classes. Social classes have appeared in many ways since the beginning of humankind. There have been distinctions of lineage, existing certain families with a special pedigree that were considered noble. Slavery or the caste of untouchables in India are examples of groups of people not even considered proper citizens. But nowadays in Western society, the most important rationale of dividing people is that of money.
Money matters because it allows upper classes to access education and restrains more popular classes of doing so, thus resulting in a feedback that crystallises the status quo. Books were luxury goods when they had to be copied by hand, and after the spreading of the printing press they were democratised. This book was printed in 1491, only about half a year after Gutenberg introduced the printing press to the West. It is still distant from the smaller modern book that Aldus introduced using the octavo format in 1501, a moment in which universities appeared and required easier to handle books. Thus, this book is a relic of a time in which knowledge was waking up after its medieval lethargy in monasteries.
Notwithstanding this, the book is located at UCL Library Special Collections. Not everybody can afford studying at university, not only because of economical reasons, but also because of their family background and time constraints in the case of people who need to work while they study. Opening the book we first find two stamps at the bottom of the first page (“BIBLIOTECA DELLA Rª UNIVERSITÀ DI GENOVA” and “UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON”). After checking the Catalogue of the Dante collection in the library of University College London (Chambers, R. W. 1910) it is interesting to notice that this edition of La comedia does not appear, so UCL did not have it before 1910. We know by the stamps that it left Genoa University before being at UCL. The rare-books librarian Tabitha Tuckett's thought on how the book arrived at UCL is that it was sold by Genoa University when they needed funds to a wealthy collector – perhaps Antonius Galiardus, described as former owner on the catalogue record – who donated or sold it to UCL. This results in a limited access to the book, as only people who can afford it have the opportunity to consult this edition. Hence, the cultural capital stays with people who already own it, who are mostly people with a high economic capital.
The Egyptian Mould
Object: Mould for the production of Bezel rings
Origin: Ancient Egypt – the Akhenaten period, found in the city of Armana
Age: between 1351–1334 BC
The mould is approximately 2.75cm in width, just over 3cm in length, and the depth of the mould marginally exceeds 1cm. It is oval shaped, and the general shape of the mould does not appear to be of great importance, but there has been great detail engraved onto the largest and flattest surface of the clay.
The Egyptian Mould in Making Other
This is an Egyptian mould that was found in the ancient city of Akhenaten (now known as Armana) having been buried there for over three thousand years.
It was used to make the bezel for rings, and the inscription upon it denotes the name of the King who was the founder of the ancient city – King Amenhotep. The rings this mould created would have been made out of beautiful blue faience, a type of Egyptian glass very popular at the time. This particular mould may have been used in the production of rings sold upon the ascension of King Amenhotep to the throne.
It was excavated in 1891 by a famous archaeologist – William Petrie who excavated the site extensively along with many others, his collection was sold to UCL and now forms part of the Petrie Museum, which was set up by Amelia Edwards in 1894.
The Mould in "Making Other"
The collection of many of these objects acted as trophies denoting a conquered land. Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of the French Empire in the late 18th century invaded Egypt, bringing with him scholars who recorded information about the country as well as antiquities. The British defeated the French in Egypt in 1801 and in the Treaty that concluded the fighting, a collection of antiquities were exchanged including the infamous Rosetta Stone.
Today it is illegal to remove artefacts from Egypt and the Sudan, and in a more globalised world where the “other” has a large voice – people are starting to ask questions about what was taken during the age of empire. Should artefacts be repatriated to their country of origin? It is a difficult debate that can not be simplified to a simple yes or no, but individual objects need to be considered in their own context.
The rhinoceros skull
The skull of Javan Rhinoceros (accession number Z-147) displayed in the UCL Grant Museum collections that you are about to meet reflects this reality of otherness and ostracism towards the animals very clearly. Being made out of bone, it is of relatively small dimensions: 51 cm long, 29 width and 35 cm tall. From this, we deduce that it belonged to a teenage individual and the smashed bone on its lower mandible indicates that illegal poachers shot it to death for its horn. This is were our troublesome story of otherness starts, the fact that the medicinal properties that the horn is traditionally known for having on humans (of which there is absolutely no evidence!!), are worth the life of thousands and thousands of Javan rhinoceros, causing that they are now the largest most endangered mammal specie on earth.
The rhinoceros skull in Making Other
More generally, humans have always regarded animals as inferior to them, to us; we reserve ourselves an exceptional and distinctive position among other animal species. And yes, I said it right: other animal species, humans are in fact nothing but one among something like 8,74 Million animal species. The historical relationship that humans have maintained with other animal species is indeed a story of abuse and otherness. This is very well embraced in the notion of speciesism, which considers that we attribute different value judgments to individuals only according to their specie membership. By setting boundaries on other animals, we treat them as units that can be distributed in a pyramid of which humans are at the top: we ostracise them to feel like we have the right to mistreat them, but that should change immediately.
We impose otherness into other species to feel superior, control them, and justify our cruelty towards them; this enables us not to even bother if we are trumping other individual’s lives just for our own profit. This makes that we are extenuated from any horrific act we do on them.
With the story of poaching and abuse that this rhino skull reveals, show how we abuse of species for our own profit. In this case, even if there was evidence for the effectivity of rhino horn in medicinal practice (which, by the way there is not!!). It shows the consequences that the otherness we impose on other species has and that are normallised to the point of being almost inherent on us, has.
We are anthropocentric, abusive, invasive and all this leeds to the extreme unrespect to the majority of the population of this planet, which shouldn’t be counted in human units, but animals units, and by this we only represent, sorry to say: of the population. How can we ignore this and destroy it in such a way?
This shows how this speciesism, and otherness is deeply engrained also when it comes to other species, as it was with the crystals, the ring, the book and ultimately the map. ← change this opening
Plan of London, 1572
Plan of London, from Civitates Orbis Terrarum (vol.I), by Franz Hogenberg and Georg Braun. Number 4787 in the UCL Art museum catalogue.
The map is a 396x350mm engraving with hand painted colour, printed on cream woven paper using ink. The colour was added later, probably by the person who bought/collected the print, using water based paint (such as watercolours). The map is a bird’s eye view. The top corners are decorated with coats of arms: on the right corner the coat of arms of the city of London and the left hand corner the coat of arms of England from the 14th to the 17th century. The bottom corners have inscriptions in Latin about the city.
Plan of London in Making Other
16th century, when exploring, conquering and colonising were the key to an Empire’s power. 16th century was also the time in which knowledge started to empower the population. Curiosity for the new found lands, something unimaginable for some people at the time, was satisfied through the creation and distribution of maps. Plan of London was part of the first volume of Civitates Orbis Terrarum, an atlas of world cities published in Cologne in 1572, considered to be the second oldest atlas ever made; and for the first time people in Europe learned what other cities around the world looked like.
The main title of Plan of London, engraved on the top banner on the map, says “Fertile Metropolis of London, England”, and at the bottom we have two men and two women, inviting us into the city. At the start of the 16th century London became the centre of the powerful and growing British Empire. Commercial ships would come in and out of the country through the river Thames, noblemen and merchants were the main inhabitants of the city. Indeed, the map showed what had become the first ‘metropolis’; a centre for trade, wealth and power.
The power and wealth of Empires such as the British and Spanish at the time, lead to the growth of dominant cities as well as to the discovery and colonisation of new and rich lands. It also lead to the creation of boundaries, which thus created ‘otherness’. Those territories to which conquerors and explorers referred to as ‘new lands’ were only new to them; since for hundreds of years they had been the home of humankind and animals alike. But the dominance of the European empires took over those lands and their people, and because they hadn’t known or seen them before called them ‘new’. And by calling them ‘new’ and setting boundaries and controlling its people, they were turned into ‘other’. Leonardo Boff argues that the foreign is usually an ‘other’; in this case, the new lands were foreign, and thus they were made ‘other’ through colonisation.
The expansion of the west took away everything from the foreign cultures-beliefs, creations, language, traditions and freedom- and enforced upon them the western culture. Hence, these foreign lands were no longer their own being; they turned into a mere ‘other’ under the control of what at the time was the dominant civilisation.
Five centuries later one would say that the ‘otherness’ forced upon those lands and their people has now dissipated, for they have now turned into their own countries with their own cultures, beliefs and traditions. Today, London has grown out of the boundaries represented in the 1572 Hogenberg map. It has done so in a physical way, since such a detailed image of London would result in an immense map; but it has also done so in a more transcendental sense. No longer are we welcomed into London by noblemen and merchants, but by an ethnically diverse population. No longer is London only reachable by ship and carriage, but by train, car, bus and plane- connecting the city to the world.
Yet, ‘otherness’ still exists, and we see this through all the objects that make up this exhibition, which all happened to end up within the boundaries of this map. Not one of them comes from London, in fact they come from different countries and continents: La Divina Commedia from Italy, the rhino skull from Vietnam, the mould from Egypt, the crystals from North England, and the map from Germany. For some the story of how they got to collections in University College London is known, and for some there is no trace of their journey, but at some point in time they were all taken from their respective origins and brought to UCL. Whether they belong here or not is for one self to decide, but what is clear is that by taking them from another place and from another culture, we have made part of those objects ‘other’.