Days after my visit to the Berlin Museum of Natural Science, this expression remained fixed in my memory: “Evolution has no aim; it is not looking for perfect adaptation.”
January in Berlin can be quite grey so one afternoon, in search of a change of scenery, I decided to visit the city’s Museum of Natural Science.
By no means does the museum fit the description of “save the best for last.” As soon as you have paid your entry fee, you head straight into the very heart of the museum and the main hall, surrounded by glass walls and catapulting you approximately 150 million years back in time.
The giant dinosaur skeletons had me completely spellbound for quite some time. The majority of these are almost as tall as the fifteen-metre ceiling, and visitors are left feeling incredibly small and insignificant alongside these prehistoric giants. I decided to learn a little more and equipped myself with the audio guide to find out about the history of each creature.
Tip: Audio guides are free in the museum and it is well worth using one.
The Berlin Museum of Natural Science will captivate even those most fervently anti-museum characters, since it is completely dedicated to research and there is no time for dust to collect on any of the exhibits. In fact all the exhibits are used not only for display purposes but actually have a scientific purpose, particularly regarding the extinction of species, and are of vital importance.
In general it is actually quite easy for visitors to find their way around the museum, and quite difficult to get lost in the 6.600 m² facilities. At the entrance visitors are given a card which explains each area marked by symbols and a brief description. It is possible to visit the museum by just following the symbols.
According to the Museum Director Professor Reinhold Leinweber, it is most beneficial for visitors to actually create their own route around the exhibits – therefore there are no standard guides. (See interview in the Autumn/Winter edition of Berlin seasonal in German).
Small sample of the Museum of Natural Science:
Video by klunatsch
The indisputable star of the exhibition is the skeleton of Branchiosaurus brancai, which measures over 15 metres long and is one of the largest dinosaur skeletons in the world. It was discovered in the former German colony of East Africa that is today Tanzania.
There are a further six dinosaur skeletons to visit, not quite as large as the Brachiosaurus but just as interesting.
I have to admit that I have never been passionate about nature or biology but the dinosaur exhibition captured my attention for over an hour as I wandered astonished between the various displays.
This exhibition with its numerous examples of fossils provides extensive information on the history of planet earth.
This exhibition presents over 1000 different types of minerals, and it was not just the great variety of pieces on display that captured my attention but the location itself, set within the very beautiful and quite dazzling XIX century hall.
The earth, man and other forms of life inhabiting the planet are particularly complex. This exhibition, which deals with the system of the earth, brings us closer to understanding one of the most dynamic planets in the solar system.
Where did we come from? Not just a question that children frequently ask and often causes parents to blush, it is quite simply one of the most fascinating subjects to have ever existed. This exhibition explains the natural history of human development.
The universe, the galaxies, the planets, the stars and the solar system are not easy to reach and are even more difficult to understand. On contemplating the night sky many of us may wonder just what is actually happening up there.
Whilst seated on a comfortable kind of sofa, visitors can watch a short documentary on a round screen suspended from the ceiling enabling them to contemplate the universe as the screen moves slowly overhead.
Why do birds all have such different feathers? Where do all their colours come from? There are in fact such a large variety of sizes, shapes and colours that man still does not know exactly how many species actually exist on earth, and it is all very closely related to evolution. It is quite possible to spend many hours in the exhibition, following the detailed explanations discovering so much.
Many of us only really know these hoofed animals from the zoo or the television. I was actually surprised at just how large they really are. Some live to over 80 years of age, and are surprisingly real. Although it was quite difficult for me to resist the temptation to reach out and touch them I did finally manage to hold back!
There are over 300 different species of birds and their characteristics and natural habitat is all exhibited in this hall. Bird fans will very much enjoy this section.
The great models
The models on display here date back to the years 1918 – 1925, and are shown in real size and their natural environment.
Step by step this exhibition describes how the carcass of an animal is transformed for research or an exhibit and how the fossils and minerals are prepared.
Despite being a little old for this section of the museum it is really very good, and even made me wish I could be a child again to fully enjoy it. Here it is possible to experience natural science through various games that provide children and teenagers with knowledge about natural science, ecology and the protection of the environment. In the exploration section children use handicrafts, shapes, sewing, creativity and excavation as part of the learning process…
The wet collection
After the dinosaurs this was the second part of the museum that I found most impressive. The exhibition and its presentation are quite unique and had a lasting effect on me.
The “wet” collection is made up of thousands of samples that have been preserved in alcohol and glass tubes; static pieces, marine animals, insects and reptiles from all over the world are all displayed within a kind of giant crystal cube. The cold, dimly lit atmosphere combined with the light reflections on the different pieces of the exhibition is mesmerizing.
Children really enjoy the museum, mainly due to the fantastic program that has been designed by their own pedagogical unit.
On the one hand, the exploration section enables children and teenagers to learn to relate to natural science. The museum also offers guided torch-lit museum tours in winter. The “Museum Nights” allow a completely different appreciation of the exhibits. In the months of March to June, Children’s Sunday is an activity organised for young members of the family to experience natural science for themselves and put their creativity into play. There is also the possibility to host children’s birthday parties in the museum. There is a great demand for this activity so reservations must be made well in advance.
The current museum program can be found at event calendar or by calling: (030) 2093-8550.
Tuesday to Friday: 09:30 – 18:00h
Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays: 10:00 – 18:00h
Last entry: 30 minutes before museum closure.
The museum is closed on Mondays.
|Price per adult in groups of 10 + pax||3.50 €|
|Children, students, work experience, pensioners, social aid, unemployed, civil or military service, handicapped people with the necessary card||3.50 €|
|Price per adult in groups of more than ten people.||1.50 €|
|Family entrance ticket: 2 adults and up to 3 children up to the age of 14||10.00 €|
|Mini-Family entrance: father/or motherand up to 2 children up to the age of 14||6.00 €|
|Entrance for pre-school children||Free|
|Audio-guíde in German, English and French||Free|
How to get there
The easiest way to get to the museum is by metro (U-Bahn) or the Tram since both forms of transport have a special stop at the station Naturkundemuseum.
Metro (U-Bahn): U6 to Naturkundemuseum
Tram: M6, M8, 12 to Naturkundemuseum
Bus: 120, 123, 142, 147, 245, 247
S-Bahn to Hauptbahnhof or Nordbahnhof. From here it is about a 10 minute walk to the museum
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