Natural History Museum of Bern

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The Natural History Museum of Bern (German: Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgergemeinde Bern) is a museum in Bern, Switzerland. In its teaching and research it cooperates closely with the University of Bern.[1] It is visited by around 100,000 people yearly.

Natural History Museum of Bern

History[edit]

The museum is owned by the Bürgergemeinde of Bern. It was officially founded in 1832. It is located on Bernastrasse, in the Kirchenfeld quarter, in a building that was erected between 1932 and 1934, opened in 1936 and expanded several times since then. Previously the exhibits were kept in a building on Hodlerstrasse built from 1878-81 and demolished in 1936; and earlier still, in the library gallery of a former college building.

Collection[edit]

The museum is known for its set of over 220 life-sized dioramas, featuring preserved animals from Switzerland, Africa and Asia; it also owns a collection of minerals from the Alpine region, samples of gold discovered at various locations in Switzerland, meteorites, a large stock of invertebrates,[1] and Switzerland's largest collection of animal skeletons and bones.

Mammal Dioramas[edit]

The museum's panda diorama, located in Asian Mammals.
The tiger diorama, located in Asian Mammals

The dioramas originate from a collection of big game animals from Africa, bagged by the London-based Bernese painter and game hunter Bernhard von Wattenwyl (together with his daughter Vivienne) during an expedition in 1923-24.[1] A total of 130 of these animals are on display, in 33 dioramas along two darkened corridors. The dioramas are designed and furnished according to the animals' natural habitat.

There is a further section displaying native birds and mammals, with over 600 animals in 164 dioramas. This section was previously on display in the Heimatmuseum, opened around the outbreak of World War II.

The upper basement contains five dioramas of Asian animals threatened with extinction: snow leopards, orangutans, giant pandas, Indian rhinoceroses, and tigers.

A fourth section called "Nordic Animals" features stuffed bears, muskoxen, seals, moose and birds, in nine dioramas containing 66 individual animals.

One of the museum's biggest attractions is the stuffed hide of Barry the St. Bernard, who is said to have saved the lives of over 40 people. A special exhibit dedicated to him was held in 2001.[2][3] [4]

C'est La Vie[edit]

The museum's largest exhibit draws on the four million items to explore the biological and psychological facets of live. Visitors are invited to use sight, smell and sound to discover the world's tremendous biodiversity and its greater implications in human existence. Films, tactile and audio installations attempt to not only present scientific answers to these basic questions, but illustrate philosophy into the metaphysics of studying life.

The exhibit's first section repeats the phrase "There is no life without death." Part of the exhibition's definition of life is that all living things die, and through their decomposition stimulate more life. This section presents the life inside a pig carcass (paradisaically living off of the pig's demise), the oldest living animal (the Antarctic glass sponge) and the human fascination with death (featuring many art installations including H.R. Geiger's original mask for the film Alien.) The museum is, in essence, a repository for dead animals, and this section pays homage to their collectors and exhibits. Visitors look onto treasures through a transparent floor in somewhat of a meta-mission: the museum too was founded on a fascination with the death of the world around us.

The second section discusses gender and sexuality. Thus, the exhibit expands its definition to note that all living things must reproduce and pass along their traits. Avian mating displays show the advantages and disadvantages of this system: the decorated male bird may attract predators as well as an appreciative female and his elaborate plumage may make it hard to fly. Over in the corner, a life-sized blue whale head and an oversized sea turtle represent r/K selection theory. This cycle of risk and benefit hinders even human childbirth. Larger brains give humans a clear advantage, but complicate biophysical matters with an enlarged braincase.

The "World in the Head" section looks at the senses, the brain and the idea of consciousness. A Gertrude Stein quote and small animatronic display illustrates the senses that humans do not have. A mirrored room metaphorically takes the visitor into an infinity and asks if vision requires an infinite amount of brain activity.

Die Große Knochenschau[edit]

The largest collection of animal skeletons and bones in Switzerland is displayed under the name "The Big Bone Show" (Die grosse Knochenschau).[5] This room exhibits over 300 skeletons, including those of a fin whale and an Asian Elephant. Eight of the larger skeletons sit upon a continually revolving carousel. The display cabinets contain numerous further exhibits, including 518 individual bones.

Albert Heim Foundation[edit]

The Albert Heim Foundation for the promotion of cynological research is based at the museum, and possesses the world's largest collection of canine skulls.[6]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c In Bern beliebt - auf der ganzen Welt beachtet (German)
  2. ^ "The Legendary Barry at the Natural History Museum". Natural History Museum of Bern. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Barry 200 years - a tribute to the nose". Natural History Museum of the Civic Community of Berne. 09/06/2000 - 02/25/2001. Retrieved March 20, 2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Nussbaumer, Marc. Barry of the Great St. Bernard. pp. 92 and 77 illustrations CHF 24. 
  5. ^ Die grosse Knochenschau Online magazine of the University of Bern, 31 May 2005. (German)
  6. ^ Albert-Heim-Stiftung - Aktuelles Albert Heim Foundation website. (German)
This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

Coordinates: 46°56′31″N 7°26′56″E / 46.94194°N 7.44889°E / 46.94194; 7.44889