Final time, we explored the higher ground of the baroque nineteenth century palace that holds the Pure Historical past Museum of Vienna. It’s time to descend the marble staircase into the previous and take our journey via deep time, from the distant precambrian days to the Holocene. Perhaps we’ll even meet some dinosaurs alongside the best way, who is aware of? I hadn’t completed any analysis beforehand, so I visited the museum with very restricted data and never a lot in the best way of expectations. I used to be able to be stunned.
Because the tour via time begins, we begin with two or three halls devoted to geology. Seems the Precambrian age is a bit brief on animal fossils. Because the scientific disclipine that birthed palaeontology, I, in fact, owe geology my respect. Nonetheless, past the quite superficial enjoyment of seeing one thing fairly and glossy, I have to admit that my capability to take pleasure in minerals in cupboards is restricted, little question as a result of my lack of awareness within the subject. However I wouldn’t have a pure historical past museum with out them.
I’m excellent at figuring out rocks, I’ll have you understand. Yup. These are undoubtedly rocks.
Oh good, an animal. Dunkleosteus is without doubt one of the superstars of the prehistoric world with its immediately recognizable head. No phrase on whether or not this can be a solid or the true deal, although the truth that it’s uncovered makes me suspect the previous. It’s cool anyway. The poster that accompanies it within the background is a bit kitschy, as overdramatic Dunk reconstuctions are wont to be. I at all times choose a reconstruction that makes it extra like a fish and fewer like a guillotine submarine.
The cranium of a mesosaur. Completely tiny. I guess it might have been cute in actual life.
Let’s get some huge weapons in. The primary mesozoic corridor has Plateosaurus, probably the most well-known European dinosaurs, as its focus. I’m not an enormous fan of the glass barrier, although in fact one can not argue with its necessity. What I do like is the truth that it’s been placed on a bit of elevated pedestal, permitting the dinosaur to tower over the company that rather more dramatically.
The signage is tremendous useful right here. Though, in contrast to, say, Naturalis, the museum doesn’t present the distinction visually, this plaque does inform you what bits are actual and what bits are both reconstructed 3D prints of broken or disarticulated bones (in inexperienced) or from different specimens (in orange). Oertijdmuseum Boxtel did one thing related with their composite sauropod. I feel each museum displaying mounted skeletons ought to attempt to have one thing like this. For that matter, so ought to the remainder of this museum.
Subsequent to the Triassic animal is a Late Cretaceous one. I used to be nervous this single Mesozoic corridor was going to be all of the dinosaurs we had been going to get, however I needn’t have nervous. Lesser-known chasmosaurs are at all times good to see, particularly after they’re, let’s face it, quite a bit cooler wanting than plain previous Triceratops. That stated, the title of this one escapes me.
Right here to indicate off the sheer facet of the sauropod is a single brachiosaur leg, reaching virtually to the extremely ornate ceiling. It’s an efficient technique to promote the dimensions of such a stupendous animal inside the confines of a restricted area. In the meantime, the cupboards are filled with fossils, all mesozoic and largely of fish, invertebrates and small reptiles.
In the meantime, alongside the highest of the partitions are all these work by commissioned artists. Most of them are of landscapes, depicting both the badlands of Europe, America and Asia that these fossils are retrieved from, or imagined landscapes of the Mesozoic world. Not often do these depict precise animals, although there may be the odd gem of classic palaeoart amongst these. Not within the dinosaur corridor, although.
Some dinosaur materials. This belongs to Struthiosaurus, an ankylosaur present in Austria. Dinosaur finds are uncommon in Austria, particularly in comparison with Germany and Switzerland, so it’s good to seek out some materials right here.
A thalattosuchian. I feel the genus title given was “Steneosaurus“, a wastebasket taxon.
I’m undecided which specimen of Archaeopteryx that is. The Wikipedia article on notable Archaeoperyx specimens doesn’t embody a Vienna specimen, so this could be a solid of the Berlin urvogel. I’m keen to be corrected right here.
A fantastic number of ammonites. I’m pondering Marie Hubrecht should have visited this place, as she reconstructed all of those in considered one of her collages.
Cenozoic now. Right here’s a cool mannequin Gastornis.
And a cumbersome solid of a deinothere. Are we completed with dinosaurs already?
Nope. Seems the largest corridor on this ground is devoted to dinosaurs! There’s three mounted skeletons on the elevated plateau within the center (all, I assume, casts): An Iguanodon, an Allosaurus and a Diplodocus. The Iguanodon is mounted within the conventional Belgian method, so we’re wanting not a lot at an correct illustration of an extinct animal however at a historic reconstruction of 1 (although, damaged tail however, at the least this can be a pose that an Iguanodon may need concievably adopted). This one introduced again pleasant recollections of that point we went to Brussels once I was a child. Over there, the famously fragile iguanodont skeletons are all behind glass, whereas this solid is out within the open.
A significant downside with the mounted dinosaurs andotherprehistoric animals on this corridor is that the indicators don’t at all times inform you which mounts are casts and that are, at the least partially, actual. Within the case of this Protoceratops, which is safely behind glass, I’d hazard a guess at it being actual.
Sea monsters adorn the partitions. I assume the whole lot not behind glass to be a solid.
Allosaurus additionally takes a starring function, one other generally reproduced solid. It appears to be based mostly on an A. fragilis quite than the a number of near-complete specimens of A. jimmadseni dug up by colleagues from close by Switzerland. Good to have a giant theropod within the highlight that isn’t T. rex.
The animatronic Allosaurus subsequent to the skeletal one is the one non-skeleton on the plateau. It appears to be based mostly on the Strolling With Dinosaurs Allosaurus, which may also be seen on the posters on the home windows. Perhaps there was some collaboration happening round 1999. WWD’s influential red-horned, tiger striped Allosaurus was at all times considered one of my favorite depictions of this animal. Sadly, the robotic suffers from bunny palms, which the animated model didn’t.
A extremely likeable piece of mammoth palaeoart. The title of the artist was too excessive as much as learn.
Right here’s that well-known mannequin of a shaggy, feathered Deinonychus you see in lots of fashionable books. The indicators give data on the connection between birds and dinosaurs. There’s additionally a Psittacosaurus skeleton, which appears a bit random on this context. Psittacosaurus being a standard dinosaur, I feel the skeleton could be actual.
I like this Pteranodon (Geosternbergia?) skeleton. It actually reveals off the unimaginable anatomy of a big pterosaur. Once more, no thought if it’s actual (Pteranodon is widespread so far as pterosaurs go, however pterosaurs are uncommon usually).
Right here’s the compulsory Triceratops and T. rex cameo to please the gang.
As you may need guessed, the Diplodocus is without doubt one of the many casts of the unique Diplodocus carnigeii that may be discovered everywhere in the world. You may know Dippy from the NHM in London. Our pal Ilja wrote a e-book about these casts which I’m ashamed to say I’ve but to learn, however right here it’s should you’re . Curiously, no cranium is thought for Diplodocus correct; all diplodocid skulls discovered have been re-interpreted as both Galeamopus (as on this case), Kaatedocus, or, worst of all, diplodocinae indet. Just like the Iguanodon, this solid is as a lot a historic artifact as it’s a palaeontological one.
Extra moas. Artwork, ornaments and particulars wherever you look. It’s virtually an excessive amount of to absorb. The corridor is cramped and filled with stuff in every single place you look, and crowded with individuals, too. It’s an issue just like the London NHM: there’s a lot to take a look at in so small an area that the entire expertise turns into overwhelming and disorienting. That is an inevitable consequence of the constraints of the historic constructing – additionally the museum’s biggest asset – so we should see this as a characteristic quite than a bug. However one understands why fashionable museum design favours area, starkness and focus.
This corridor options a few of my favorite baroque ornaments in your complete constructing. All of the statues appear to be holding prehistoric creatures of their arms, and searching simply completely repulsed by them. I ponder what the pondering behind that was? That antediluvian monsters are nothing greater than abhorrent horrors from the depths of Hell? It will positive slot in with my interpretation that this museum was funded on ideas of the March of Progress.
After the nice dinosaur corridor, the main target shifts from pure historical past to the story of prehistoric people. I’ll admit to being very drained at this level, worn by the August warmth on this poorly ventilated constructing. What I bear in mind largely includes numerous shards of stone age pots and plenty of wax figures of prehistoric people (all of them white) that appeared underwhelming to me, being aware of the likes of Kennis & Kennis, who do that a lot better. The historical past of the world at all times appears to finish with bloody people everywhere, a incontrovertible fact that awakens the misanthrope in me. The mammoth is fairly candy, however on this context a mammoth is one thing for our ancestors to hunt, quite than a creature in its personal proper.
I ponder what’s in right here?
That is what you get for locating a museum with out a lot in the best way of prior data. Such is my ignorance that I wasn’t even absolutely conscious that the world-famous Venus of Willendorf is housed on the Vienna NHM. It was cool to see this very recognizable prehistoric statuette in particular person. Just like the Mona Lisa, it’s a lot smaller than you’d assume.
And that’s the Vienna NHM, the opulent and old school museum that every one different museums aren’t. It definitely lives as much as the splendor of its exterior. There’s a lot a pure historical past enthousiast can be taught from visiting this place. It appears to set the usual for the remainder of Europe to maneuver away from. No place will in all probability ever do the previous fashion of museums in addition to this one, so it in all probability conjures up different locations to modernize and innovate as a substitute. In the event you ever end up in Vienna, do make time to go to this place.
Not solely is the Vienna NHM probably the most spectacular museums I’ve seen, its present store is unquestionably, and by a substantial margin, one of the best of any museum I’ve ever visited. Along with the anticipated kitschy tote baggage and Venus-of-Willendorf paper weights, it bought a cornucopia of high quality toys to make sure no severe collector would depart empty handed. Additionally, it sells the best choice of books, each in German and English, I’ve ever seen at any store (shout out to Joschua). Right here is one thing all different museums ought to undoubtedly be aware of. Different museums can not assist not being housed in an imposing imperial palace, however they will positive make a greater effort to refill on high quality.