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 by way of 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 performed any analysis beforehand, so I visited the museum with very restricted information and never a lot in the best way of expectations. I used to be able to be stunned.
Because the tour by way of time begins, we begin with two or three halls devoted to geology. Seems the Precambrian age is a bit quick on animal fossils. Because the scientific disclipine that birthed palaeontology, I, after all, owe geology my respect. Nevertheless, past the relatively superficial enjoyment of seeing one thing fairly and glossy, I have to admit that my capability to get pleasure from minerals in cupboards is proscribed, little question on account 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 realize. Yup. These are positively rocks.
Oh good, an animal. Dunkleosteus is likely 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 actual 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 all the time desire a reconstruction that makes it extra like a fish and fewer like a guillotine submarine.
The cranium of a mesosaur. Completely tiny. I wager it could have been cute in actual life.
Let’s get some large weapons in. The primary mesozoic corridor has Plateosaurus, one of the crucial well-known European dinosaurs, as its focus. I’m not an enormous fan of the glass barrier, although after all one can not argue with its necessity. What I do like is the truth that it’s been placed on a bit elevated pedestal, permitting the dinosaur to tower over the company that rather more dramatically.
The signage is tremendous useful right here. Although, not like, 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 believe each museum displaying mounted skeletons ought to try 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 frightened this single Mesozoic corridor was going to be all of the dinosaurs we had been going to get, however I needn’t have frightened. Lesser-known chasmosaurs are all the time good to see, particularly once they’re, let’s face it, so much cooler trying than plain previous Triceratops. That mentioned, the title of this one escapes me.
Right here to indicate off the sheer facet of the sauropod is a single brachiosaur leg, reaching nearly to the extremely ornate ceiling. It’s an efficient technique to promote the dimensions of such a stupendous animal throughout the confines of a restricted area. In the meantime, the cupboards are stuffed 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 search out some materials right here.
A thalattosuchian. I believe the genus title given was “Steneosaurus“, a wastebasket taxon.
I’m unsure which specimen of Archaeopteryx that is. The Wikipedia article on notable Archaeoperyx specimens doesn’t embody a Vienna specimen, so this is perhaps a solid of the Berlin urvogel. I’m prepared to be corrected right here.
An awesome number of ammonites. I’m considering Marie Hubrecht will need to have visited this place, as she reconstructed all of those in one in all her collages.
Cenozoic now. Right here’s a cool mannequin Gastornis.
And a cumbersome solid of a deinothere. Are we performed 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 manner, so we’re trying not a lot at an correct illustration of an extinct animal however at a historic reconstruction of 1 (although, damaged tail however, not less than 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 after 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 all the time inform you which mounts are casts and that are, not less than partially, actual. Within the case of this Protoceratops, which is safely behind glass, I might hazard a guess at it being actual.
Sea monsters adorn the partitions. I assume every little thing 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 relatively 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 can 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 all the time one in all my favorite depictions of this animal. Sadly, the robotic suffers from bunny arms, 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 trendy 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 believe the skeleton is perhaps actual.
I really like this Pteranodon (Geosternbergia?) skeleton. It actually exhibits off the unbelievable anatomy of a big pterosaur. Once more, no concept if it’s actual (Pteranodon is frequent so far as pterosaurs go, however pterosaurs are uncommon on the whole).
Right here’s the compulsory Triceratops and T. rex cameo to please the group.
As you may need guessed, the Diplodocus is likely 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 ebook about these casts which I’m ashamed to say I’ve but to learn, however right here it’s when you’re . Curiously, no cranium is understood 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 nearly an excessive amount of to soak up. The corridor is cramped and stuffed with stuff all over the place you look, and crowded with individuals, too. It’s an issue much like the London NHM: there’s a lot to have 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 best asset – so we should see this as a characteristic relatively than a bug. However one understands why trendy museum design favours area, starkness and focus.
This corridor options a few of my favorite baroque ornaments in your entire constructing. All of the statues appear to be holding prehistoric creatures of their arms, and looking out simply completely repulsed by them. I ponder what the considering behind that was? That antediluvian monsters are nothing greater than abhorrent horrors from the depths of Hell? It might certain slot in with my interpretation that this museum was funded on rules of the March of Progress.
After the nice dinosaur corridor, the main focus 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 keep in mind largely entails a lot of shards of stone age pots and plenty of wax figures of prehistoric people (all of them white) that regarded underwhelming to me, being aware of the likes of Kennis & Kennis, who do that significantly better. The historical past of the world all the time appears to finish with bloody people all over, a undeniable 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, relatively 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 information. Such is my ignorance that I wasn’t even totally 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 suppose.
And that’s the Vienna NHM, the opulent and old school museum that each one different museums aren’t. It actually 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 most likely ever do the previous type of museums in addition to this one, so it most likely evokes different locations to modernize and innovate as a substitute. When you ever end up in Vienna, do make time to go to this place.
Not solely is the Vienna NHM one of the crucial spectacular museums I’ve seen, its reward store is unquestionably, and by a substantial margin, the most effective 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 go away empty handed. Additionally, it sells the best collection 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 positively pay attention to. Different museums can not assist not being housed in an imposing imperial palace, however they will certain make a greater effort to replenish on high quality.