On a recent (and rainy) trip to city centre, we made a stop to a museum we had kept hearing about but hadn't had time to stop in. The National Museum of Ireland Natural History Museum is housed in the suite of buildings around Leinster House- home of the modern Irish Parliament. The building of the museum itself was constructed in 1856 to display the collection of the Royal Dublin Society, then headquartered in nearby Leinster House. The museum, being part of the fantastic (and free!) National Museum of Ireland is well-run, clean, and informative.
Just inside the front door are the real stars of the museum. The full skeletal remains of three Giant Irish Deer stand regally and imposingly facing the entrance hallway. These animals lived on this island and other parts of Northern Europe until about 10,000 years ago. The antlers of these huge mammals have roughly the same size and shape of those of a full-grown bull moose (more on him later.) What an animal this must have been to behold in prehistoric Europe.
|Giant Irish Deer|
I wasn't disturbed or annoyed, mind you. They weren't loud or obnoxious in their conversation, and they waited for me to step aside before moving in to take their pictures. I just found myself wondering if they had actually appreciated the bird they had thought enough of to capture in a photo. Just not my kind of museum-going.
One of my goals while living here is to see a live wild hedgehog. I know I'm not in a very good place to see them, as I've heard they usually live outside the bigger cities and are mostly nocturnal. This day I was happy just to see one of these native mammals that so fascinate me- even being from the land of raccoons, skunks, and opossums.
|Cory Checkin' out the Fish|
Thinking of responsible stewardship of wild animal populations... The next floor(s) house animals of the world beyond Ireland. Just inside the entrance, a stuffed giant panda from nearly 100 years ago welcomes visitors. Pandas, critically threatened and closely guarded by the Chinese government today, were apparently not so in the early twentieth century. The specimen here in the museum was collected by missionaries to China and was one of the first stuffed pandas to reach museums in the western world.
Further down the floor, we are reminded that some threatened animal populations are still being poached and irresponsibly managed. The rhinoceros in the photo below has had its horn removed to prevent its theft for sale on the black market. Rhinos are still commonly poached and horns cut off for sale for their mythical medicinal properties. Researches have found absolutely no evidence of these black magic remedies improving any medical condition. These horns are, chemically speaking, one large, thick hair or fingernail. Wanna grind up some finger and toenails into your healing potion? Write me and I'll send you some of my own clippings.
In the meantime, a prosthetic replacement horn is being constructed for the rhino specimen in the museum. Good on you, museum curator. Bad on you, rhino poachers- and you, too, museum rhino horn thieves!
|Rhino Waiting for a Nose Job|
Near the temporarily hornless rhino is an elephant skeleton, with its record-setting tusk on display below. Apparently elephant tusk theft isn't as much a concern as rhino horn smuggling. Good thing, too- it was an impressive specimen and would have been a shame to miss.
|One of the largest elephant tusks ever collected|
Above the busy displays on the upper floor, I almost missed the huge whale skeletons as my eyes were darting from strange mammal to strange mammal in the central floor exhibits. Humpback and fin whale skeletons hang over the floor case with the smaller members of the cetacean family- dolphins and porpoises. Upon closer inspection, one can see the small vestigial bones of what were once the back legs of these marine mammals evolved from land mammals going back to the sea.
|Don't mess with |
For a more comprehensive look at the museum and its displays, get off this blog and go yourself! It's convenient, it's free, and it's great.