Like any good Biology addict, not only do I pretend to be a scientist, but so do I love natural history museums (fondness is not even appropriate). There’s one that I would never miss the opportunity to give another visit. It is located at Lille, far North of France, where 90% of my recent ancestors lived (there’s even a wiki stub about it!).
This is a rather small museum, but then it is also one of the reasons it is lovely: having to deal with space constraints, bits and pieces are arranged in a quite dense fashion and therefore offers a feeling of completeness (no empty space left around). It is based on several natural history collections inherited over the years in the previous centuries and offers a comprehensive take into biodiversity.
The bird collection is really impressive, and it’s a decent choice to have made it available to public, while both sensitizing people about the historical role of collections and the need to preserve endangered modern species (As you might guess, many species on display are on the verge of extinction). Since the latest tendency at Seeds Aside is gallery pixes, here is another cartoon post.
It’s been a long time I wasn’t there, and I noticed a little bit of reorganization in the ‘animal’ rooms (because of the collection size, birds are dominating several areas, plus a full room of their own).
Since I’m not familiar with the most recent changes phylogeny brought to systematics in the animal kingdom, I can’t tell if this is to reflect these, but it apparently does. That said, as long as there’s a notice coming along with, I wouldn’t be shocked by any other arrangement (well, that I should be able to spot first, zoology is not my master card).
There are a few spots of scenery, for example, and this kind of ecological theme grouping is also nice, especially to a young public, to which phylogenetics is not even conceptual (hey, I was thinking to little daughter here, but would I qualify?).
Then there’s some room left for temporary exhibits, as this would encourage any person other then me to go back more often (I said I did need such an incentive, I would go anyway). Latest time I did, early April, this was all about predation and predator-prey coevolution.
But the museum is also quite nice because a small section is devoted to live specimens. Small ones, of course, we’re not at the zoo. Which basically means insects (even the more sticky ones) and other arthropods (there are a couple of amblypygi of respectable size –one of them was just fresh off the moult, another chance to teach little daughter about the wonders of growth), among which scorpions under a UV light. Let’s keep it green and planty-like with the next pixes though…
But the museum is also famous for another interesting collection. Plant fossils. Given North of France is a place of (historically at least) coal mines, there are a lot of specimens from the Carboniferous. Pal luxury footprints. Ferny stems stemming from the stone, hallucinating limbs direct from the limbo…
The museum proudly puts up it’s one of the greatest plant fossils display in Europe. Which is probably true.
Unfortunately, it’s telling me there’s quite no exhibition of such fossils in any affordable reach, because the sample size is not dramatically big. It cannot really be overlooked, for example.
But the most fascinating part of the museum, and it is strange for I usually don’t find such specimens that attractive, is a short but well designed case with clear genetic and developmental explanations (I guess most parents say thank you!) … for developmental aberrations.
At this place, the museum really transforms into a cabinet of curiosities, and one can admire a beak crested hen, two tailed lizzard or cat tales, or these striking (naturalised) conjoined calf twins…