The biggest dandelion in Luxembourg? Here we can see the model being installed in the entrance of the National Museum of Natural History (Natur Musée) in Luxembourg City, which reopens its doors to the public on 26 June after more than a year of renovations. The museum gave Delano a sneak peak of the new exhibits on 4 May 2017. The museum aims to explain the science behind the everyday as well as the exotic.
Photo: LaLa La Photo
The National Museum of Natural History (Natur Musée) in Luxembourg City reopens its doors to the public on 26 June. Delano took a tour, one recent morning, as the museum put the final touches on its new digs.
The main displays have been closed since 2015 whilst they embarked on a five-million-euro project to renovate the historic building and update the permanent exhibition spaces.
The first traces of the museum building date back to 1308, with reconstruction carried out during the seventeenth century. In its time the building, along rue Münster in the Grund, has housed a hospital and a women’s prison, before the Natur Musée moved there in 1996.
The museum itself was founded in 1854 and the collections have been growing ever since. Exhibitions and events are just the tip of the iceberg. The institution is also an active scientific research centre with a host of specialists on the staff. They conduct research on all aspects of natural heritage and contribute to its conservation.
One of the most important tasks carried out by the museum is to inventory the natural heritage of the grand duchy.
In the new exhibitions, there are more items on show than ever before. These unique and beautiful objects are combined with a smart new gallery design. The curators wanted each object on display to “speak” to the visitor, and with over a million items in the collection to choose from there is certainly plenty to say.
The National Museum of Natural History’s new Strange Encounters Gallery explores some of the ways in which the museum brings together things which wouldn’t normally appear together in nature, so that they can scientifically explain their characteristics and functions. The gallery is pictured during an advanced tour the Natur Musée gave to Delano the morning of 4 May 2017, prior to its grand reopening in June. Image: LaLa La Photo
Few glass barriers
The galleries, redesigned by Atelier Für Gestaltung, feel spacious and modern. Throughout the museum there is very little glass between the visitor and the objects, and bold colours are used. Neither fit our idea of what a traditional natural history museum might be, with big dusty cases constructed of wood and glass.
Gallery text is boldly printed on the wall in French and German. English and Luxembourgish translations are available via a free phone app.
Watching the Natur Musée’s leafcutter ant colony cut and carry leaves back to their nest. Image: LaLa La Photo
Delano’s visit starts at the beginning of life on Earth. The interaction of life with geology and geology with life is explored, emphasising the geology of the grand duchy. This plays to the strengths of the geological, mineral and fossil collections of the museum.
The evolution displays highlight the staggering amounts of time between the dawn of life and the present. Around 3.8 billion years ago the earliest forms of life appeared on Earth, whilst humans have only been around for about 200,000 years. It is an impressive reminder of our place in the grand scheme of things.
This gallery explains the processes involved in evolution and helps people to imagine the timescales involved. In a process which has taken millions of years, mankind has really only been around for a very short time. Image: LaLa La Photo
The story of evolution presented in the gallery continues with examples of how species have evolved using natural selection to develop, adapt and improve their chances of survival.
Marketing and communicatons manager Patrick Michaely explained that visitors to the “old” museum wanted to know more about Luxembourg. Now they can see environments and animals which might be very familiar to them, from the woodland dormouse to the city sparrow.
Developing a new exhibition within the shell of an important historic building has been challenging, with a large portion of the budget having been devoted to its restoration, according to Patrick Michaely, the National Museum of Natural History’s marketing and communications manager. He is pictured speaking with Delano during final renovations of its site on 4 May 2017. Image: LaLa La Photo
The skeleton of the oldest Luxembourger will be displayed in his own space. Loschbour Man was discovered in 1935 and is around 7,500 years old. Whilst you’re in the museum you can take a selfie with him, or rather with a reconstruction of what this prehistoric resident of Luxembourg might have looked like.
A beautiful display of stuffed animals in the Biodiversity Gallery includes things you just wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to get up close to. A fearsome lion welcomes you with a snarl, and at the other end a flock of colourful toucans. The room highlights how important the variety of life on Earth is to the health of ecosystems and ultimately the planet.
A fruit bat displayed with wings outstretched. By comparing the structure of bats wings to the skeletons of other mammals, scientists can study the ways in which the bats bodies have adapted to flight. Image: LaLa La Photo
In the Biodiversity Gallery, a touchscreen table contains a tool developed by the museum in collaboration with Harvard University. It demonstrates how you and every other living organism are related to every other plant and animal in the world and shows how much you have in common.
Space about space
The final room covers astronomy and is accompanied by a display of meteorites, present in the beginning of life and very possibly at its end. Here the story is brought up to date and projected into the future via space exploration and asteroid mining. You can explore a giant projection of the solar system or pilot a voyage through the stars.
The mammals section of the Natur Musée’s Evolution Gallery. The museum has a vast collection to support the scientific explanations provided during your visit. The gallery is seen during an advanced tour of the site on 4 May 2017. Image: LaLa La Photo
Based on the idea that we are all “made of dust”, at the end of your visit you are invited to imagine yourself a piece of cosmic dust being propelled across the galaxy and launch yourself down the slide back to the beginning of life.
The redesign of the Natur Musée has been worth the wait. What has emerged from behind closed doors is a fun and mind expanding reminder of our place in the unfolding explosion of life on Earth.