Naturhistorische Museum

Officially opened in 1889, the Naturhistorische Museum, located in Vienna, Austria, is one of the most important natural history museums in the world. Its 39 exhibition rooms, covering over 91,000 square feet, present over 100,000 objects, although it is home to some 30 million objects which are available to scientists and guest researchers wishing to carry out basic research in a wide range of topics related to the human sciences, earth sciences, and life sciences. The first floor presents the diversity of the animal world (above), as well as the realm of the Earth’s smallest organisms.

Along with the Museum of Fine Arts, the Natural History Museum was commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916) and designed by the architects Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) and Carl Hasenauer (1833-1894). In fact, the two museums face each other, have identical exteriors, and were originally designed to be part of a much larger “Imperial Forum” which was never fully realized. The museum’s façade displays allegorical and mythological figures representing progress in the natural sciences, as well as the power of nature. An imperial dedication under the dome, written in gold letters, reads: “To the realm of nature and its exploration”. The building’s architecture style incorporates elements from many past periods, especially the Renaissance. The roof is crowned with a large dome bearing a huge bronze statue of Helios, the Greek sun god and a symbol of the life-giving element without which nature would not exist.

The historical presentation of the museum’s collections is almost unique in the world today, with the exhibits themselves systematically ordered according to how closely they are related to each other, i.e. their chronological position within earth’s history. And because the visitor was to be guided from the “most simple” to the “most consummate evolutionary animals” (i.e. primates), with humans as the “apex of creation”, these were found at the end of the tour, even though today evolution is no longer seen as the development toward perfection, but as a development toward diversity.

  • Visited: 1992 (“The Nature of the Teddy Bear” exhibit)

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