Berlin, Natural History Museum

The Berlin Natural History Museum.

Declan has wanted to visit this museum since he first saw a picture of their Brachiasaurus (the world’s largest dinosaur fossil that has been put together) when he was four. Evan’s blog post about the day is here, and this is the review.

The museum was one of the very first of this type of museum to separate display and research. So there is an upstairs section, which is where people do research, and a downstairs section where the most interesting items are displayed to the general public.

1. The Museum must engage and excite – We loved the way in which the exhibits were labelled. Each main exhibit had a small bit of information on a touch screen in english and german. Various key points were hyperlinked, so that if you touched that bit of the screen, you got to a much fuller explanation (in the language you had pressed). So, for example, each of the dinosaur explanations had a link to a summary family tree for the whole dinosaur era, showing where this particular dinosaur fit in. 9/10

2. The exhibits must work and not baffle – As befits natural history, this museum was more about looking than interacting. But, as noted above, the explanations worked superbly. And various other bits of electronic info worked well too – notably a statue of Charles Darwin which you could listen to through your elbows. 10/10.

3. A play area should not substitute for teaching science in the museum. There was a play area, which the boys looked at enviously, as it wasn’t in use, but was clearly used for school groups and birthday parties to do dissections and things.  7/10.

4. Televisions and computers are no longer, in themselves, cool, or more generally, everything should be up to date. We were lucky to visit at a time when the whole museum was being refreshed so everything worked perfectly, and (as Declan noted) they had removed Pluto from the display of planets 10/10.

5. Museums should tell a story.  There were some good little snippets of story in there (notably about the zebras and the tse tse fly, and why zebras deevolved their stripes when they weren’t in any danger from the tse tse) but overall there were lots of little thing, rather than a big story arc. 6/10.

Overall,  42/50.

And for the practical things:

Cafe factor: We didn’t go to a cafe (which must be a first) but Berlin is full of cafes, so I’m not sure it matters all that much. In fact, they don’t mention a cafe on their website, so maybe there isn’t one.
Expense: We managed a cheap visit through a combination of general Berlin museum tickets.  But it is cheap anyway; a family ticket is 10 Euros.

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