Back to the future, or A visit to the Museum of Natural Science
October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
Since our arrival here, we have noticed how in many ways Brussels is quaintly old-fashioned: all stores are closed on Sundays (except bookstores!), five-year-olds buckle up in the front passenger seat. So when we took our first trip to the Museum of Natural Science (or, more officially, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) we weren’t totally surprised to be greeted by plywood displays, a solar system visualization that looked like it was straight from the Atari era, and washed-out, discolored photos that had nothing to do with Instagram. These were the real deal. We were slightly bemused, but also a little disappointed. Really? This was the best Brussels could do?
What we hadn’t realized was that it was a mistake to head directly downstairs, where bad science displays from the 1970s go to die, instead of following the somewhat convoluted passageway leading to the dinosaur hall. As we approached the hall, however, we realized the extent of our error. It is absolutely stunning—a huge open space with decorative ironwork, beautiful Belgian tile on the floors, enormous windows, and the slightly low lighting that serves to highlight the dramatically illuminated skeletons. The seemingly mid-century exterior of the entrance does not at all prepare you for this. It is apparently the largest hall in the world devoted entirely to dinosaurs.
We found it a little difficult to navigate around the museum and kept feeling like we were getting lost (we actually did lose Sebastian at one point). Perhaps this is because they seem to be renovating much of the upstairs of the museum. At any rate, I know we missed a lot of things and we will definitely be back to this Brussels treasure.
We also visited the “special exhibition” on baby animals, which was a taxidermist’s dream (no, that adorable orangutan on the poster was not, in fact, residing in this museum). A little different, but again, we’re getting used to different. And the kids loved it. There were silly activities like pick an apron with a natural habitat printed on it and then find the poster to blend in with, toss a small foam kangaroo into the net attached to the kangaroo cutout, and locate the animal’s mother by her scent. Different.