19 September 2011

Apparently "Natural History" means "things I have shot" In Italian

A Venetian Rorschach test
Seeking an escape from the relentless heat, humidity and thronging crowds of the Venetian afternoon, a suggestion was made to visit the Natural History Museum. Those of you familiar with either the Natural History Museum in Dublin, home of an assortment of ancient bones and poorly stuffed animals (both before and during the recent relocation of Seanad Éireann to within its hallowed walls), or its admittedly slightly more impressive sassenach counterpart in London, will, upon hearing the words "Natural History Museum", conjure forth mental pictures of dioramas tasteful recreating the environment in which the now regrettably deceased and taxidermied exhibits once roamed free, cavourting with their fellows in what can only be described in song as a Circle of Life.

Apparently no-one in Venice ever saw the Lion King, or if the did they immediately shot it, skinned it, and mounted it over their mantlepiece with a loud "harrumph!", or the Italian equivalent thereof.

An Ouranosaurus. Almost certainly not shot by an Italian big game hunter. Almost certainly.
After wandering through a rather good exhibit of the history of evolution (though admittedly the Museum contains no English explanations so it could very well have been a 'History of the Fraudulent Theory of Evolution as Proposed by Heretics, Unbelievers and Communists" for all I know) that contained bones both dinosaur and hominid, touchable exhibits, an amazing archaeopteryx and copious amounts of fossilised poo, you suddenly enter what can only be laughingly called 'The Twilight Zone', wherein Italy's past colonial glories (all three weeks of them) are chronicled in a series of items plundered from East Africa including, amongst an array of spears, shields and tribal head-dresses, the mummified corpses and shrunken heads of their former owners.

You then pass into the trophy rooms, where the stuffed and mounted carcasses of an entire savana have been carefully displayed on wall after wall of ink-blot butterfly patterns, along with the portrait of the beefy gentleman who shot them all.


The next two rooms are a veritable cabinet of medical curiosities, with two headed cows, albino goats and a smorgasborg of preserved internal organs, human and otherwise, before retuning once more to gallery after gallery of stuffed insects, birds, fish, a smattering of beasts of hoof and horn, as wel as the occasional dolphin (yes, there are multiple dolphins hanging from the ceiling), and all of this in the faded grandeur of a thirteenth century palace, The Fondaco dei Turchi, sitting on the Grand Canal.

The most amazing part of this all (well, second most amazing after the stuffed giraffe heads) was the fact that we had the place almost entirely to ourselves, I counted less than ten other visitors the whole time we were there. According to The Very Understanding Girlfriend, less than a third of visitors to Venice actually spend the night there, something truly shocking when the official vistor numbers are between 15 and 22 million per year. Again this shows that just slightly off the beaten track (and the Museum sits squarely on the Grand Canal so its not that far off the track) Venice offers a different experience altogether.

A fossilized Fibonacci Sequence
Unfortunately photography is strictly forbidden in the Museum, but I, erm, have attempted to, ah, 'recreate' what I saw through the medium of, um, modern technology. Yes. Definitely. No surreptitious photographs were taken by me. No sir.

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At 10:07 am, Blogger Snag Breac said...

"a suggestion"? That's a kind way of saying six of us got dragged off to the Natural History Museum where they didn't even have a single sign in english...by CARO.

I take full blame. But the rooms of death were totally worth it.


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