Berlin spirits

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So a last look at some of what is on show in the new Berlin halls. These are a couple of shots of their new spirit room, a climate-controlled room to protect all of the various pickled specimens in jar upon glass jar that line the shelves. The Natural History Museum in London have also relatively recently renovated their spirit collection and moved it to not just a better environment for the material, but also opened it up to the public in a similar manner and the effect in both cases is superb.

These are parts of collections rarely seen by visitors to museums and they are difficult to display and are probably seen as something of a turn-off since it does tend to be lots of very bleached and slightly decayed bodies crammed unceremoniously into jars, and it’s often pretty tricky to tell what’s in there. However in both cases I think the point is less about exactly what is there, and more the “look at all this stuff” effect of the whole collection. You are there to see the forest, not the trees, and so it’s a demonstration of just what material and information is there and what this means for both the museum collections and science as a whole. When that is offset by the aesthetics of all that glass in a glass-fronted room and clever lighting, the effect is quite wonderful.

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3 Responses to “Berlin spirits”


  1. 1 JoNeaIsisMarie 09/05/2013 at 4:07 pm

    Reblogged this on JoNeaIsisMarie and commented:
    I’d love to see this one day

  2. 2 John Scanlon, FCD 16/05/2013 at 3:23 pm

    But when I go to see a spirit collection, I’m actually there to see the trees – er, snakes – and can’t help being aware that all those pretty photons from diverse parts of the visible spectrum are destroying useful morphological data (mainly, but surely not only, pigment). Lovely glassware, though.

    • 3 David Hone 16/05/2013 at 3:41 pm

      Well given how long the vast majority of these have either been in formalin and / or exposed to direct sunlight, I’m not sure that most have anything to lose and I imagine dry collections etc. mitigate a lot of that as well. That said, I do take your point, but any kind of public display is always going to be risking something rather by definition.


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