The heart of the "Natur Musée"

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Exhibitions in museums only show a fraction of their collection. Two curators showed us the centrepiece of the National Museum of Natural History, explained why it exists - and talked about the Sisyphean task of keeping track of 3.2 million objects.

Alexander Weigand opens the heavy metal door: skulls and skeletons. The zoological collection of the Natur Musée knows how to make a lasting first impression. Here, in a nondescript warehouse just outside Luxembourg City, the curators store some of the specimens that are not on display in the museum. Weigand is curator of zoology who has been working at the National Museum of Natural History since 2019 and takes us into the hall together with Axel Hochkirch, curator of ecology. He has only been employed by the museum since 2023 and discovers this part of the collection together with us. We walk past prepared fish that look as if they could jump back into the water at any moment, prepared skeletons, "bird bellows" – lying, preserved birds –, huge spiral-shaped ammonite fossils and seemingly endless rows of drawers, into the heart of the collection.

The hall is a compromise solution and not really suitable for the long-term storage of the museum collection. The fact that it is nevertheless located here is simply a question of the size and cost of a "proper" depot, explains Weigand: "A new building was out of the question at the time and there is no suitable depot close to the museum, let alone space." As long as the idea of a central depot is a "dream of the future", the museum will remain here. The cool 17 degrees in the hall keep pests under control.

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