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The Story of Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde

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Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde is not only a treasure trove of specimens and a pioneer in the history of natural history museums but, having celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2010, it has also endured some pivotal moments in history. During World War II, allied bombings mostly destroyed the building’s East Wing, and from 1961 to 1989, the museum was on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall.

Today, the museum is dedicated to shaping “the scientific and public debate on the future of our planet,” specifically addressing the challenges of poverty, climate security, food and water security, and helping to protect the world’s biodiversity. From wikipedia:

The museum houses more than 30 million zoological, paleontological, and mineralogical specimens, including more than ten thousand type specimens. It is famous for two exhibits: the largest mounted dinosaur in the world (a Giraffatitan skeleton), and a well-preserved specimen of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx. The museum’s mineral collections date back to the Prussian Academy of Sciences of 1700. Important historic zoological specimens include those recovered by the German deep-sea Valdiva expedition (1898–99), the German Southpolar Expedition (1901–03), and the German Sunda Expedition (1929–31). Expeditions to fossil beds in Tendaguru in former Deutsch Ostafrika (today Tanzania) unearthed rich paleontological treasures. The collections are so extensive that less than 1 in 5000 specimens is exhibited, and they attract researchers from around the world. Additional exhibits include a mineral collection representing 75% of the minerals in the world, a large meteor collection, the largest piece of amber in the world; exhibits of the now-extinct quagga, huia, and tasmanian tiger, and “Bobby” the gorilla, a Berlin Zoo celebrity from the 1920s and 1930s.

In the video above, The Brain Scoop‘s Emily Graslie visits the Museum für Naturkunde through a secret door in Chicago’s Field Museum, the first of three collaborative videos betweeen the two institutions.

Next, watch more awesome videos from The Brain Scoop, and more videos about specimens and museums around the world.

Bonus videos: The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and Why are museum collections so important? Sir David Attenborough explains.

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