{Germany} A Visit to the Berlin “Dinosaur Museum”

September 25, 2014

Kids in Museums, Germany

Last week, I found myself with a rare midweek day to spend with #MuseumBaby, following a late morning appointment after which it was too late to send him to nursery. I asked him what he would like to do, and without hesitation he exclaimed “The dinosaur museum!” – a.k.a. Berlin’s Natural History Museum. This was a little surprising, as usually he will ask to go to the “Car Museum” (i.e. the Technology Museum), but I wasn’t about to complain since the Natural History Museum is my favourite in Berlin, and I didn’t particularly need to spend all afternoon watching #MuseumBaby sitting in an orange Trabant car. We have been to the Natural History Museum before, but it’s never really grabbed his attention as much as other museums have and our visits in the past have rarely lasted more than half an hour. But somewhere between our most recent visit in February (aged 3 1/4) and last week, the dinosaur switch in his brain had been flipped and it was all he could talk about.

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin

He made a beeline for the museum’s star attraction, the ‘World of Dinosaurs’ or, as we call it, the dinosaur hall. Here you will find an over 13 metre high Brachiosaurus skeleton, the biggest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world! A few years ago, the museum held a competition for the public to name the Brachiosaurus. It was before our time in Berlin, but it turns out that the winning name is the same as #MuseumBaby’s – a fact he is very proud off, and greeting and meeting his namesake was one of the highlights of the visit for him (in other words, he was jumping around in excitement shouting out over and over that he and the dinosaur had the same name). Unfortunately, the Brachiosaurus is so tall, it was impossible to get a photograph of the two namesakes together.

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Brachiosaurus

Scattered around the dinosaur display are some info panels with integrated AV screens. If you touch certain underlined words in the text, short film clips appear on the screens. I was surprised – and pleased – at how interested #MuseumBaby was in these. Even though initially it was more the attraction of the touch screens themselves, he then went back and specifically re-watched the clip with close-up of the head several times. He was even more enthralled by the ‘Jurascopes’. These show four of the dinosaurs on display – first you see the skeleton, then the organs, flesh and skin are added in an animation, and the final animation shows them walking around, eating or chasing each other in what would would have been their natural environment. There are two sets of Jurascopes on either side of the hall, each with three viewfinders to look through plus one screen at ground level that shows the same animations, for visitors who can’t reach the viewfinders. We must have spent at least half an hour watching the various animations over and over and over – especially the Brachiosaurus. We even had to come again for another round of Jurascopes after having been round the rest of the museum. But don’t worry, there is a bench close by that parents can have a rest on ;)

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Jurascope

The other thing #MuseumBaby was really excited about, was going to “watch the fire film!” It didn’t take me long to figure out that he meant the multimedia installation about the cosmos and solar system. In the semi-darkened gallery, you will find a ring of lit globes representing the various planets.

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Solar System - Planets

In the middle, is a round sofa that visitors can lie back on to watch a circular screen on the ceiling (see #MuseumBaby below, waiting for the next screening to start). The screen slowly starts to descend as it tells the story of the creation of the universe and the Earth. When it reaches its lowest point, just a few metres above visitors’ heads, they suddenly see themselves on the screen – finding ourselves on the screen and waving is part of the fun for #MuseumBaby! Then the screen slowly ascends again, telling the story of the different planets we know today on its way up. There’s a seven minute wait between screenings, and #MuseumBaby patiently waited to watch the whole thing again. Then we had to come back later during out visit for a third viewing. All in all, the dinosaurs/ Jurascopes and the solar system multimedia screenings must have made up about two thirds of our visit!

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Star Gazing

I then suggested we take a look around the rest of the museum, and find out what the special exhibition on flies that had been advertised at the entrance was all about. #MuseumBaby was a little skeptical, but consented to checking it out. The way there led through the gallery on ‘Evolution in Action’, filled with various animal taxidermy exhibits. He wasn’t that bothered about seeing the animals that day, though he did stop and make me take a photograph of the back end of the zebra – seems that kids never get bored of animal bottoms!

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Zebra Bottom

As it turned out, the exhibition on flies wasn’t that interested for #MuseumBaby, but he did spend quite a while staring in to the display unit showcasing various means of exterminating flies. I was a little grossed out by the piles and piles of dead flies, but my little guy has a big heart and was fairly inconsolable about the “poor flies”. That’s kids for you.

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Dead Flies

The other thing that caught his attention, was a row of viewfinders which each showed a close-up of different flies’ eyes. #MuseumBaby was fascinated by this. He had to look at every single one – and made sure I looked at every single one too!

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Fly Eyes

Our final stop – not counting our revisit to the Jurascopes at the end – was in the museum’s excellent wet collection. #MuseumBaby wasn’t overly excited by this, though he also wasn’t freaked out like some of the older kids I’ve seen in there, or even adults. He did show some interest, however, asking what it was all about, and luckily I remembered where to find the set of four jars showing snakes trying to eat various animals, This was a winner – and later recounted to daddy over dinner!

MfN Wet Collection

So, just to summarise for anyone thinking about taking their toddler to Berlin’s Natural History Museum: The dinosaur hall with Jurascopes and the solar system installation were the winners for us this time. The wet collection was moderately interesting (the snakes are at the narrow end of the gallery, opposite the main door). The evolution gallery is also a great space to go and spot animals your kids might know – this is where we’ve spent most times in the past, before dinosaurs became interesting to him. #MuseumBaby is almost 4, in case you’re wondering. And yes, I know, he’s not really a baby any more…

Museum für Naturkunde - Natural History Museum - Berlin - Gift Shop - Dinosaur

In contrast to our previous half hour visits, our visit this time lasted well over two hours by which time I was hungry and a bit bored of dinosaurs and almost begging to go home. Oh, the irony! Eventually, we excited through the gift shop – be prepared for your kids to badger you for a souvenir from the shop’s excellent selection – and met daddy along the road for coffee and cake, as his office is near the museum. And would you believe it, afterwards on our way to the U-Bahn station to catch the train home,#MuseumBaby asked if we could go back to the museum again instead. When I pointed out we’d already left he said “You can show them the ticket again!” Kids, can’t get anything past them. I had to solemnly promise that we would be back soon.

Opening Times: Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9:30am to 6pm and weekends and holidays from 10am to 6pm. Closed on Mondays.

Admission: 6 Euros for adults, concessions and family tickets available. Pre-school children go free. Free entry also for ICOM members.

Pushchair Access: There is a barrier-free entrance round the side of the museum (round to the right side, if facing the building). You must ring the bell to be let in.

Photography: Photography for personal use is allowed in the permanent exhibitions, but without a tripod.

WiFi: None.

Food: The museum does not currently have a cafe, though there are a couple of vending machines and tables and chairs to sit if you bring your own packed lunch

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3 Responses to “{Germany} A Visit to the Berlin “Dinosaur Museum””

  1. Eva Says:

    Hi, what a nice post, really enjoyed it, had to smile the whole time. I can only imagine the excitement of #MuseumBaby :), looking forward to your next reviews. Eva



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