The Museum of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences by Fred Bervoets
by Fred Bervoets
The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences originated from the private collection of Charles of Lorraine (1712-1780), after his death a donation made by the Emperor Joseph II, a part of Charles of Lorraine\'s collection was purchased by the Academy of Sciences and Literature.
During the French invasion in 1794 the collection was plundered and the remains were transferred to the museum of the \"Ecole centrale\" founded in Brussels in 1797 by the National Convention. In 1802 the \" Eco centrale\" was closed, however thanks to the wakefulness of the curator, Adrien Dekin, the collections were saved and the physics and natural history room purchased by the city of Brussels in 1811 and opened for the public in 1815. The collections were transferred to the Belgian State in 1842 and, in 1846; the museum was given a new status, becoming the Royal Belgian Museum of Natural History. In 1948, the official name of the Museum became: the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
The museum houses perfectly preserved iguanodon skeletons, which have become in a way the symbol of the Institute. Some of the Bernissart iguanodons are displayed mounted on their hind legs while other skeletons are presented in the position in which they were found within the clay. If you have a good sight in the dark you even might see details of them, the black skeletons from the coalmine are very poorly lift out by a few weak spotlights. When you visited the museum you must take time to let your eyes adapt to this dark circumstances, then you will probably also notice the broken tails, the result of the inaccurate and unnatural reconstruction.
Walking trough this museum is an amazing time consuming journey through Earth\'s history and taken the fact that replica\'s of moon rock are a part of the collection its even a universal journey. The museum itself sometimes breathes a Victorian style, maybe that\'s the reason that during our visit unfortunately a number of showcases were shrouded in dark due to failing electricity. But even besides that you will have to little time to actually see all the great treasures of this museum in just one day.
The life-sized dinosaur robots where made to invite the visitor to travel back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. It\'s a good thing that this dinosaur section of the museum also isn\'t placed in bright lights because the difference between life-sized en life-like is clearly to distinguish for the more practiced eye. As a result of shortness in maintenance the museum even displays a complete new, not yet described hadrosaurid here to call Parasaurolophus shawlae. While the replica of a Tyrannosaurus skull is displayed in the open beneath a life-reconstruction of the dinosaur itself, almost all other replica skulls and dinosaur remains are unfortunately displayed behind the mirroring glass of showcases.
A iguanodon in quadruped stance is displayed while being under attack from a predatory dinosaur, this predatory dinosaur is displayed as Megalosaurus, probably because a single theropod bone that was found in the Bernissart quarry originally was referred to it, the skeleton however is largely based on Allosaurus fragilis. Fortunately these fossils aren\'t placed behind glass.
As written above, this museum shows a remarkable amount of true treasures of Earth\'s history, the museum exhibits probably one of the largest collections of human fossils in Europe among them are the famous \"Lucy\" and \"Spy\". There is a special section on ancient marine life showing mosasaurs, ichtyosaurs and plesiosaurs, and there is also a life reconstruction of a juvenile mammoth standing in front of an adult group.
There is a lot more to see than is described here, just be sure that whenever you plan to visit this museum you will need a lot of time to see all the fossil and life treasures on display.