Like I said a while ago, my first attempt to get to a natural history museum in Barcelona was not so successful. Tip for future reference: Just because there’s a natural history museum marked on the map, don’t expect to find a natural history museum when you go there. Or, even if there is a natural history museum building, that’s no reason why you should expect that it would be open.
Anyway. They’ll finish renovating it someday. In the meantime, the natural history museum in Barcelona has opened Museu Blau in a funky triangular building east of downtown.
Museu Blau is the opposite of the old-fashioned, giant-building-stuffed-with-rocks model of natural history museums. I love that model. But I loved Museu Blau, too. Unusually for a natural history museum, it presents a single, coherent story about the history of the Earth. It starts with a big round screen showing you the entire Earth’s history, with continents wandering about, meeting up and spreading out as sea levels rise and fall and ice ages come and go.
Then you walk through a series of hallways that lay out the history of the Earth, with fossils and rocks and diagrams showing what life forms had evolved by that point.
I like how every natural history museum in the world has trilobites. There were a lot of trilobites swimming around the Earth’s oceans for an extremely long time, and they were diverse and had lots of hard bits to turn into fossils.
After the history section, the museum got down to the business of natural history museuming, with cases of dead animals. But they weren’t just any cases of dead animals; they were arranged around themes, like eating and locomotion. I can’t remember what case this stork was in, but it’s cool to see it next to a stork skeleton.
As if to mock my initial failure to find any natural history museum in Barcelona at all, a display at Museu Blau listed all of the natural-history-themed institutions I was missing. This included the Barcelona Zoo, of course, and the botanical gardens–things you’d expect. But then there’s the Darder Museum, which is mostly the collection of one 19th-century vet and taxonomist who collected and stuffed animals from his town. And the Museum of the Butterflies of Catalonia. And a couple dozen more. A person could clearly spend weeks traveling around Catalonia, going to different natural history museums.