Venice Natural History Museum
The Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia is a natural history museum in Venice, situated in the Santa Croce neighborhood, not far from the Ca’ Pesaro gallery of modern art.
The museum is housed since 1923 in the Fondaco dei Turchi (Turkish Warehouse in Italian, since in the 17th century the building was the Ottoman merchants’ headquarters in Venice), a beautiful Venetian-Gothic palace dating back to the 13th century and overlooking the Grand Canal. The current aspect of the palace, particularly its monumental facade on the Grand Canal, is partly due to a controversial “restoration” designed in the second half of the 19th century by architect Federico Berchet.
The palace also includes a small entrance garden and a porticoed courtyard,
Collections and permanent exhibition
Aimed both to children and adults, the permanent exhibition of the Venice Natural History Museum presents the history of life on Earth through a large collection of objects – including fossils and other specimens, stuffed animals, reconstruction models, and even human mummies -, videos, and interactive digital installations.
The exhibition, completely renovated in 2011, combines “old-fashioned” galleries with futuristic ones featuring multimedia exhibitions and interactive installations.
The museum’s permanent exhibition presents various subjects and scientific fields, including paleontology, zoology, biodiversity, exploration of nature, and adaptation of living creatures to changing habitats.
The museum’s ground floor accommodates two galleries. The Cetaceans Gallery presents specimens – including an 18-meter-long fin whale skeleton -, and sections focused on Cetaceans’ biology, on the history of whale hunting, and the various species of cetaceans living in the Mediterranean Sea. A second gallery includes an aquarium featuring the reconstruction of the typical habitat and marine life in the Venetian Gulf.
A fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) skeleton is suspended from the ceiling in the museum’s entrance; photo © Inexhibit
The exhibition is divided into three main sections. The first section, entitled On the tracks of life features a sequence of galleries dedicated to fossils and paleontology, the rooms are “unified” by a continuous winding plane running across all galleries and supporting display cases and specimens. This section focuses on the history of life on planet Earth from the Precambrian to the Cenozoic era and also includes a gallery specifically dedicated to dinosaurs.
The second section, Collecting to astonish, collecting for research, begins in three visually impressive rooms, dedicated to Venetian explorers, which narrate the history of scientific expeditions by using an intentionally “old-fashioned” style; explorers’ memorabilia and artifacts are placed into imposing glass and wood cabinets in the main gallery, while a number of hunting trophies and stuffed animals are arranged onto the walls of the two adjoining rooms. This section also features an octagonal 18th-century-style cabinet of curiosities accommodating a bizarre collection of “nature’s wonders”.
The third part of the permanent exhibition, entitled The strategies of life, encompasses many thematic galleries featuring specimens, models, and interactive digital exhibits to present the complexity of life on our planet, and its capability to adapt to different environments. Each theme, such as “moving in three dimensions into the water”, “stay idle” or “eating light”, is depicted into a dedicated space, characterized by forms and colors aimed to evoke the corresponding natural habitats.
The program of activities of the Venice Museum of Natural History includes special exhibitions, conferences, science learning courses and workshops aimed at children, adults, schools, and educators. The museum’s building is fully accessible to physically impaired people and also includes a specialized library, a shop, a cafe, and a small garden.
The museum’s entrance from Salizada del Fondego dei Turchi, and the small entrance garden; photos © Inexhibit
“On the tracks of life” gallery, the Dinosaurs’ hall; photo © Inexhibit
Views of the “On the tracks of life” gallery, mostly featuring specimens dating from 600 million to about one million years ago; photos © Inexhibit
The hunting trophies room, and some views of the “cabinet of curiosities”; photos © Inexhibit
An interactive installation and various galleries dedicated to how animals move, to marine creatures, and birds; photos © Inexhibit
Cover image: Venice Natural History Museum, the courtyard; photo © Inexhibit
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