Madrid’s National Museum of Natural Sciences, Spain

Madrid’s National Museum of Natural Sciences (Spanish: Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales MNCN – CSIC) is one of the oldest in Europe and the most important in Spain. It was created by the King Carlos III in 1771, as the Royal Cabinet of Natural History. Currently it keeps almost eight million specimens and historical collections of great value. Affiliated to the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), it promotes cutting-edge researches in different fields, ranging from Paleobiology and geology to evolutionary biology, ecology and climate change. Exhibitions and activities aim to spread the knowledge generated in the museum, as well as to illustrate the phenomena and processes that explain the history of the Earth and the diversity of life.

The Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales is the National Museum of Natural History of Spain. It is situated in the center of Madrid, by the Paseo de la Castellana. It is managed by the Spanish National Research Council.

The Museum was created in 1772 by Charles III of Spain as the Gabinete Real de Historia Natural, changing names several times until its current denomination. The museum originally hosted a collection donated by a Spanish merchant, Pedro F. Dávila. In 1867, some facilities were separated to give birth to other museums (Archeology, Botanic Garden, Zoologic Garden). In 1987 the museum was restructured and grown with funds from two smaller museums.

Its origins go back to 1771, the year in which Carlos III founded the Royal Cabinet of Natural History, predecessor of the current Museum. The Royal Cabinet was born largely from the purchase of the collection of a Spanish merchant, Pedro Franco Dávila, a native of Guayaquil, in the Viceroyalty of Peru, now Ecuador.

Initially it was installed in the palace of the Count of Saceda or Goyeneche Palace, at number 13 of the Alcalá street in Madrid, where the Royal Academy of the Three Noble Arts of San Fernando (now known as Real) had its headquarters. Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando), which is why he went on to receive the name of Royal House of the Academy of the Three Noble Arts and Cabinet. The second floor of the building corresponded specifically to the Royal Cabinet. However, this space soon proved insufficient, so in 1785 Carlos III decided to entrust the architect Juan de Villanueva with the construction of a new building located in the Prado Hall, although later said building would be assigned to the then newly constituted Prado Museum, not the Royal Cabinet coming to occupy it never. On October 1, 1815, the Royal Museum of Natural Sciences of Madrid was created, which also absorbed the Royal Botanical Garden, the Royal Chemistry Laboratory and the Royal Mineralogy Study, to which it was added in December. the same year the Royal Astronomical Observatory.

In 1867, the Royal Botanical Garden and the Zoological Garden were dismembered, and the National Archaeological Museum was created with the antiquities and ethnographic collections. After being evicted in 1895 by the Ministry of Finance of the Alcalá Street building, it was installed in the Library and National Museums Palace, in some facilities that nowadays occupy the National Library. The shortage of space caused that the collections of anthropology were broken, being constituted with them in 1910 the National Museum of Anthropology, Ethnography and Prehistory.

In 1907, thanks to the efforts made by the then director, Ignacio Bolívar, began the transfer to which since then is its headquarters, the former Palace of Industry and Arts, which had been built for the National Exhibition of Industry and of the Arts of 1881 and to which the Royal Spanish Society of Natural History also moved, on the Paseo de la Castellana, which would be completed in 1910. This building, designed by the architect Fernando de la Torriente, is shared in the present with the Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineers of the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

The Museum has suffered over time the various vicissitudes of Spanish history; the worst chapter was that of the Civil War, because since 1936, the year in which it closes, it suffers a crisis that is not recovered until its restructuring in 1984, which included the absorption of the Spanish Institute of Entomology and the Institute of Geology of Madrid (old “Lucas Mallada”).

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Collections and activity:
Some of the more relevant components of the Museum collections are:

The Museum’s collections are made up of more than six million copies. The staff consists of more than 300 people working in research, exhibition and guide. From the inside, the museum focuses on research, description and conservation of biological and geological diversity around the world, for which it has six specialized departments:

Biogeography and Global Change.
Biodiversity and evolutionary biology.
Environmental Biology.
Evolutionary ecology.
It also integrates a documentation, library and archive service; A media library and a series of didactic workshops.

In addition to research, its main role vis-a-vis the public consists in the dissemination of the natural sciences and in the development of didactic aspects, through publications and exhibitions, both in its headquarters in Madrid, as in other points of geography Spanish through itinerant exhibitions.

Permanent exhibitions have been grouped into three major sections, one dedicated to Natural History (which shows various aspects of biological evolution, including the human and the current relationship of the human being with his environment); Another section is dedicated to the Mediterranean Sea (covering both biological, ecological and cultural aspects) and a section that depicts the former Royal Cabinet of Natural History. The total number of specimens preserved (among invertebrates, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, paleontology, etc.) exceeds six million specimens.

Among its funds are some historical examples, such as the megaterio (arrived in Madrid from Argentina in 1789), diplodoco (a replica dinosaur given away by the American millionaire Andrew Carnegie to King Alfonso XIII) or the magnificent dioramas of birds and mammals prepared By Luis and José María Benedito, taxidermists of the Museum during the first decades of the 20th century.

Also noteworthy are some specimens of extinct animals, such as a dissected thylacine.

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