The Museum of Natural History (German: Museum für Naturkunde MfN), is a natural history museum in Berlin, Germany. The museum houses more than 30 million zoological, paleontological, and mineralogical specimens, including more than ten thousand type specimens. It is famous for two spectacular exhibits: the largest mounted dinosaur in the world, and an exquisitely preserved specimen of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx.
In addition to the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt and the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) in Bonn, the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin is the largest natural science museum in Germany. The holdings comprise more than 30 million objects. Originally part of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, it has been a foundation of public law since 1 January 2009 with the full name “Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz Institute for Evolutionary and Biodiversity Research” (often called “Naturkundemuseum” “Zoological Museum of the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin”). It is a member of the Leibniz Association and is located in the Invalidenstraße, in the suburb of Oranienburg in the district Mitte (district Mitte) of Berlin. The Naturkundemuseum can be reached via a metro station of the same name.
Established in 1810, it is the largest museum of natural history in Germany. The museum’s mineral collections date back to the Prussian Academy of Sciences of 1700. Important historic zoological specimens include those recovered by the German deep-sea Valdiva expedition (1898–99), the German Southpolar Expedition (1901–03), and the German Sunda Expedition (1929–31). Expeditions to fossil beds in Tendaguru in former Deutsch Ostafrika (today Tanzania) unearthed rich paleontological treasures. The collections are so extensive that less than 1 in 5000 specimens is exhibited, and they attract researchers from around the world.
The originally three-wing structure, designed by August Tiede, was opened in 1889 and united three independent institutions of the Berlin University: the Geological-Palaeontological, the Mineralogical-Petrographic and the Zoological Museum. The latter had already been founded in 1809 by the naturalist Johann Centurius von Hoffmannsegg; In the 1860s Friedrich Anton Schneider was a curator. From 1914 to 1917 another cross-section was erected.
In 2005 the skeleton of Brachiosaurus brancai was dismantled, which in 1937 had been composed of several partial skeletons and modeled supplements. It was newly conserved and revised in spring 2007 according to current scientific findings. The skeleton has since been one meter higher than before, since the front legs were stretched under the body. In addition, the tail was no longer reconstructed on the ground, since today it is known that Brachiosaurus, like all other dinosaurs, did not drag his tail on the ground but carried it above the ground.
The dismantling of the dinosaurs was necessary because of the redevelopment of the roof and the entire exhibition hall financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the State of Berlin and the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin. In total, four rooms and a stairs house were renovated with a volume of around 16 million euros and completely redesigned with multimedial components. On 13 July 2007, the reopening took place with new exhibitions on the evolution of life and the earth. Within one year after this reopening, more than 731,000 visitors visited the museum.
The East wing destroyed in the Second World War on 3 February 1945 by a bomb attack and ruined since then was rebuilt after mid-November 2006 after ten years of planning for 29.6 million euros, until it was released to the public in September 2010. There are about 80,000 glasses with liquid preparations of fish and reptiles in 70% alcohol. In January 2012, the reconstruction of the East Wing by the Architekturbüro Diener & Diener was awarded the DAM Prize for Architecture in Germany.
Additional exhibits include a mineral collection representing 75% of the minerals in the world, a large meteor collection, the largest piece of amber in the world; exhibits of the now-extinct quagga, huia, and tasmanian tiger, and “Bobby” the gorilla, a Berlin Zoo celebrity from the 1920s and 1930s.
Since the museum renovation in 2007, a large hall explains biodiversity and the processes of evolution, while several rooms feature regularly changing special exhibitions.
The museum is mainly known for its skeletal structure, originally the Brachiosaurus brancai, the world’s largest skeleton of a dinosaur. It was voted the Fossil of 2012 by the Paleontological Society. The previously preserved skeleton of the genus was found by a German expedition in the Tendaguru layers of the then German-East Africa colony, now Tanzania. The art epithet brancai honors the then director of the museum, Wilhelm von Branca, who had made it possible to finance the expedition. However, a detailed Taylor study was published in 2009 comparing the skeleton with the holotype of Brachiosaurus and concluding that the Tendaguru material should be placed in a genus of giraffatitan.
The Giraffatitan is the central element of the new exhibition “Saurierwelt” in the indoor courtyard of the museum. This exhibition is dedicated to the Tendaguru (Oberjura) site. In addition to the Giraffatitan, there are six other dinosaurs: Dicraeosaurus, Diplodocus, Kentrosaurus, Allosaurus, Dysalotosaurus and Elaphrosaurus. Exhibitions are dedicated to the airspace and the aquatic area of Tendaguru. In the Lichthof is also the very well-preserved original of an Archaeopteryx (“Berliner Exemplar”), the paraven known as the oldest bird from the Solnhofen Plattenkalkken Southern Germany.
In the new “Evolution in Action” hall, the exhibition on the diversity of life forms (biodiversity) is shown by the example of animals. A 12-meter-long and four-meter high “biodiversity wall” gives an impression of this variety with 3000 different animals. The exhibition shows the animal world as a result of evolution, which began about 3.5 billion years ago. It is about the mechanisms that work here and on what results they lead. In a media installation, the Museum of Biological Diversity presents an intellectual diversity: the diversity of man’s view of the phenomenon of life is presented on the basis of seven basic questions.
The museum also shows minerals, fossils, hoofed animals and native animals. The dioramas, which show different animals in their natural environment, are valuable as cultural-historical values.
The collections of the museum, which are outside the exhibition area, include the Animal Archives as well as objects of mineralogy, zoology and paleontology, and since 2004 also the embryological collection of Ambrosius Hubrecht and J.P.Hill with approx. 80,000 histological preparations. In total, the collection includes more than 30 million objects, among them 130,000 endangered birds with approximately 90% of all bird species worldwide and 130,000 fish imported into alcohol. In addition to his public educational assignment with the permanent and special exhibitions, the museum sees its tasks in the scientific documentation and interpretation of the animated and inanimate nature, which is realized in different research projects.
The specimen of Giraffatitan brancai in the central exhibit hall is the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world. It is composed of fossilized bones recovered by the German paleontologist Werner Janensch from the fossil-rich Tendaguru beds of Tanzania between 1909 and 1913. The remains are primarily from one gigantic animal, except for a few tail bones (caudal vertebrae), which belong to another animal of the same size and species.
The “Berlin Specimen” of Archaeopteryx lithographica (HMN 1880), is displayed in the central exhibit hall. The dinosaur-like body with an attached tooth-filled head, wings, claws, long lizard-like tail, and the clear impression of feathers in the surrounding stone is strong evidence of the link between reptiles and birds. The Archaeopteryx is a transitional fossil; and the time of its discovery was apt: coming on the heels of Darwin’s 1859 magnum opus, The Origin of Species, made it quite possibly the most famous fossil in the world.
The MFN’s collection comprises roughly 250,000 specimens of minerals, of which roughly 4,500 are on exhibit in the Hall of Minerals.
Evolution in action:
A large hall explains the principles of evolution. It was opened in 2007 after a major renovation of parts of the building.
Tristan – Berlin bares teeth:
The Museum für Naturkunde now exhibits one of the best-preserved T. Rex skeletons worldwide. Of approximately 300 bones, 170 have been preserved, which puts it in the third position among others.
Current research topics are the reconstruction of the evolution of different animal groups, biodiversity research in today ‘s habitats, changes in the environment and use in southern Africa, biogeography, paleoecology, the early development of solar systems, the impact of asteroids on Earth and their impact on the Earth Earth crust and the biosphere as well as the education research.
The Museum für Naturkunde, together with the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Potsdam, is also a research institution.
The CEO was Reinhold Leinfelder from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2010. After a period in which Ferdinand Damaschun was the director general of the museum, Johannes Vogel has been the new director general of the museum since 1 February 2012.
Since 1 January 2009, the Museum für Naturkunde has been a member of the Leibniz Association since September 24, 2009 and is a founding member of the Humboldt-Ring since September 24.
The Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science is an integrated research museum within the Leibniz Association. It is one of the most important research institutions worldwide in the areas of biological and geological evolution and biodiversity. We study life and planet Earth, maintaining a dialogue with people. Our mission, our vision, our strategy and our structure make our Museum an excellent research museum. We have research partners in Berlin, Germany and approximately 60 other countries. Over 500,000 visitors per year, as well as steadily increasing participation in educational and other events show that we have become an innovative communication centre that helps shape the scientific and social dialogue about the future of our earth – worldwide. Alongside knowledge transfer, research and our collections are the main pillars of the Museum’s work. The collections are a unique cultural asset and inextricably linked to our research. They comprise over 30 million items covering zoology palaeontology, geology and mineralogy and are of highest scientific and historical importance. The permanent exhibitions and the regular special exhibitions give the public an insight into current research at the Museum. They highlight original research objects, and visitors are encouraged and inspired to find their own route into research and experience ‘evolution in action’ rather than following a given pathway.