By Blaise Yafcak
On Thursday afternoon, following our talk with Maja Figge, we met Heidi at Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History). Being a fauna nerd myself, I was excited to see what the museum had to offer. From the outside, the museum looked quite impressive, the collections housed in an old, columned building that spanned almost the entire block. We all headed into the museum with plans to meet back at the front in two hours. Little did we know, the museum would not take quite so long to explore.
We walked into the first room, which displayed a large dinosaur skeleton. After a few Night at the Museum comments, we headed into the next room, which featured a slow-spinning globe, a taxidermy wild horse, and a brief history of the planet. In the next room, Heidi exclaimed loudly and in genuine surprise and horror that the animals on display were, in fact, real animals that had been shot and stuffed. After her initial shock, Heidi proclaimed many times that the museum was creepy, freaky, and uncomfortable. Although I already knew that the animals were real, I was shocked at the shoddy taxidermy. Kaimara stated that whoever had stitched these animals back together ought to be fired, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Many of the animals were quite literally falling apart at the seams, their stuffing peeking out. Some had sections of their hides falling off completely.
We, then, wandered back out to the atrium, where we got comfortable on a circular couch that looked up at a screen hovering above our heads. It was a short movie about the solar system. However, we could do nothing more than look at the images, as the narration was all in German. So, Heidi took it upon herself to make up her own story as to what was happening in the video.
After climbing up to the second floor, only to find that the rooms there were closed to the public, we peered through the windows to see what we were missing. The room had something to do with evolution, and displayed rows and rows of birds in glass cabinets. Heidi mused that had her children seen this, they might make up bizarre stories and ask questions like, “What if a meteor came down and hit the earth and all the birds came alive?”
We went back downstairs on that note and ambled through a room that was closed for repairs, plastic sheets draped haphazardly over hippos and deer. A museum employee held open a door for us, and we walked into a cold, dark room, where floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets housed hundreds if not thousands of jars, each filled with unidentifiable creatures floating in formaldehyde. It felt as though we had just entered the potions storage room at Hogwarts. The room was strange, and we hurried through it.
What struck me most about the museum was how utterly neglected the place felt. The Museum of Natural History in New York, where I grew up, is always teeming with children and adults, and not a single animal shows any signs of wear and tear. I think we were all disappointed, as we barely spent an hour there.
It’s safe to say the highlight of the afternoon was our fro-yo stop at Yoli after we left the museum, where we covered our yogurt in as many toppings could fit, and Stefani marveled at the small metal tables that inexplicably had handles jutting out of the top. We “took over” the shop, as we often do, trying to decipher the abstract wall art and watching a small girl tell the woman behind the counter exactly what she wanted on her waffle cone, while Heidi mused on godparenting and spilled coffee.