I remember being scared shitless of the Natural History Museum of Ireland when I was a kid. I mean, why wouldn’t you? On entering you were greeted by the bang of gone-off chlorine and the ominous stare of the three giant deer that guarded the entrance. One could imagine these darkened skeletal steeds carrying Tolkeins Ringwraiths or the four horsemen of the apocalypse (well… three of the horsemen, anyway).
The “museum” itself was just one giant room, almost as if ‘the massive study of some loony science fiction scientist from a 1930s movie. It was stuffed with aging wood/glass cabinets filled with snarling mongoose and marmet, birds, turtles and fish; all in a frozen state of often disrepair. There were ominous liquid-filled jam jars; yellowing typewriter typed labels; containing discolored, snaptoothed eels or puffed-up angry-eyed urchins staring out at you from their forced stasis. Down the back were tiny display cases, with a seemingly disorganized array of rocks and bugs, and if you braved the stairwell to the metal balconies then trophy cabinets filled with birds, always looking as if they were about to take off at you. Hung from the ceiling a giant gummy basking shark with sticky-on plastic eyes and the sheen of a school-produced papier-mâché doll. The image of his beady plastic eyes following me around the room always stuck with me.
The metal balconies have been removed, the roof lowered a little and the display cabinet re-arranged a bit (a tiny “museum shop” has been forced into the corner by the giant Irish Elk, removing a little of their wraithe-steed charm) but, other than that, the museum retains it’s grim 19th Century charm. And this is a good thing, because this charm is really something nice and original. I mean, the entire Natural History Museum of Ireland could easily fit (and then some) into the lobby of the British Natural History Museum (and, sure, that only houses one bloody skeleton) so there has to be something to make it stand out and worth going to see.
There is a unique and scary nature to the Natural History Museum of Ireland, it’s like a timeless snapshot of the glory age of natural history documentation and slightly dodgy taxidermy.