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Natural history museums face their own past

Science

Step into the main hall of the Natural History Museum in Berlin and you'll be greeted by a towering dinosaur skeleton, the tallest ever mounted. Nearly four stories high and twice as long as a school bus, the sauropod Giraffatitan brancai was the largest dinosaur known for more than a half-century. It has been a crowd magnet since it was first displayed in 1937. It lived in eastern Africa, today's Tanzania, much of which was a German colony when the fossil was unearthed in the early 1900s. Now, some Tanzanian politicians argue that the fossils should return to Africa.


Fake 'giant spider fossil' turns out to be a crayfish with painted-on legs

Daily Mail - Science & tech

A fossil that was purchased by scientists and described as a new species of giant spider in a research paper is no more than a giant crayfish fossil with painted-on legs. Palaeontologists at the Dalian Natural History Museum in China bought the fossil from a cheeky farmer and described it as a new species in the peer-reviewed journal of the Geological Society of China earlier this year. But the new find, which was christened Mongolarachne chaoyangensis, left some scientists suspicious, including Dr Paul Selden, professor of invertebrate palaeontology at the University of Kansas. Dr Selden uncovered the hoax after being alerted to the fossil by colleagues in Beijing and has now detailed his detective work in a new paper. 'The legs were painted on quite skilfully': The fossil has been redescribed in a Palaeoentomology Size: Female total body length estimated at 24.6 millimeters long, with forwards length 56.5 millimetres long.


Shuttered natural history museums fight for survival

Science

Science's COVID-19 coverage is supported by the Pulitzer Center. A few months ago, retirement was the furthest thing from David Thomas's mind. "Then the world went upside down," recalls the archaeologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In March, the coronavirus pandemic forced the museum to close its doors. No more school groups thronging the interactive exhibits, no more corporate dinners or lines of international tourists waiting to pay $23 a head to marvel at fossils.


A look inside the Creation Museum's cabinet of curiosities

Los Angeles Times

The earliest natural history museums -- the cabinets of curiosities of the 16th and 17th centuries -- were always understood as reflecting the works of the divine, a "Book of Nature" to parallel the Bible. When Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher assembled his collection of natural oddities, scientific instruments and other unusual ephemera in the 17th century, he dedicated it ad maiorem gloriam Dei, "to the greater glory of God." As the cabinet of curiosities evolved through the 18th and 19th centuries to become the contemporary natural history museum, it gradually lost this focus. Religion and science became at first distinct and then actively opposed to one another, and the divine ceased to have any kind of place in the modern natural history museum. Now, instead of Kircher's cabinet and its glorification of God, we have the Creation Museum: a massive structure in Kentucky close to Cincinnati, founded by creationist Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis organization.


Google launches incredible virtual tours of London's Natural History Museum

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Google has teamed up with the London and Berlin Natural History Museums to create a unique online exhibition featuring a staggering 300,000 specimens. Using the firm's Street View, interactive interior shots of the famous museums enable people to wander its halls from the comfort of their own home. The nine virtual exhibitions included the experience include the first T-Rex fossil ever found, extinct mammoths and a skull from a narwhal or'sea unicorn'. Google has teamed up with the London and Berlin Natural History Museums to create a unique online exhibition featuring a staggering 300,000 specimens. Last year, the Natural History Museum used virtual reality to transport visitors back more than 500 million years to the first explosion of life deep under the sea as part of David Attenborough's First Life exhibit.