I cannot resist a natural history museum, but visiting one is always a very conflicted experience for me*. On the one hand I’m filled with awe and wonder at the beauty, diversity and downright magnificent strangeness of nature, and on the other hand I’m wholly overwhelmed by the collective weight of all those dead creatures – thousands upon thousands skinned, stacked, bottled, tagged, pinned, preserved, shellacked and mounted for our edification and viewing pleasure.

My experience at Vienna’s Naturhistorisches Museum was no different. Complete and utter absorption coupled with a persistent and unshakeable sense of loss…

In our endless search for answers we’ve got a lot to answer for.

sunfish, inside and out
(A beautiful sunfish skeleton photo, taken by Lewis Carroll in 1857,
can be found here)

* I’ve recently started reading Stephen T. Asma’s ‘Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture of Natural History Museums‘, and am hoping this will shed some more light on the whys and wherefores of the very polar responses I (we?) have to natural history museums.