A Bit of Natural History in Dubrovnik

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Natural History Museum Dubrovnik, Prirodoslovni muzej Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Clearly this is not the biggest Natural History Museum in the world, and if you go expecting something of the calibre of its namesake in London, you’re going to be disappointed.  But this is very family-friendly, charming and – like most museums in Dubrovnik – underfunded.  What saves it, for me, is the fact that its heart is in the right place and it has an ambition which will doubtless help it grow in the future – if it gets the money.

Based on the initial collection started by Antun Drobac in 1872, the collection grew with the acquisitions of Baldo Kosic between 1882-1917.  The base of the collection, like most from this period in museums everywhere, is stuffed animals.  The rest are dried out and in cabinets.  It’s nicely done and will probably interest children, especially those who have never stared into the glassy eye of a ferret before.

The museum is in an attractive building, so there is definite architectural interest as you walk through the rooms that are spread across the four floors.  Each level focusses on specific aspects of the animal kingdom, so there is a clear theme across the rooms which again makes it good for children.  We were also struck by how creative the curators have been.  The top floor has a room filled with clear baubles, filled with shells and sea-creatures.  It’s an attractive design, and a more interesting way to present what are, despite their watery origins, somewhat dry objects.

But nothing quite compares to what we thought was the highlight: when we visited, there was an exhibition (not sure if it’s temporary or not) about being under the sea.  As we came up the stairs, the voice of Freddie Mercury came floating to our ears, saying repeatedly, “Under Pressure”.  We Chickpeas are easily amused, and were giggling at this.  Then we went into the second room, following the twirling hanging CDs, into the most amazing room.  I mean really: Freddie Mercury fish!  Then turn round, and wait!  There are two more!  Three Freddies!  What genius!

I think the whole point of the room was to talk about the pressure that… happens… under the sea?  Not sure.  Honestly, I was too amused by the whole thing to take in any of the information.  I’m sure it was very serious and important.

The star item of the collection for me was the astonishing, lace-like Venus’ flower basket.  It is a type of glass sponge that is found near Japan and the Philippines.  The structure is remarkable, and has been examined by scientifically minded fellows who have tried to learn a thing or two from this exquisite masterpiece.  It’s made of glass-like fibres which are made of silica, so while in theory it’s fragile, in practice its clever, geometric design and structure make it strong and flexible.  Well, if David Attenborough thought it was good enough to add to his Ark, it’s got to be cool: www.bbc.co.uk

Incidentally, the sponge is associated with eternal love in Asian cultures, due to the fact that Mr and Mrs Shrimp move into it when they are quite small and just married.  They then grow and become too big to ever leave, and are stuck together for ever and ever and ever.  Their offspring float away and find a sponge-prison of their own.  The shrimp then live out their lives eating whatever passes through the sponge’s lattice windows and cleaning the sponge in thanks for giving them a protective, albeit jail-like, home.

So In Summary

If you are visiting any of the museums on the Dubrovnik Card or the DU’M ticket, then the Natural History Museum is free and worth a peep.  Don’t expect much, and be like the now-dried watery critters when they were fresh: go with the flow.  The curators are obviously really trying their best.  I mean, they don’t even have a website.

Practical Information 

There is a little room aimed at children where they can play in friendly, animal-based surroundings.

Everything was available in English.

We visited in April 2017.

How to Get There

Like everything in Dubrovnik Old Town, it’s easy to walk to.  If you aim towards the stairs leading to the St Ignatius Church (that look like the Spanish Steps), you’ll see a road going off to the left called Androvićeva – go down that and you’ll soon see the museum.  But here’s a link to a handy map: www.godubrovnik.com



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