This past weekend we took the kids to the Museum of Natural History of Bordeaux:
This isn't really a museum of the history of Biology: it would be more accurate to say that the museum is itself an artifact.
Here you can get a real taste of what some of the earliest natural history museums were like.
This museum has been displaying animal specimens to the public since receiving a (donated) private collection back in 1791!!!
So some of these specimens have been on display for well over 200 years!!!
They look it too...
Although most of them are probably no more than a hundred years old, some of the stuffed birds have noticeably faded over the years.
The museum is a bit of a living fossil since they actually take out subsets of their various collections from time to time to do a temporary exhibit highlighting a particular continent or species. I have to admit it's a little creepy, though, to be surrounded by all of these dead animals that have been preserved with arsenic and shown in a display case lo these many years. Particularly the collection of snakes in jars (which look like maybe some of their formaldehyde has evaporated over the past century or so...):
Still, the kids liked the museum. And it's fascinating to get a first-hand feel for the types of collections the early naturalists such as Linnaeus and Darwin were studying.
If you come here, it's quite possible you may be looking at some of the exact specimens observed by Darwin if he ever made a trip to Bordeaux and/or if naturalists and collectors in England were exchanging specimens with naturalists in France.
Now that I think of it, maybe I should have taken a closer look at their collection of beetles...