Have you ever wondered at the evolution of the horse from a small dog-sized thing to the beast of burden, Grand National winner or oat-powered transport of today? Or at the different forms the cousins of the good old dung beetle can take? In search of answers try the Darwin Museum, a ten-minute walk from Akademicheskaya metro, although you will have to fight your way in past an army of admiring child fans; why this should be so is a mystery. I suppose I have forgotten the childhood wonder I had in the seemingly repulsive anatomical habits of the reptiles and insects of this world. But to be honest I should just own up to the fact that I am a big kid and still love the scientific interests of the ten year-old be they flies' or Saturn's rings. Not all share this interest of course and so the museum caters for a range of tastes by offering stuffed versions of cute furry mammals. Siberian wolves peer lifelessly out of glass display cases along with bears, foxes, frogs, and birds of all kinds. The lions look a bit moth-eaten though.
Education is definitely the number one aim although entertainment comes into it. I think some of their efforts could be directed to the adult audience more but this is a slight point. It shares the target audience of other great museums, and this is a great museum, such as the Victoria and Albert in London (otherwise known as the V&A). There are computers available with information on the exhibits as well as numerous wall displays and posters illustrating a point. The theory of natural evolution is unraveled before us pictorially or even physically in some cases by showing hybrids and the two original forms, or a comparison of fetuses clearly showing our vertebrate origins: a curling spinal column in each case and segmented by vertebrae, those individual back bones marking us out as cousins of not only chimps but fish, lizards, birds, dinosaurs and whales, but excluding slugs, crabs and seaweed.
You won't be too impressed if you're a creationist and your fellow believers are given short shrift in a small display labeled critics of Darwin. But if you like your stag beetles heavily armed (although somewhat dead unfortunately - live ones and other great six-legged killers are in the zoo's insect house) then you'll love this place. Don't go if you don't like spiders in the bath.
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