Victorian Sensibilities

The Dead Zoo

What do you get when Victorian-era zoologists and amateur collectors go crazy? Evidently Dublin’s Museum of Natural History, affectionately called the Dead Zoo by locals. Since 1857 this museum has been delighting young and old alike, at least those who enjoy walking among lots of dead, stuffed things. The crowded, three-story Victorian-adorned edifice is a treasure trove of animals, insects, and birds from around the world with a heavy concentration of Irish-specific species. The brochure states there are 10,000 specimens on display, selected from 2,000,000 in their collection. The experience of being there shows they couldn’t fit number 10,001.

Even though photography was forbidden, I managed (bad Gary) a quick snap from the third floor, shown above. Gives you some idea of how crowded the place is and the Victorianesque feeling. Visited twice, the first time arriving too close to closing time (5 o’clock prompt) to see much, but the second time arriving early enough to invest an hour sketching a few residents. The two sketches I managed (below) were drawn from ground floor (moose) and the narrow second-floor balcony (whale).

Bullwinkle's ancestor

whale bones

The Dead Zoo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re the type that enjoys museum dioramas and zoos, then you’re in for a treat. If you visit Dublin, be sure to save time for this unique flashback to an era that encouraged compulsive collecting.

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