Notes from the Field: Hanoi Zoological Museum - Atlas Obscura
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Notes from the Field: Hanoi Zoological Museum

I have an inordinate fondness for old, ratty taxidermy. I have an even bigger fondness for appointment-only collections. Cue the highlight of our Vietnam trip: The Hanoi Zoological Museum. To see it, Dylan and I contacted the museum’s director, Mr. Vu Ngoc Thanh, rather unhopefully through email. We were only in Hanoi for a few days, and we weren’t too confident that we’d be able to get a tour at the last minute. 

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Thankfully, we were wrong, and Mr. Thanh got back to us right away, set up a time, and when we arrived gave us a private tour of this incredible French-colonial era collection. It consists of three rooms — mammals, amphibians/reptiles/fish, and birds. Each room is arranged in a curio-cabinet style: aesthetically pleasing taxonomic chaos.

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The taxidermy is in poor repair, just how I like it.

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Beautifully done specimens are magestic, and one feels that they are standing in front of a true representation of the animal as it appears in life. Old, poorly done taxidermy offers something a little different.

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It becomes anthropomorphic.

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Just look at these guys. Look at all of that personality.

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How can you not love that grimace?

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This isn’t just a hare, it’s a hare from the wrong side of the tracks, just daring you to make his day.

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This baby bear — at once adorable, confused, and trying his darnedest to intimidate.

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I just love that jar of turtle eggs in the top section of the cabinet.

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This poor little guy needs some water, and I think his tag is written in pencil.

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These turtles are so surprised!

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The bird room was my favorite. The lighting was all fluorescents, casting a very eerie glow on the collection.

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The lack of eyes adds to the mood.

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This enamel tray of bird study skins is so wonderfully haphazard.

All photographs by the author.

TAXIDERMY IN POOR REPAIR: HANOI ZOOLOGICAL MUSEUM, Hanoi, Vietnam


One of the most important things to us here at the Atlas is to always keep traveling and discovering. Notes from the Field are first person reports from the most inspiring trips taken by the Atlas Obscura Team. Read more Notes From the Field Here>