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Dublin, Ireland

Natural History building, National Museum of Ireland

Dublin's "Dead Zoo" serves as a window to Victorian museum design. 

Since 1857, visitors to the Natural History building of Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland can see not only animals and minerals of Ireland but, as some say, a museum of a museum.

Containing a collection of over 2 millions specimens, the museum holds minerals and other geologic items, as well as taxidermy and the skeletons of animals of Ireland and the world, both current and extinct.

The real draw, however, is the way the museum layout and displays have gone seemingly unchanged since Victorian times. Filled with wood framed glass cases harboring stuffed African game, and situated underneath gigantic whale and shark skeletons suspended from the ceilings, the museum showcases its collection now in the same way it did at the turn of the last century.

Many of the stuffed and mounted or pickled animal specimens are over a century old and some still bear the evidence of the early days of taxidermy and occasionally, even bullet holes.

Among the most notable specimens are a polar bear in which the bullet holes are especially notable, a composite dodo bird skeleton, from the Island nation of Mauritius.

Among the most notable items in the collection are the Blaschka glass animals. Made in Dresden, Germany in the 1870’s by father and son glassmakers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, the glass is an excellent way of demonstrating to visitors what hard to preserve animals like anemones and jellyfish look like, and one of only a few collections – the largest collection of their glass flowers is found at the Harvard natural history museum – of their exquisite and astonishingly realistic work found n the world.

Update September 2017: The upper two floors of the museum are closed to visitors due to the collapse of a staircase.

Know Before You Go

The upper floors are not wheelchair accessible.

Contributed by
bradenh83
Edited by