This week’s image is from the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy (Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée), part of the amazing National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France:
The gallery has three levels — the first floor covers comparative anatomy, the second vertebrate fossils (seen here), and the third (where I stood while taking this picture) is essentially a balcony housing invertebrate fossils.
I think the gallery is interesting for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, it’s a storehouse of amazing fossils as well as more-recent skeletons. You can learn quite a bit from all this material, even if (like me) you don’t know much French. But I also think it’s interesting from the standpoint of inadvertently being a metamuseum — it’s a fantastic view of what natural history museums all used to look like.
More modern museums (or at least, museums that have been renovated in the past few decades) tend to have a limited number of items on display, but each comes with copious explanatory material. Context, in this case, is king.
Compared to that, older-style museums revel in their comprehensiveness — you get just a placard explaining each item, but every single spec that was collected is out on display. I have to agree that the more modern approach is better at communicating the science behind the fossils to visitors — but I still appreciate the artistry that went into the old-style arrangements of collections.