Kazakhstan mountains as seen from Almaty's Botanical Gardens.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Bangkok, Thailand.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Not sure!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Interesting day at the Natural Sciences Museum in Brussels

Thursday morning, we drove from Antwerp down to Brussels on the motorway. No point in taking photos because you don't see much except for truck traffic. Definitely not an enjoyable way to drive in our mind, although if you have to get somewhere in a hurry, then I suppose it's the way to go.

And we were in a bit of a hurry because we had arranged to meet our friend Freya who works at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

The museums official title is the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

We met Freya at about 12:30pm and she took us on a quick walk through just to give us a basic idea of where things were, and which exhibits are worth spending the most time at. She has been working here at the museum for 13 years. She is part of a team of four graphic designers who produce all text, display boards, paperwork, art work, etc.

Front of the museum.

Humpback whale skeleton in the entrance hall.

These banners are examples of some of the work that Freya does.

The Dinosaur Hall of the museum is the world's largest museum hall completely dedicated to dinosaurs. And in that dinosaur hall are 9 of the 30 iguanodon skeletons that were found in a coal mine, 300 meters (1,000') underground in 1878.

At first glance, an iguanodon looks similar to a tyrannosaurus rex.

But they are actually quite a lot smaller.

Also, they admit now that the scientists got it wrong when they made the displays back in the late 1800's. They believed at the time that iguanodons were upright, standing and walking on two legs, but they now know that iguanodons used all four legs, unlike the t-rex.

A display showing the exact position of the bones as they were discovered in the coal mine.

And of course you can't have a dinosaur exhibit without a t-rex...

Ruth, comparing herself to the skull of a t-rex.

This is Stan, the t-rex.
My, what big teeth you have Stan!

Stan has a hole in his skull that shouldn't be there. Scientists believe the hole was caused by another t-rex as the hole is exactly the size of a t-rex tooth! Unfortunately, the skeleton of Stan in this museum is a cast. The real one has been purchased by Abu Dhabi for their new museum opening in 2025.

This is the skeleton of a mosasaur.

Freya did the artwork for this wall graphic.

And then it was a quick visit through the mammals display room. All are stuffed animals. They come from various sources, mostly by donation. Some were older animals who died while in zoos.

The stuffed mammals room.

Giant anteater.

Bearded vulture.

Next, it was the human evolution room. This was really interesting because many of the body parts were from real human beings. I'm not sure they're allowed to do that in Canada, but it's been a while since we've been to the similar Canadian museum, so maybe things have changed.

These 3D models were really well done.

Each piece was cut and glued together.

A real human arm, displaying how the muscles and tendons are.

Then at 4:00pm, we met with Freya back in the lobby, and we were brought into the staff entrance where we met Jeroen, a coworker who was going to give us a behind the scenes tour. We weren't the only ones though. There are also about 6 other people who we believe are new employees of the museum being given the same tour.

The first thing we did was to go up the elevator to the roof.

Brussels, from the roof of the museum.

At dusk.

Zoomed in on the Palace of Justice.

The Palace of Justice has been surrounded by scaffolding for almost 40 years because of the deteriorating condition of the building. But then the repair work was never done. It's become a bit of a joke in Brussels because it's just so ridiculous. The original scaffolding was rented, but eventually they bought it outright. In 2010, they had to erect new scaffolding to support the old scaffolding that itself was starting to deteriorate. The government has plans to complete the repairs by 2030. But more recent reports say it will be 2040. Most people believe the scaffolding will still be there in 2040.

Then it was back inside to the vaults.

The museum has 36,000,000 (yes, 36 million) specimens in the complete collection. However only .02% of them are currently on display to the public. 

So, Jeroen took us in to show us some of the more interesting items.

One of the many specimen rooms.

Great white shark jaws.

Another type of shark.

Another room.

I asked Jeroen of we could choose one drawer at random just to see what is in it. Of course! So he went in and opened a drawer. What did we find?

Each piece categorized and numbered.

Lots of interesting stuff in the vaults.

Stick your tongue out!

They don't have enough space.

Can you guess what Jeroen is holding?
Answer in tomorrow's blog post!

Rhino head.

Fossilized lightning.

What? Fossilized lightning? What the heck is that??

Officially known as fulgurite, fossilized lightning occurs when a lightning bolt of sufficient strength pierces through sandy ground, fusing the sand together into a type of glass. The fulgurite typically follows the path that the lightning bolt took into the ground, often several meters deep.

This particular sample was found when scientists were researching what type of glass to use on the American space shuttle.

The alcohol rooms.

The alcohol used is real drinkable alcohol... however it has been purposely poisoned for two reasons. Many years ago, museum staff were occasionally caught having a few sips of the product. And nowadays it is to reduce import taxes the museum pays for the stuff.


It wasn't long enough and our one hour backstage tour was over too quick. But it was fun, and we had a very good guide. Jeroen was great. He's been working at the museum for over 20 years so he knows his stuff.

Today is Armistice Day here in Belgium and many things are closed. We have a decent parking spot so I think we're just going to relax in the area today, and do our main tour of Brussels tomorrow. And, the weather is great. High of 18C (66F) both today and tomorrow, and sunshine. We'll take it!


And in Canada...


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