Hungarian Natural History Museum

A dinosaur diorama at the Hungarian Natural History Museum
A dinosaur diorama at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, Budapest, Hungary. January 29, 2014.

Most of my trip to Budapest was (unusually for me) focused on things other than nature and museums, but I did make it to the Hungarian Natural History Museum (Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum), which turned out to be one of the nicest natural history museums I’ve been to.

The museum is located in a historic building near a large park, which was apparently in 2011 under threat of being converted to a military university. I haven’t been able to find anything more about that, so hopefully those plans changed—the building has been extensively renovated for the museum, and it’s a beautiful interior space. ETA March 6, 2014: Per the comment below and some other articles I found, apparently plans are still underway to use at least part of the building as a school, and the museum’s future is uncertain. I haven’t been able to find any really detailed explanations in English of what’s going on, unfortunately.

Of course, all good natural history museums need a giant whale skeleton:

Whale skeleton at Hungarian Natural History Museum

Many of the exhibits are fairly text-heavy, in part because everything is bilingual (Hungarian and English), more than I normally approve of in exhibits, but the exhibits are so beautifully designed from an aesthetic point of view that I felt they could be enjoyed on other levels as well. However, not everything was text-heavy, and there were some interesting aspects to the museums that I felt were counter to recent exhibit-design trends, at least in the U.S.

In fact, my favorite exhibit was the first one we passed through, a realistic coral reef diorama that surrounded you as you passed through the room, with the exhibit under glass floor tiles, extended up pillars and into the walls. A few tanks of live fish completed the experience. I don’t remember seeing any text here: it was just a beautiful, immersive display of biodiversity, the kind of exhibit I would have returned to over and over as a kid to look for new treasures.

Coral reef diorama/exhibit at Hungarian Natural History Museum

Coral reef diorama/exhibit at Hungarian Natural History Museum

They also had a temporary traveling exhibit on Argentinian dinosaurs, which was a bit more typical, including some interactive activities for kids.

The remaining exhibits for me nicely balanced informative with a more modern cabinet of curiosities approach, so they could be enjoyed on an aesthetic level or you could read the labels for more information.

Rocks and minerals

Rocks and minerals

Many Colors of Life exhibit on biodiversity

Many Colors of Life exhibit on biodiversity

Hungarian Natural History Museum

We finished up the trip with a quick walk through the outdoor Dinosaur Garden in the snow:

Dinosaur Garden

More photos on Flickr.

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5 thoughts on “Hungarian Natural History Museum”

  1. Unfortunately, the situation is much grimmer. Yes, that historic building is extensively renovated, but NOT for the museum. The museum is no longer the owner of the complex, it is merely a ‘tolerated trespasser’ — for a while.

    The spaces formerly occupied by the collections and the offices of the staff members were drastically reduced; the mineralogy collection has been exiled into the basement — again, for a while. That magnificent building provided a chance to put together the departments of the museum scattered for a long time all over the city, but this hope is postponed to the unforeseeable future. The exhibition still exists, but sooner or later the whole museum must leave for — where? Nobody knows. There is no idea or hint about a new place, and the Natural History Museum will not be incorporated in the ambitiously planned ‘museum quarter’. Seeking a solution and finding (or emerging) a new building for the museum is not at all a priority for the government.

    In the renovated building of the ‘military university’ (officially: National University of Public Service) the first students begin their term this September.

    1. Wow, thank you for clarifying the situation. That does sound very grim. I can’t say I’m surprised, but that’s very sad news. I was really impressed with the museum and also had the impression that it’s an important center for ecological research in Hungary.

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