I love museums, with or without the kids. But when it comes to natural history museums, is it just me or after visiting the first few do they all start to look the same?
So perhaps it might seem a little strange that I’m recommending another natural history museum, but we’ve just visited the Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology section of the Paris Natural History Museum and it was amazing. It’s definitely up there with one of the most unique museum’s I’ve ever seen.
Anyone who has visited a natural history museum in recent years has probably come across rooms filled with taxidermied animals. A long line of cases filled with genus’ from mammals to reptiles or perhaps something like this one at the Natural History Museum of Paris …
A huge procession of stuffed animals showing the evolution of life as we know it.
Now imagine that same procession but in bare bones, with not only modern animals but their ancestors alongside. Row after row of bare, gleaming bones lining the walls, floors and even the ceiling of a long 19th Century building.
Dinosaur bones, primate bones, whale bones, fish bones, mammoth bones, reptile bones. Giant bones larger than an adult human. Tiny bones so fragile you can’t imagine how they ever preserved them in the first place.
Along the walls, glass cabinets are filled with an astonishing array of hip bones, thigh bones, teeth, hands and skulls from just about every species you can imagine. My favourite was the shelf of sabre tooth tiger teeth. Cause one set of sabre tooth teeth just isn’t enough!
Speaking of teeth, I wouldn’t have liked to come across this guy in prehistoric times. The head was as long as your average ten year old is tall.
And how about these eggs …
The display of bones at the Museum is a little macabre, as are most Natural History Museums. I usually walk out of them feeling a bit depressed but this one was fascinating.
There are so many bones it stops being macabre and ends up somewhere between fascinating, art and just a little obsurd. And a lot more educational in my opinion than rooms of stuffed animals.
Being a comparative anatomy museum, the bones are arranged in species groups, then in larger genus and family groups. Seeing the bones of an African rhino next to an Asian rhino next to an ancient ancestor and other modern related species makes it fascinating. And a great way to show the kids the similarities between animals. Mammoths next to modern elephants, giraffes next to horses … spotting the similarities and differences is easy when the bones are side by side.
The second floor has a great collection of dinosaurs, megafauna and even a pterosaur. Noah was a bit upset there was no trademark T-Rex but the Allosaurus was an acceptable second best.
Visiting the Museum
The Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology is located at the riverfront end of Jardin des Plantes, a 5 minute walk from the main Natural History Museum and the Metro.
Entry is free for anyone under 26 years of age. For adults it costs 7 euros per person, or 5 euros if you have visited another museum within Jardin des Plantes and can produce your ticket (same goes for tickets from here – just show it at another museum and you will be given discounted entry).
The Museum is open from 10 – 5 daily, except Tuesdays and May 1st.
Signage is all in French but it’s not hard to interpret most of the displays and maps in English are available.
There is no food or drinks for sale on-site, but the museum is next door to a McDonalds, a bakery and a number of restaurants.