Monday, October 10, 2011

The Dead Zoo Dodo

I have mentioned before my weird obsessions with taxidermy, weird tourist destinations and tall dwarfs but I have not mentioned here my first scientific obsession: Dodos

Adam Savage the Mythbuster talks here about the same obsession he has

Like Möbius strips, Dinosaurs and Steve Reich, Dodos are like flypaper for nerds. There is just something about these things that seem to spark off nine year olds and set them off on a lifetime being the makers and doers of nerdy things. It was the dodo in the natural history museum of Ireland, known locally as "the dead zoo" that set me off at this age.

Unfortunately this dodo is no longer viewable to the public. I was in the museum last week, admiring the cool steampunk Victoriana makes the museum as interesting for what it says about the 1800's when it was created as about the animals in it. For example the polar bear still has an obvious bullet mark in its head, you would not see that in a modern museum.

The museum was bigger but large areas are no longer open
Exhibition space does a dodo and vanishes
The museum shut on July 5, 2007, when a flight of the main staircase collapsed. The Department of Arts originally decided to take the opportunity to carry out a €15m renovation and extension, but that was cancelled last year due to the state of the public finances.

Instead the staircase was reinstated and other minor repair works carried out, but two large balconies on the second floor have been shut off from the public due to health and safety concerns. The museum’s biggest attraction, a skeleton of a dodo, is on one of these balconies and, unless it is moved, will no longer be viewable by visitors.

Cuts keep half of 'Dead Zoo' exhibits out of public view
However, some of its best known exhibits, including a dodo skeleton and a piece of moon rock given to the State by the US, will not be on public view for the foreseeable future.

This glass box in the top floor bottom middle holds the Dodo skeleton.

The Dodo is one of the most iconic images of environmentalism before Stuart Brand persuaded Nasa to take a release of the earth the phrase "as dead as a dodo" was one of the best metaphors for the fragility of nature that we had. This sight of these bones is an important warning for us and we should make every effort that nine year olds now get to see them. For this reason I want to see the Dublin NHM Dodo moved down to a floor that is open to the public. Moving a glass box is not going to make a massive improvement to the world, but it should also not be a huge difficulty. A full restoration of the museum would be vastly preferable to this but this would be a relatively simple change to make in the meantime. This dodo is important the Natural History Museum badge has a dodo on it which says to me it is one of the most important and interesting items in the museum.

Here is my favorite song sung by an extinct flightless bird The Mountain Goats- Deuteronomy 2:10

I'm all alone here as I try my tiny song
Claim my place beneath the sky but i won't be here for long
I sang all night the moon shone on me through the trees
No brothers left and there'll be no more after me