QUÉBEC CITY, May 15, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - In the 18th and 19th centuries, some of the greatest scientific minds joined British expeditions that travelled across the world, sailing the oceans. Through the thousands of specimens they collected and studied, they changed the way their contemporaries viewed the natural world forever. Québec City's Musée de la civilisation retraces the fascinating journeys of many of these great naturalists in the exhibition Curiosities of the Natural World. After Tokyo, Singapore, and Taipei, this exhibition from the Natural History Museum of London—one of the world's premier natural science museums—is making its North American début. Musée de la civilisation has adapted the exhibition for its run in Québec City until January 5, 2020.
This exhibition features over 200 pieces from the London Natural History Museum's immense collections, a veritable repository of the world's natural treasures, as well as a carefully curated selection of Canadian specimens. Thanks to the exhibition's sophisticated design, for the first time ever, visitors will be able to admire the objects from every angle. From the unique or extremely rare to the mysterious and astonishing, each and every one of these invaluable objects has been carefully selected for its historical and scientific importance and its contribution to the advancement of natural science.
A fantastic journey full of fascinating objects
Charles Darwin marks the starting point of this remarkable exhibition, which includes specimens that he himself collected on his travels and that later influenced his research and the writing of On the Origin of Species, many years later. Visitors will see a rare page from the original handwritten manuscript of this famous work by the father of the theory of evolution. The journey continues with a multitude of exceptional objects that attest to the research and discoveries of various explorers, artists, naturalists, paleontologists, geologists, and collectors, including a large starfish collected by the crew of the Challenger between 1872 and 1875, a magnificent blown-glass octopus by model makers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, the skeleton of a moa found by paleontologist Richard Owen (who coined the term "dinosaur"), and the head of a giraffe acquired by renowned collector Walter Rothschild. Of all the objects included in this exhibition, only a handful were not taken directly from nature, such as the impressive terracotta lion from the majestic Natural History Museum building, which opened in 1881.
To draw a parallel between British discoveries and those made closer to home, the Musée de la civilisation has included various pieces from its own collections and from other Canadian institutions. They demonstrate that homegrown scientists such as William Dawson, a geologist and the first principal of McGill University, and naturalist Léon Provencher also had a significant impact on the advancement of natural sciences in Canada. These outstanding local specimens also illustrate that North America is full of natural treasures. This is particularly evident at Miguasha National Park on the Gaspé Peninsula, where paleontologists have found numerous fossilized specimens of tetrapod fish, ancestors of terrestrial vertebrates from millions of years ago.
Preserving biodiversity: a hot topic
A natural history exhibition like this would not be complete without addressing the timely topic of protecting biodiversity. Species that we've lost such as the saber-toothed tiger, Tasmanian tiger, and dodo, or those which are endangered, such as the Bengal tiger and beluga whale force visitors to take a hard look at the impact that climate change, pollution, and deforestation has on nature.
"Raising visitors' awareness about their environment is part of our DNA at Musée de la civilisation. This exhibition introduces us to individuals who, through their curiosity and determination, completely changed the way we look at the world. And our vision continues to change. Judging by the alarming report recently submitted by UN experts on the future of biodiversity, millions of species are in danger, including our own. At the end of the exhibition, we want our visitors to realize the importance of even the smallest contribution and the urgent need for action."
Stéphan La Roche, Executive Director, Musée de la civilisation
"By sharing these treasures beyond London, we aim to inspire a wider audience and encourage global scientific collaboration. At a time when humanity needs to answer important questions regarding our impact on the planet, we believe that an understanding of the natural world is key to protecting it. We hope that visitors to the exhibition will enjoy viewing some of the most iconic and scientifically valuable examples of the London's Natural History Museum's collection and perhaps be inspired to become the scientists of tomorrow working on a sustainable future for us all."
Sir Michael Dixon, Director, Natural History Museum
- The exhibition is divided into seven areas: Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, explorers, artists, naturalists (botanists, geologists, paleontologists, and zoologists), collectors, the founding of the Natural History Museum, and preserving biodiversity.
- Featured objects:
- Specimen studied by Darwin or collected during his voyages:
- Beetles, brachiopods, barnacles, finches
- A Toxodon tooth (about 15,000 years old)
- A young giant turtle, Darwin's travel companion
- An orangutan brought back by Alfred Russel Wallace, a key figure in the development of the theory of evolution
- A meteorite from Mars
- A dinosaur claw (Baryonyx walkerii, about 120 million years old)
- A giant spider crab from Japan
- A Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly (the world's largest butterfly)
- A giant grouper
- Two water buffalo horns (the longest ever recorded)
- Antlers of a Megaloceros, the largest-ever member of the deer family, extinct for some 8,000 years now
- A Syrian ostrich egg (which may have been a gift to Lawrence of Arabia).
- Canadian objects:
- A polar bear skeleton (Canadian Museum of Nature)
- Objects that belonged to scientists William Dawson and Léon Provencher
- A woolly mammoth tooth (Redpath Museum)
- Fragment of a fossilized fish from Miguasha National Park on the Gaspé Peninsula.
- The What's your nature? activity features a new approach to educational mediation that invites visitors to examine the different ways humans interact with the natural world as they explore the exhibitions Venenum: A Poisonous World and Curiosities of the Natural World.
- Talks, shows, and other cultural activities for all will also be offered throughout the exhibition's run.
- The Natural History Museum of London opened its doors on April 18, 1881, but its origins date back to 1753, when the British Government acquired the extensive collections of well-known physician and relentless collector Sir Hans Sloane. Today, it is home to more than 80 million specimens, including a large portion of Darwin's scientific collections. To this day, the prominent institution's collections continue to serve as a reference for 21st century researchers.
- The London Natural History Museum's one-of-a-kind collection and unparalleled expertise make it one of the world's leading centers for scientific research. It looks at and seeks out solutions to the greatest challenges facing the world today—from ensuring food security to eradicating diseases and managing dwindling resources. The museum studies the diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems to ensure our planet's survival. Every year, more than five million people visit the Naturel History Museum of London.
- Musée de la civilisation is a place of inquiry, study and documentation that seeks to understand and interpret the world. Its research activities make the institution a national reference. Research activities at the Musée de la civilisation lead to long-term collaborations with various universities and museums, both nationally and internationally. These activities promote the sharing and exchange of knowledge between disciplines. Musée de la civilisation is also often invited to contribute to various exhibition projects in Québec and elsewhere, making its professionals very active in national and international networks.
Designed and produced by the Natural History Museum of London, the exhibition Curiosities of the Natural World was adapted by Musée de la civilisation with financial support from the Government of Québec and the City of Québec as part of the Entente de développement culturel. Presented with the participation of Radio-Canada and in cooperation with Québec City Tourism and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (as official hotel).
SOURCE Musée de la civilisation
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