Museum of Civilization: fascinating curiosities of a fragile planet

The state of health of our planet is worrying. The impact of man on nature has never been greater. More than a million species are at risk of extinction last week highlighted a group of UN experts on biodiversity. In this context, the exhibition “Curiosities of the natural world” recalls, through the works of explorers and scientists of yesteryear, the great fragility of nature.
P résentée in North American premiere at the Museum of Civilization, after a stint in Tokyo, Singapore and Taipei, where it attracted half a million visitors, the exhibition showcases some 200 pieces from the Museum of Natural History London, one of the oldest in the world and one of the most prestigious with its 80 million objects.

Curiosities of the natural world unfolds its treasures in seven zones, the first of which is devoted to the explorer Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution and author of the famous work The Origin of Species (1859), one of the few handwritten pages is highlighted, as are a few specimens brought back from his five-year trip around the world, aboard the Beagle . Darwin’s theory has rightly been dismissed as a step backward from the principle of divine creation, still vigorously defended today by several conservative groups.

The giant spider crab of Japan, the largest crab species in the world. Scientists establish between 50 and 100 years its longevity.

The work of a few other curious 18th and 19th century minds, from here and elsewhere, is also underlined, such as those of the John Murray oceanographer, the naturalist Joseph Banks, the collector Lionel Walter Rothschild, the geologist William Hamilton, botanist Marie-Victorin and paleontologist Richard Owen, famous for being the first to use the term “dinosaur”.

Another section of the exhibition is devoted to extinct or extinct species, such as the thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the moa (another bird unable to fly) and a skeleton of the saber-toothed tiger dating 12,000 years old.

Other curiosities include the fragment of a Martian meteorite, a 120 million-year-old dinosaur claw, the molding of a daspletosaurus head (a close relative of the famous T-Rex), the impressive butterfly of Queen Alexandra and an orangutan reported by explorer Alfred Russell Wallace, another prominent figure in the elaboration of the theory of evolution.

The giant grouper, which can reach three meters in length, is threatened by overfishing throughout the Indo-Pacific basin.

Some fifty objects from Quebec and Canada complete this fascinating exhibition, including the skeletons of a polar bear, a minke whale and a beluga whale, as well as the fossil of a fish found in Miguasha National Park. in Gaspésie.

Take great care

At the inauguration of the exhibition, Sarah Stewart, director of operations at the Natural History Museum in London, expressed her strong hope that the public will be inspired by what they will see to reflect on the future of our planet. .

“In Curiosities of the Natural World, there is the curious word, from the Latin curiosus , which means ‘who cares’. I hope visitors will come away not only by learning something about the history of the natural world, but wanting to take great care of it. ”

“Our vision of the world is not immutable, it is constantly evolving,” said the director general of the Museum, Stéphan La Roche. We want the visitor to become aware of the importance of each gesture and the importance of acting “to preserve biodiversity.

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