Experience science up close in Leiden

Regardless of whether dinosaur bones have been freed from rocks or mole nests are examined. The knowledge is imparted at “Naturalis” in Leiden.

Public life in the Netherlands will be partially suspended until at least January 14, until then a strict lockdown will be in place due to the current epidemiological situation. The next time, when the state museums are allowed to reopen, it is worth mentioning “Naturalis” in Leiden. Because in 2021, the Natural History Museum was awarded the European Museum of the Year (EMYA) award, which is presented annually by the European Museum Forum (EMF).

What makes Naturalis so special? Here, visitors can experience the science up close. For example, you can look over the shoulders of researchers armed with hammer and chisel trying to free dinosaur bones from rocks.

The remains of Earth’s prehistoric inhabitants will appear later, after successful editing and appropriation, in the exhibition area. If bones are missing from a complete skeleton, such as a dinosaur, modern technology is used. Spare parts are produced with the help of a 3D printer.

Just a few meters away from this time-consuming task, American expert Becky Desjardins explains the local fauna using stuffed exhibits – some of the animals are kept right in front of the public. “Why should you hide something like that in the back rooms?” asks biologist Auke Hiemstra, who works as a scientist at Naturalis.

School classes are often guests

The school’s classes are regular guests, and they can gain great insights in direct exchange with experts and without fear of contact. Hiemstra himself is currently working on two related research topics. He and his team are investigating mole nests. “Moles collect a lot of material from their environment. If we examine the nests, we get a good view of how things are going from a biological point of view.”

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Bird’s nest watch goes in the same direction. Because these feathered animals use all possible materials to make themselves more or less comfortable. Human waste is used here as well. “Recently we discovered discarded halo masks out there,” Hemstra says.

Naturalis, Darwinweg 2, 2333 C.R. Leiden. More information is available online at naturalis.nl/en. Trip (accommodation and food) to Leiden made possible Tourist office “Leiden & Co.” and its partners. More information about the city is available online at visitleiden.nl/de. On site, visitors can get tips and recommendations from the VVV Tourist Office on Stationsweg.

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