My penultimate day at the museum was an ad hoc one. Luckily it worked out really well and I had one of the best days of the week. I was handed over to Anja who is on the arachnid & myriapod collection team. Her boss, Jason Dunlop, is from the UK and has been working in Berlin for about 14 years. It was interesting to chat to him about making the move to a different country to pursue one’s ideal job.
Once all the introductions and background information were out of the way, Anja and I visited the dry material. Arachnids tend to be fleshier than insects, which means that they lend themselves more to being preserved in alcohol than being pinned. There were still some beautiful examples of spiders, ticks and mites, as well as some myriapods (centipedes and millipedes) among the dry material. In German, myriapods are known as ‘Tausendfüsser’ (literally: ‘thousand feet’).
After we had a good look around the dry material, Anja then took me the spirit collection. Anja was less strict regarding the special shoes and the no-camera policy. This meant that I could get some lovely shots of the some of the specimens.
After Anja had shown me everything she could, I was passed to Christa, the person responsible for taking care of the fish collection. She was lovely and very informative. Christa started by asking me to open a twist-off jar (below). She then showed me some other bottle and discussed the pros and cons of the different designs.
After that, Christa took me to the fish wet collection. The unique aspect of this is that although there are four floors of spirit collections across the departments, the fish are on the ground floor, among the public galleries. It has been turned into a giant glass structure showcasing the fish wet collection, so people can see inside at all the wonders. It was amazing; it looks so strong, but I couldn’t help wondering how on earth it’s maintained. Christa explained it all to me.
In general, she’s OK with it. It’s not practical and has forced her to adopt slightly unorthodox methods, or to be very organised in a slightly different way than she would if the collection was behind closed doors, like the rest. I was unable to take photographs inside, but have taken some shots of those bottles not yet in the gallery, as well as the gallery from the outside.
Some of the topics explored in this post will be expanded on in the next, as it applies and differs in the mammal department. I was only at the museum for the morning on Thursday, seeing the fish and the arachnids, but my guides were fantastic and knowledgeable. I had a great time and learned a lot about the two departments. Next: mammals!