When Gramby and Papa P. visited, we all went to the Natural History Museum at the National Museum of Ireland, or as locals call it, “The Dead Museum.” Things there are preserved in all sorts of ways—in sealed glass, in jars of liquid, pinned to panels, stuffed and mounted.
For kids–even toddlers like G & C–it’s a fantastic place. Not only is admission free, but also the guards were very relaxed. I am used to hovering museum guards telling me, “ma’am, behind the line” as I inch closer to examine something. Even the grounds were open to run around.
The boys loved kicking up the fallen leaves, gathering bunches and tossing them, and trying to mount the topiary reindeers. They also enjoyed rapping (bang! bang!) against the oxidized copper on the statues to hear the vibration.
Inside, the museum is like an impressive relic of museums themselves. (Sort of the way The Museum of Jurassic Technology harkens back to another time in museum-going.) It was built in 1857 by the Royal Dublin Society and Sascha and I thought it seemed almost exactly like the Natural History Museum in Paris, though somewhat smaller in scale, that we visited with Joey, Marion, & N. (Speaking of which, I have to add Joey’s Dad’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, to my “to read” list. Have any of you read it?)
The lower floor is dedicated to all creatures found (or once found) in Ireland—so many insects! I picked up G so we could peer over a student’s shoulder as he sketched a beetle. We gently folded back leather covers over the glass to look in the cabinets, and there were many drawers for the boys to pull open and close. Having done my battle in various cities with cockroaches, bees, and spiders, I prefer the insects motionless under glass. The sea life in their aqueous tombs (some specimens dating from the early 1900’s) were a bit disgusting, and make me question whether I would ever enter the waters around Ireland.
Up a tough flight of stairs was the impressive hall of mammals, and looking at animal anatomies without skin and fur and eyes, you see just how similar mammal-kind is when you are down to bones. For the preserved animals, you could see the stitching on their bellies, and touch their leathered skin. Across an aisle: a giraffe and then its skeleton with magnificent leg bones towering above you.
According to brain science, the boys won’t be able to access what they experience here. Though each moment is filled with a hundred new discoveries, and every day they lay tracks through their brains as they orient themselves in the world, we will function as their memory of what their time here was like.
We have bits and bytes of so many moments—cell phone videos, video camera videos, cell phone pictures, voice memos, camera photos—we are doing our best to capture and hold on to these fragments of time.