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Natural History Museum, Dublin

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I visited The Natural History Museum Friday, 8th October 2010. When I turned to their website yesterday I found these opening lines….

This building is now open again following a major restoration project.

Our exhibitions have changed very little in over a century…..

The second line pretty much summises the musty building interior and the scent and feel about the place.  It’s a nice building but there’s a linger of something more Friedrich Miescher as versus Watson and Crick. Maybe it’s the old glass with what I can only assume is formaldehyde preserving collections. Maybe its the leather that covers those insects at the end of the ground floor to protect them from the light. But then, the oft referred to Dead Zoo, has been collecting deadies since 1792 and has been in the same spot since 1857.

That said it what it is and for some reason I liked it. A lot. It continues….

….The ground floor is dedicated to Irish animals, featuring giant deer skeletons and a variety of mammals, birds and fish. The upper floors of the building were laid out in the 19th Century in a scientific arrangement showing animals by taxonomic group. This scheme demonstrated the diversity of animal life in an evolutionary sequence.

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The first floor is the main reason I went there. I wanted to see the collections of Irish slugs and more… but that sort of thing, in detail. I wanted to see Irish birds, the garden pests, the helpers the bugs, the spiders and the prey. Up close and motionless. And I did. I put in my ear phones and spent maybe two hours there. Entry is free and the art gallery nearby does decent coffee, a necessary for me to ingest regularly.

But there’s a problem. The guys were supposed to get a bag of cash from the boys next door. They didn’t. And for that I’m personally glad. There was talk of a new wing, a coffee shop etc. Lets put this in context,  my Beatles For Sale vinyl, in mono, has a big scratch on it – but I know when and where I need to lift the needle. More importantly I know why the scratch is there…. my own fault for breaking up with her while she was changing to side B. My point, we have history.

I shall continue on – the second floor one can’t get to the upper galleys which would be nice. Some health and safety crapology doctorite decided on that one – and so they remain closed off. A shame, yes, but I’ll settle for it.

For me, I liked loved The Natural History Museum. I can see why a younger mind may be bored senseless. I know the upper of upstairs is closed off. I find it rhetoric that it’s next to Leinster House where the people who run our country make decisions [?] But I personally hope it never gets the funding it was told it would get.

It’s a great place to go, in a beautiful part of Dublin City. Argue all you like regarding upgrades and changes – but similar to, I wish Irelands roads were toll free.

If you do intend go there, watch out for exhibition and event dates if you want some peace and quiet like I did. Also the staff there are amazing, brimmed with information and were more than willing to answer all of the questions I had and point out of pieces of interest they thought I might like.

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In the front lawn is a gentleman called Thomas Heazle Park.

Surgeon-General Thomas Heazle Parke (1857—1893) was an Irish doctor, explorer, soldier and naturalist, born in 1857 at Clogher House in Drumsna, County Leitrim, Ireland, and was brought up in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim. He graduated from the College of Surgeons in Dublin and was appointed to a post in Ballybay, County Monaghan.

In 1881 he joined the British Army and served in Egypt as a surgeon. Parke fought to Khartoum in relief of General Gordon in 1885.

He became the first Irishman to cross the African continent. During the expedition Parke bought a pygmy girl. They travelled together for over a year and she nursed him through malaria. In the end he was forced to leave her behind because her eyes could not adapt to sunlight after the darkness of the forest.

When Parke returned home he received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and was awarded gold medals from the British Medical Association and the Royal Geographical Society. Among his published works are My Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa (published in 1891) and A Guide to Health in Africa. He died in Scotland in 1893 and his coffin was brought back to Ireland and drawn on a gun carriage from the Dublin docks to Broadstone station. He was buried in Drumsna.

On the granite pedestal is a bronze plaque depicting the incident on August 13, 1887 when Parke sucked the poison from an arrow wound in the chest of Capt. William G. Stairs to save his life. He is also commemorated by a bust in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

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View More Images of The Natural History Museum. One is permitted to take photographs, just not with the use of flash.

Opening Hours:

  • Tueesday – Saturday 10am -5pm
  • Sunday 2pm – 5pm
  • Closed Mondays [including Bank Holidays]

UPDATE: 7th January 2011

Whilst I was at the Museum I filled out the comment form. I can’t remember what I said exactly now to be honest. But I just got this email today.

Peter

Thank you for taking the time to fill out a comment card during your visit. To answer your query about access to upper floors, the National Museum of Ireland has prepared a plan to build a new structure beside the Natural History Museum that will include a lift and provide universal access. This was allocated €15M in funding under the National Development Plan but this funding has since been withdrawn and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport is not able to fund the development at present. The structure would allow us to remove any modern intrusions (e.g. the shop) into a separate space and reinforce the Victorian style, allow access to all floors and provide spaces for education and proper visitor services that are sorely needed.

Balcony access is not possible at present due to the lack of emergency exits from these upper levels. The solution, once funded, would have minimal impact on the historic interior. The Natural History Museum Staff are working on virtual access to areas of the museum and its collections that are not physically accessible to all.

I share your disappointment in the lack of access, unfortunately until funding is made available for this work the upper floors will remain out of reach for many visitors. Funding for the National Museum of Ireland is the responsibility of the Minister at the Department of Tourism, Culture & Sport.

Nigel
Mr Nigel T. Monaghan,
Keeper,
Natural History Division,
National Museum of Ireland,
Merrion Street,
Dublin 2,
IRELAND

Ilex – Holly

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The aquifoliaceae evergreens and [unknows to some] sometimes deciduous shrubs, trees and [once again, possibly surprising to some] climbers are a genus of about 400 species. Famed for their berries and foliage, there is a lot more to these general stalwarts than meets the eye.

Take a listen to this ….

Their flowers are generally borne from spring to summer depending on type and climate. But it is after here that one should pay attention if anything more than that [ie. berry] is required, as the male and female flowers are borne generally upon seperate plants. ie they are monoecious/ they require a polinator – or – in more simple terms, the male and female come as seperate plants. That said, they can also come as dioecious ie. having both male and female flowering parts.

The problem with this is, should one purchase the wrong [?] plant, ie. the male, one will never see a berry at all, as they do not produce them. If one does buy a male – to go with the female, or a plant that is both male and female…. take your time and read back if you must, one should see berries – the reason, most likely for which you bought the plant.

I personally recommend the following:

  • Ilex Gold King [female]
  • Ilex JC Van Taol [dioecious]
  • Ilex Aureum Marginata [dioecious]

The great thing about Holly’s  is, that should one follow the basic rules…. ie. buy once and buy well and plant it right – one has, in simple terms, a plant for life. Personally, I like the fact that there’s a male and a female in the garden together. A happy couple, sort of…. And that makes me smile. 😀

They’re in berry all over St Stephens Green at the moment…. I bought the last 2 potted, but it is coming into rootball season and I think I’ll be getting a few beauties for my own garden this year. What about you….?

For more gardening news – listen to the #sodcast

Bird Boxes

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The bird box has always been something I’ve queried. I don’t know why. I just feel/ felt that they would always be better off making their own. Is that fair to say….? Either or, I wanted two in the garden just for the craic of it. You know, to see would they come.

These two bird boxes were made some weeks ago from an old timber wine box and given a lick of whatever colour was nearest/ lying around paint.

Fairly simple to make, they are also another variation of if I got these as a gift would I be impressed ? You better believe it. I’ve seen sites selling these for upwards of €30 each.

My Total Costs. €0.00

If you fancy having a go making them yourself… bear in mind, the bird really doesn’t care if you have not been meticulous in your efforts and from your aesthetic perspective, depending on your skills, a lick of paint will hide everything a lot.

The only things I really need to be careful of is that the box itself isn’t south facing. Logic applies here so you don’t cook the birds. Other than that its keep it about 2-3 metres off the ground and although there are site suggestions of when you should put them up…. I’m not going to pay any attention to that. If the winter guys wanna nest in them, it’s there for the taking. If not they’ll be there for the summer fella’s.

The only note I will make is not to tighten the screws too much so you can flip them over and tip out the previous years unwanted nest.

I could give instructions on how these were made, but the photos say it all pretty much.

More birds to help me eat my raspberries next year 😀

note: Highly recommendthe birdwatch Ireland fact sheet

The Ladybird

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Coccinellidae or ladybirds as we know them are members of the beetle family, generally red with black spots head and antennae and can be anything up to almost half an inch in size. But with over 5,000 species they can also be any colour from yellow to black. The less prettier and often referred to a the mealybug Ladybird cryptolaemus montrouzieri should not be confused with the Coccinella septempunctata or what I should refer to as the common ladybird

The ladybird is most famed in horticultural terms for being predators or the boilogical control of the aphid [whitefly or greenfly] and they really are a gardeners friend. That said if you spoke to my niece Lilly… they are most famed to her because she had a pet ladybird once…. but it ‘flew away‘ 😉

Ladybirds and other garden predators are/ can usually be encouraged easily by having areas of undisturbed ground and also by the introduction of attractive flowers.

I spotted this guy above just sitting pretty whilst clipping some crataegus in the garden yesterday…. 😉



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Some Irish Birds…

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The weather outside is absolutely freezing… it has been for some time now and today the snow fell in Ballyboughal heavy enough to concern me. With that in mind I had reckoned I should do a post on some things frost[y] related.

In what I can only describe as a sincerely very welcome press release [and I get a lot…] …it’s especially for you guys and it’s all about birds. Got an apartment, balcony, a billion acres of garden or not then read on.

As you can gather the weather is causing havoc for a lot of of our wild birds such as the sparrow, the thrush and the Goldfinch and BirdWatch Ireland [I had mentioned the Bird Watch boys previously] are on a mission to encourage people to put out food for the birds that visit their gardens. According to Oran O Sullivan [this is the press realease bit…. 😉 ]

Cooked household scraps as well as peanuts and mixed seed all provide a vital source of energy for garden birds, particularly important as daylight hours are short and frozen ground affects garden birds ability to hunt for prey items. Remember to keep feeding regularly through the winter months, putting out food in early morning. It is also important to provide fresh water as many normal water sources are frozen over.

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I myself  like to buy a big bag of feed [both types] nuts and seed. The seed is so the little ‘uns get something [the bigger birds cant get their beaks through the gauze].

When I was growing up we always left out some stale bread and water milk for them… but then I have two dogs and four hens…. not really enough waste to around I guess 😉

Anyhow… it’s good fun and depending on what you put outside for them… it’s also free.

I had done this post previously on birds in my garden.

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