On the 27th of March 2011, the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona (Natural Science Museum of Barcelona) opened, in the Parc del Fòrum (Forum Park), a new venue to rejuvenate the Museum’s museographic discourse and its educational and outreach programmes. These new premises boast modern facilities and services structured around a huge, open-access foyer, as well as a permanent exhibition, “Planeta Vida” (‘Planet Life’), temporary exhibition areas, the Media Library, the Science Nest (for children up to 6 years of age), lecture rooms, an auditorium and a shop.
Last year, the Museum grew again by adding a Living Terrace, a wild, green area covering 7,100 m2 of the roof, which has now become an integral part of the facility and its activities.
To date, over a million people have visited and enjoyed the activities and services offered by this great cultural venue which is now in its 10th year at the Forum Park.
To celebrate, the Museum is holding an Open Day on Saturday, 27th March, and then on the 10th of every month up to the end of the year (with the exception of May, when it will be held on Tuesday, the 11th). What’s more, throughout
Surprise 1: The Salvador Cabinet island
This new display (island) is a life-size replica of the Cabinet of Curiosities created by the Salvador family, the original of which can be found at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona, and it complements the Museum’s permanent exhibition together with the other science islands. Science islands are independent spaces, like small displays within the permanent exhibition, which are distributed all along the route.
The Salvador family produced many brilliant apothecaries and naturalists who, for three centuries (1626-1855), kept a cabinet of curiosities at their pharmacy on Carrer Ample in Barcelona.
A cabinet of curiosities was an office but also an exhibition which only a select few were allowed to visit. The aim was to enhance people’s appreciation of nature, as well as their admiration for the owners of such collections due to their knowledge, power and understanding of the world. Such cabinets of curiosities were very popular in Europe from the Renaissance up to the Enlightenment, playing a fundamental role in the study and dissemination of natural science for three centuries.
In general, cabinets of curiosities were brimming with objects from the three kingdoms of nature, covering the ceiling, ground and walls and filling the drawers and shelves. As well as specimens, there would also be a library and the necessary instruments to preserve the collections.
Thanks to this life-size replica of the Salvador Cabinet and the objects displayed in it, the general public can now experience the same sensations as those privileged few who, many years ago, were fortunate enough to be allowed to visit it, discovering the work involved in keeping such a collection and getting to know the scientific controversies of the time related to fossils and other specimens, before Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution.
After visiting the replica of the Salvador Cabinet in the Forum Park, it is highly recommended to pay a visit to the original cabinet on display at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona.
Surprise 2: Free admission to the Living Terrace throughout April
If you have never been to the Museum’s Living Terrace, take advantage and visit it this April, because:
- Admission is free every weekend throughout the month. Guided tours on Saturday afternoons, of limited capacity, will also be free of charge. Make a prior reservation here.
The Museum’s Living Terrace is one of several new spaces that the Museum has gained over its 10 years of history at the Forum, and is one of the largest green roofs in Barcelona.
A living space where you will find vegetation suited to the changeable weather conditions. A green roof where you can enjoy reconnecting with nature.
The Living Terrace comprises 7,100 m2 of flora adapted to the Mediterranean climate of Barcelona and, specifically, to its close proximity to the sea. It is distributed over three meadows and three freshwater ponds. The project has been carried out within the framework of the Climate Emergency Declaration and Climate Plan approved by Barcelona City Council.
There is also an insect hotel.
Sorpise 3: (In)Visibles i (O)Cultes, a new temporary exhibition
(In)Visibles i (O)Cultes (‘Invisible and Hidden / Visible and Learned’) brings to the fore 24 female scientists from all eras and all corners of the world.
(In)Visibles i (O)Cultes is a temporary exhibition focusing on 24 female scientists who, from Ancient Egypt to 21st-century Great Britain, have been silenced, relegated or directly erased from the history of science because of their gender. This exhibition, produced by the Natural Science Museum of Barcelona and curated by Mireia Alcaine, can be seen at the free exhibition area Ciènciaimés until May 2022.
The earliest known female physician in history, Peseshet (Egypt, 2,400 BC), the astronomer Aglaonice (Greece, 200 BC) and the botanist Blanca Catalana de Ocón (Spain, 1860-1904), among many others, have had to wait many years and even centuries to regain their voice thanks to historical revisionism from a gender perspective that began in the second half of the 20th century and has become unrelenting in the 21st
To combat this discrimination, 2016 saw the creation of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February) to commemorate and recognise the achievements of all women who have helped to advance science and technology.
For reasons of space, this exhibition has not been able to include all female scientists who have been overlooked. There are many more and they all need to be brought to light, acknowledged, named and returned to their right place in the history of science.
Surprise 4: Museum and Territory: 10 voices from the neighbourhood
Museum and Territory: local residents give their opinion 10 years after the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona (Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona – MCNB) first moved into the Parc del Fòrum space: “We never thought there would be a museum here, so for us it was a very nice surprise to see that things were being done in the neighbourhood”, says Dori Escobar, who lives in the area and is a member of the Ambar Prim Women’s Association. Escobar is one of the 10 voices participating in a video entitled Museum and Territory, which premieres on Friday, 18 June at 6 p.m. on the Museum’s YouTube channel, where residents of the local neighbourhoods explain what the arrival of the Museum to the Fòrum has meant to them. Along with Escobar, other participants in the video include members of organizations such as the El Besòs and Maresme Residents’ Association, the Besòs Youth Assembly, the Institut-escola de la Mina, and neighbours like 8-year-old Laura, an absolute fan of the Museum. This video is the fourth surprise of 10 that the Museum has prepared and will unveil month by month, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its opening at the Parc del Fòrum location.
On 27 March 2011, the Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona opened a new headquarters at the Parc del Fòrum, the first major public cultural facility to be located in the neighbourhood of Sant Martí and, indeed, in the district of El Besòs and Maresme. From the very first day, the Museum opened its doors to the local residents with the aim of allowing them to make the facility their own, not only as a museum but also as a public space available to the people for different activities. Over this past decade, the Museum has developed several outstanding local projects in conjunction with entities and schools in the district, including: La Nit dels Museus (“Night of the Museums”), the Consell d’Infants (“Children’s Council”), and the educational project Connectem amb… (“Let’s Connect with…”):
- Night of the Museums, km0 Culture: for one night, the Museum’s premises become a space for creation and celebration, where local artistic and cultural collectives are the protagonists and premiere their shows.
- Children’s Council: made up of 16 fifth- and sixth-year primary school children from two schools in the district, this is a real participatory body that allows the local children to voice their opinions, ideas and suggestions related to the Museum’s activities, programming and facilities.
- Let’s Connect with…: an ongoing programme of collaboration with schools in the district whereby, based on a temporary exhibition at the Museum, pupils work on a project of discovery of the neighbourhood.
Directed by Dídac Roger i Homs of Kineina audiovisuals
See the video here:
Surprise 6: The Big Animals Platform
Being large, an adaptation for survival
The Museum has just launched a new exhibition module within one of our permanent exhibitions: The Big Animals Platform.
The permanent exhibition «Planet Life» takes us on a journey through the history of life in its first section, ‘Biography of the Earth’, which also shows how the various species and forms of life have evolved. The second section, ‘Earth Today’, is divided into different thematic areas –fossils, animals, plants, fungi, microbes, rocks and minerals– where the Museum’s collections take centre stage and the concepts that explain what we find on Earth today are presented.
In the middle of the ‘Earth Today’ section, a module dedicated to big animals has been opened. It shows how the size of animals is important to their survival.
Being big has certain advantages, such as:
- A long life expectancy.
- Low mortality.
- Few or no natural predators able to kill an adult specimen.
- Slow population growth.
At the same time, however, big animals are more vulnerable to overexploitation by humans.
What can we see in this new module?
- The skeleton of a white rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum (Burchell, 1817), the largest species of rhinoceros. The northern white rhino used to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but is almost extinct due to hunting and warfare in the area. The southern rhino lives in South Africa, where there are an estimated 16,000 rhinos in existence.
- A naturalized skin of an African forest elephant, Loxodonta cyclotis (Matschie, 1900), the smaller of the two African species. Currently, their habitats are fragmented and in poor condition.
- A specimen of the leatherback sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli, 1761), the largest of marine sea turtles. It is highly threatened by pollution, fishing nets, and the urbanization of coastal areas where it lays its eggs. The species is currently on the verge of extinction.
- A specimen of the giant clam, Tridacna gigas (Linnaeus, 1758), the largest bi-valve mollusc. So many are collected (for food, decoration, or aquariums) that their populations have been shrinking rapidly and they are already extinct in many places. One of the clams at greatest danger of extinction.
- A naturalized skin of a Nile crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus (Laurenti, 1768), the largest living reptile after the marine crocodile. Hunting and changes to the river have reduced its area of distribution.
Surprise 7: Island of Biodiversity in Catalonia
This new exhibition space (Island) within the Museum’s permanent exhibition is entirely devoted to biodiversity in Catalonia.
The term biodiversity has been used since the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit (“Rio Summit”) to define the variability of life forms in terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems. Scientists have described almost a 1.5 million species in the world, but they are aware that there are many more as yet unknown.
Catalonia is a particularly diverse region, both because of its location in the Mediterranean region and its great variety of climates and land relief. That means 680 different habitats have been described, with approximately 15,000 species of flora and 18,000 of fauna. This wealth of species per land area unit is much greater than in any other European country. We have the responsibility of preserving this unique heritage.
This tremendous wealth forms the basis of the natural systems, ecological processes, life on the planet and habitats that surround us. Beyond the importance of biodiversity in itself, it has been known for decades that it provides a huge quantity of services and benefits for people: food, clean air, drinking water, medicines, areas for leisure, sport or contemplation, and many other things.
And we also know that our model of society is causing a drastic and rapid loss of biodiversity, which is being decimated by climate change, pollution, over-exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of natural habitats. This irreversible loss is leading to extremely negative consequences for our health and our quality of life. It is time to act immediately to stop the loss of biodiversity and overturn the current degradation of the environment. Each person has to make their own contribution.
This exhibition space consists of three parts. The first explains what biodiversity is, what its components are, why there are so many species and the importance of this wealth of life. The second part focuses on biodiversity in Catalonia through various large-format projections showing the diversity of species, habitats and landscapes in this country. Finally, the third part concerns the serious problem of the loss of biodiversity, its causes, and the effects on the planet and our quality of life, to end with a call for urgent, radical action by everyone to overturn this unsustainable situation.