Senckenberg Museum brings natural history to life
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 31, 2019
Dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years but they still fascinate people, young and old. Even dinosaur bones fascinate — or at least that’s the impression you get when you visit the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.
The museum belongs to the Senckenberg Natural History Research Foundation, founded in 1817. Named for Frankfurt physician and philanthropist Johann Christian Senckenberg, the institution is one of Germany’s best-known and most popular natural history museums.
There is a large model of a Tyrannosaurus rex across the street, facing the museum, and a model of a Diplodocus longus in front. Maybe the T. rex is staring at the Diplodocus, wondering how it would taste.
Inside, the only original skeleton in the world of a Diplodocus longus is in the dinosaur hall. The diplodocus was unearthed in Wyoming and was a present from the American museum to the Senckenberg when it opened in 1907.
As interesting as the “terrible lizards” are, the most fascinating exhibit at the museum for me — and it’s been that way since I first saw it as a child — is the one of an anaconda trying to swallow a capybara, the largest living rodent in the world, whole. If it had succeeded, it wouldn’t have had to eat again for months. It is in a glass case on the left as you enter the large room beyond the dinosaurs that features skeletons of whales and elephants, and their ancestors.
The main attraction in that room is the 72-foot-long skeleton of a fin whale, the second-largest animal in the world. But don’t miss the other things like the 10,000-year-old mastodon that once lived in what is now New York.
On the next floor are exhibits of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. There are hundreds of stuffed specimens, from the four corners of the globe, to look at. One room is dedicated to the evolution of plants. But when you come up the stairs, first take a gander at the exhibit in a small room to the left.
Here, the evolution of man is on display, with models and skulls of Homo sapiens’ forefathers surrounding Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis who, when her fossilized bones were found in Ethiopia in 1974, was the earliest evidence we had that hominids walked upright. What the Senckenberg has is a copy of Lucy; the original is at the National Museum of Ethiopia.
On the top floor, the Senckenberg is constructing a new ocean-themed exhibit, part of a plan to modernize the 200-year-old museum. The project has closed an entire wing of the floor, but you can see “The Fascination of Diversity,” a temporary exhibit that shows the diversity of life on Earth in a 50-foot-by-13-foot glass case.
Also on this floor is the insect exhibit. While I was looking at a giant model of a six-legged creature, three girls walked in and one screamed “I hate insects!” before rushing out of the room.
There are some creepy specimens here, but if you are interested in natural history, be it long-extinct dinosaurs or the Earth’s diversity, the Senckenberg Museum is a place you will want to visit.
DIRECTIONS: The museum is at Senckenberganlage 25 in 60325 Frankfurt. Unfortunately, there is no parking at the museum. Closest parking garages are Adalbertstrasse, which is closed Sundays; Congresscenter Messe Frankfurt at the Maritim Hotel, Theodor-Heuss-Allee 3-5; Messeturm, Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage 49; and WestendGate, Hamburger Allee 2. These are open 24 hours.
If you take public transportation, subway lines U4, U6 and U7 halt at the nearby Bockenheimer Warte stop. On bus line 32, get off at the Senckenbergmuseum stop.
TIMES: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
COSTS: Admission for adults is 10 euros, 5 euros for children 6 to 15 years of age and free admission for kids under 6. A family ticket for two adults and up to three children between 6 and 15 years of age is 25 euros. Parking costs around 1.80 euros per hour, depending on the garage.
FOOD: There is a bistro on the top floor of the museum and plenty of places to eat around the corner on Adalbertstrasse.
INFORMATION: The museum website is museumfrankfurt.senckenberg.de/en. An app is available for download with plenty of information on the museum and its exhibits.