Museum of Natural History Vienna

Classical Choices articles are about those classically beautiful, famous, and large museums, full of secrets, stories and things to discover. These museums are also visited by many people and commonly known. As I love to visit these museums, I occasionally make little articles about them.

I was in Vienna recently, not only to explore the city’s fun museums, but also to attend a highly important conference.

I had time to visit 3 museums of Vienna, two of them I had not visited before, and one of them I visited for the 2nd time, to see how it developed since my first visit.

Naturhistoriches Museum Wien 

This is the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, situated on the Maria Theresien Platz, having the Kunsthistoriches Museum (Art History Museum) on the opposite side, as a twin building. Although we are talking about a very well established institution, having thousands of pieces (some of them completely unique and mentioned in every school manual in the world – picture below), many of them collected by the Habsburg family, this traditionally composed museum is surprisingly prepared for 21st century.

Naturhistoriches Museum Wien
Venus of Willendorf – selected for almost every schoolbook in the world.

The results of seemingly hard work made up by museum staff is visible in audiences. I decided to visit the museum “just a little bit, to have a look” because I did not have enough time for a detailed visit. However, my “having a look” option lasted 3 hours and a half. During that time I noticed virtually every kind of audience I could imagine – even those audiences that are usually mentioned as “least interested in museums” such as teenagers, immigrants/minorities groups or people with disabilities.

Even though this museum keeps extremely beautiful original exhibition furniture, and modern exhibition design concepts are used only for temporary exhibition, the museum is crowded and does not look like a place “for academic or professional visitors only”. Between these antique and massive wooden boxes fulfilled with pieces of heritage, there are numbers of installations invented and placed there for visitors to have fun.

Naturhistoriches Museum Wien
Stones in detail – have a look.
Naturhistoriches Museum Wien
How heavy are meteorites? Compare them!
Naturhistoriches Museum Wien
Volcanic Eruption Simulator
Naturhistoriches Museum Wien
Geologic Time Scale

This could be a way to teach biology and a part of similar disciplines at school. Not at school, but in this museum. The truth is – there are very few Natural History museums like this in the world, and very few children have opportunity to come to Vienna or a similar city. Is this the time to rethink ways of teaching at schools?


  • Being Viennese I visit this museum every once in in a while, maybe five or six times during the year, spending an afternoon in one or two of the exhibtions/collections. There are so many items on display, that it is rather impossible to see the whole museum in one visit.
    Still it is nice to be reminded by a text like yours, that this is no matter of course to be able to visit a place like that anytime I want.

    Next time you’re around make sure to take some time for Kunsthistorisches Museum, the collection is really impressive, and to visit the institutions at MuseumsQuartier (from modern art to a museum especially for children) on the other side of the road. There’s also Haus des Meeres with living aquatic animals not far away and the small, quite unique Foltermuseum (focussing on methods and the history of torture) in its immediate neighborhood.

    • Thank you for your nice comment, Manfred!

      I’ll have in mind your recommendations, next time I go to Vienna, and they will also be represented on this blog, in their funnest sides. I was already luckily able to visit the Kunsthistoriches Museum twice, as a History of Art student (in 2008 and 2009).

      All the best

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