Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shanghai Natural History Museum, Shanghai, China

I just received an email from Morbid Anatomy reader Chris Clanton about a photo-visit he and his girlfriend paid to the Shanghai Natural History museum. Here is how he described it:
Ah, the poor Shanghai Natural History Museum.... our Shanghai guidebook said to avoid the place because it was "dusty" and "filled with animal carcasses," so of course we made that the highlight of our visit. We sort of felt bad for the place after a while--there were even signs apologizing for the low quality or lack of thoroughness in their displays because of a lack of money.

There was one sign (I'm not sure if it made it to flickr or not) that read:
"As we are limited by time, ability, and financial capacity, the exhibition might have many shortcomings. Therefore we will be very grateful to those who can give us good opintons [sic]."

Apparently many of the displays were donated by the British Museum in the mid 1950s when it was built... and never really updated at all. However, the museum remains open today, and it's one of the few peaceful, quiet places that we went in Shanghai. The building itself is really beautiful "classic" 1920s architecture with huge stained glass windows and mosaic floors, but like the exhibits, it hasn't really been maintained and now is delightfully run down.
I would only add that it is really wonderful to see the differences in Eastern display methods and content--images of Eastern natural history museums are few and far between in The West, and it is fascinating to get a peek at what such museums are interested in, and how they choose to exhibit it, not to mention the wonder of viewing strange creatures such as what appears to be a hair-backed turtle...

To see more, (which I highly recommend--it was very difficult to cull down the 115 wonderful photos for use in this post) visit the Flickr Shanghai Natural History Museum photo-set here; All photos in that set and accompanying this post by Anne Gresham. You can find out more about the museum here.

Thanks, Chris, for sending this along!


anne said...

Hey, thanks for the link! I've been following this website for a while, and it's one of my favorites - I'm really honored to be mentioned here!

javier said...

Great experience sharing. You may consider that "museums" are not a cultural creation of Asian country`s, so there development is more of a copy/paste of occidental's trends, hence the lack of "cultural" feedback from their local visitor's.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your post. Because of it, I visited the museum last week and loved it. Just an update, as more details are hard to find in English. As of July 2012, the museum is still open and dusty and crusty. However, a brand spanking-new building is apparently being built, as is being done all over Shanghai, and the museum is supposed to move into it at the end of this year. I have no idea if/when that is happening, but I thought I'd warn potential future visitors. However, it didn't look like any displays were being moved or closed. The old, current museum is the one located on Yan'an Rd., and is open until 530pm, though they sell their last ticket at 330pm. It is amazing, and well-worth the cheap cab ride and the 80 cents admission! There is even a coelacanth, not something you see every day.
-Lisa Kereszi

Mike said...

I actually for a second thought that panda was real! It would be interesting to see how the west and east differ in the way they display things.