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National Museum of Ireland (Natural History, Merrion Street, Dublin)

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


Natural History Museum (

Natural History Museum ("The Dead Zoo", Merrion Street, Dublin)

© 2006 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

Dubliners call the Natural History Museum "The Dead Zoo" - and they are dead right. If you love animals, you will have an Ace-Ventura-moment of sheer horror when seeing hundreds of what are effectively corpses, albeit conserved by taxidermists. Now called a "museum of a museum" the display is unmistakable Victorian in character and of the "shoot it, stuff it, show it" school.


  • Fascinating glimpse of Victorian ways to preserve and display wildlife.
  • Renowned collection of Blaschka glass models.
  • Displays highlighting Irish fauna have some surprising inclusions.


  • Not all animals are very lifelike.
  • Exhibits can appear to be a bit worse for wear.


  • Museum opened in 1857 as an annex to Leinster House, then home to the Royal Dublin Society.
  • Typical Victorian display of dead and preserved animals.
  • Worth visiting for curiosity value and the Blaschka glass models.
  • Curious fact: Some animals are facing the wrong way as the entrance was moved ... but the animals were too big to be turned!

Guide Review - National Museum of Ireland (Natural History, Merrion Street, Dublin)

The ground floor of the Natural History Museum has a comprehensive display of Irish wildlife, from the skeleton of the extinct giant Irish deer to the rabbits introduced by the Normans. The other floors are devoted to international fauna, jumping between continents with reckless abandon. You will see elephants, a rare Tasmanian Tiger and a polar bear shot by Irish explorer Leopold McClintock (with the fatal entry wound still clearly visible).

Most of the mammals and birds are preserved through taxidermy. Victorian style. Which makes for some truly grotesque creatures due to the simple process followed. A sizeable number of exhibits bear little more than a passing resemblance to the living animal. Add the fact that time, sunlight and insects have taken their toll on several specimens and you will understand why this museum is not one of the top ten attractions of Dublin. The fish and other animals preserved in alcohol lend the museum a certain sideshow feeling with their ghostly pallor.

That said I have to say that some displays are fascinating, the family groups done up by Williams and Son for instance, or the huge basking shark and moonfish caught in Irish waters. And the huge number of glass animals designed by the Blaschka family from Leipzig deserves a good look too - actually taking the museum up one star.

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