The Natural History Museum, Vienna

Whilst in Vienna I had a number of recommendations as to things that I should try and see during the conference. My mother, the art historian, suggested The Belvedere to see the Klimt paintings. My father, the hospitality expert, suggested visiting a Viennese coffee house. My supervisor, the experienced EGU delegate, suggested the Hundertwasserhaus (knowing that I appreciate interesting architecture). But the sad reality of going to a conference in a new city is that as much as you may want to explore the city itself, there is so much happening at the conference that you can hardly tear yourself away from that one building. That is what happened with me and EGU – with one exception, the Natural History Museum (or Naturhistorisches Museum Wien -NHMW).

A lovely sunny day - to spend in a Museum. Yeah I'm a nerd.

A lovely sunny day – to spend in a Museum. Yeah I’m a nerd.

Now as a former employee of the NHM in London I have a strong appreciation for a good museum and the NHMW Vienna had been recommended to me by a few different people. To be honest, if I could only visit one thing in any city – a museum would probably win. So one afternoon, when I had a two hour gap, I hopped on the train to the Museums Quarter. The first thing I noticed was that the building itself was beautiful – but in the process of being cleaned. Half of it, therefore, was obscured by scaffolding. Luckily the museum opposite, the Museum of Art History (or Kunsthistorisches Museum) was uncovered and in a mirror image represented what the NHMW would normally look like.

The Museum of Art History

The Museum of Art History

The NHMW was guarded by ths cute little elephant!

The NHMW was guarded by ths cute little elephant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It cost €5 to get in (with a student discount) but that included entry to a special exhibition on Extinction. The Museum is divided between two levels, which can roughly divided into Life Sciences upstairs and Earth Sciences downstairs. One of the sections was closed for refurbishment; the human evolution and anthropology galleries, but to be honest, with only two hours, I couldn’t have done them justice anyway.

IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!!!

Below are a few photos to show just some of the brilliant things about this Museum, but there are so many more!

One great thing for me was that most signs were in German and English.

One great thing for me was that most signs were in German and English.

Just your average dinosaur gallery?

Just your average dinosaur gallery?

Not quite! Little details actually jumped out at you!

Not quite! Little details actually jumped out at you!

And they get extra points for having a feathered Deinonychus model!

And they get extra points for having a feathered Deinonychus model!

They have beautiful victorian display cabinets...

They have beautiful victorian display cabinets…

But even those are not always quite as they seem...

But even those are not always quite as they seem…

He is getting away!!!

He is getting away!!!

Dioramas were used to fantastic effect...

Dioramas were used to fantastic effect…

And objects were placed together that gave you new insight - look at the tiny white brain of this whale!

And objects were placed together that gave you new insight – look at the tiny white brain of this whale!

They even won prizes for their taxidermy and display - who knew you even could!?!

They even won prizes for their taxidermy and display – who knew you even could!?!

Every part of the building had been thought about. Even the windows were illustrated with microfossil drawings to emphasise their beauty.

Every part of the building had been thought about. Even the windows were illustrated with microfossil drawings to emphasise their beauty.

And the figures around the ceiling were just spectacular! And in case you were wondering - yes this does appear to be someone wrestling a pterodactyl next to someone with an icthyosaur tucked under their arm.

And the figures around the ceiling were just spectacular! And in case you were wondering – yes this does appear to be someone wrestling a pterodactyl next to someone with an icthyosaur tucked under their arm.

"*sigh* being a figurehead is SO TIRING. I'm just going to lean on this huge crystal conveniently covering my groin..."

“*sigh* being a figurehead is SO TIRING. I’m just going to lean on this huge crystal conveniently covering my groin…”

There were so many specimens...

There were so many specimens…

That I simply did not have time to see them all.

That I simply did not have time to see them all.

But one thing is clear....

But one thing is clear….

NHMW - I will be back!

NHMW – I will definitely be back!!!

 

Staying safe while on fieldwork.

So new year, new blog, but as fun as geology is – and I hope you agree with me, looking at and for rocks and fossils is great fun! – the first post always has to be about safety. May be a little boring, but if you want to be a rock or fossil hound then the first thing you have to consider is looking after yourself.

Can’t get much more protected than that!

Can’t get much more protected than that!

The main reason for this is that most types of geology are done outside (gasp) near rock faces, cliffs and other unstable lumps of stuff that could fall and hit you on the head. So in order to get this section out of the way quickly and get on to the best bits here is a quick guide to staying safe in the field.

1. Don’t go alone!

The first and most important thing to do when you are going out on ANY geo-related trip is; if at all possible don’t go by yourself. At the very least make sure you have some way of contacting someone if you MUST go by yourself.

‘Hello, Sally? No, everything is fine – I’ve just found some awesome fossilized ripples!!’

‘Hello, Sally? No, everything is fine – I’ve just found some awesome fossilized ripples!!’

On a similar theme, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. I know it seems elementary, but having someone say ‘Hey wasn’t Joe supposed to be back with that Ichthyosaur head by now?’ when you are stranded on a beach with the tide coming in is a very useful thing indeed.

2. Wear proper clothes.

Again this sounds silly, but you would be surprised by how many people go on fieldtrips badly dressed – even university geology students. High heels are a no. As are any clothes that are difficult to walk in, restrictive or delicate (fancy floaty shirts and mud are never going to be great friends). I also want to make a point here about jeans. Jeans are terrible fieldwork trousers – not only do they get wet easily (and when they are wet they stay wet and get really HEAVY), but they also shrink when they get wet too. Not great for the end of the day – even less great if you have an accident. Cotton based trousers are best and if you’re cold – layer!

Ah my lovely walking boots – make sure they are done up tight around your ankle – it may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will save you lots of hurt later!

Ah my lovely walking boots – make sure they are done up tight around your ankle – it may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will save you lots of hurt later!

The best shoes are walking boots that support your ankle – it’s amazing how you don’t ever twist your ankle in a pair of well done up walking boots! – but you can judge what is appropriate by where you are going. If you are out in Britain – take a raincoat!! Come on, we may want to imagine we live in the south of France, but there is a very strong chance it will rain most of the time you want to go out (ditto for waterproof trousers). Though sunscreen and a hat in summer are also a good idea.

 3. Stay away from the cliff face.

If you are searching on a beach this can be very tempting, but unless you have a hard hat cliffs are a very bad idea. In 2012 alone the number of landslides along the south coast have been huge (and in at least one instance, fatal) and if you haven’t ever seen a rock fall or landslide – they can move fast! Faster than you would notice them and run away – so unless you are with a professional, stay away from the cliff. If you don’t believe me, look at this video from WDEF News and see what I mean.

Safety signs point out dangerous cliff faces (also look out for cliffs covered by plants)

Safety signs point out dangerous cliff faces (also look out for cliffs covered by plants).

If in doubt wear a hard hat.

If in doubt wear a hard hat.

4. Only go where you are allowed.

This kinda leads on from the last one really – an old quarry can be a brilliant place to find great rocks and minerals – but only if you are allowed to go in. Some quarries are public access and considered mostly safe, some allow visitors if they are with a professional, but always check. If there is barbed wire, angry looking signs in red or yellow, or dogs – stay clear! This also applies to private property – check you are allowed to collect before going rummaging around on someone’s farm or garden.

Nice public access quarry.....

Nice public access quarry…..

..... less nice private land.

….. less nice private land.

5. Check the weather!

I may have joked about it earlier, but bad weather can really ruin your day – and even put you in danger. We aren’t always going to have lovely balmy days when we go collecting, but equally going fossil hunting in a force 10 gale, when it is snowing, and there is hail the size of your fist, isn’t a brilliant plan. Settle back into your sofa, dig out your favourite fossil book and go tomorrow. The good thing about geology? It’ll still be there the next day!

Who knew even clouds could be geological?!

Who knew even clouds could be geological?!

Of course there are lots of other things you can do to keep yourself out of danger – and I suggest you do them, but for me, these five are the most important. So remember stay safe and if you don’t feel comfortable don’t do it – even people that should know better sometimes do stupid things!

Yeah that isn’t such a great idea.

Yeah that isn’t such a great idea.

If in doubt follow The Geologist’s Association Fieldwork Code (part 1 and part 2) – it also includes treating places with respect which I’ll go over in another blog, but it is very handy (and detailed!).

Have a rockin’ day!

(this post was moved from my old site, so sorry for any inconsistencies)