Record of a nighttime discovery tour of the world of biodiversity at Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt am Main
Arrival at the museum. We park the car full of photographic equipment right in front of the building. The last visitors are just leaving, as the museum is about to close. Then we have the place all to ourselves – together with every kind of creature since time memorial and immemorial.
While we give the glass of the showcases a polish for the photos, some of us remember how often we flattened our noses here as children. The exhibits showing the incredible variety of nature have lost nothing of their fascination.
We wait impatiently for it to grow dark. It seems ages until the remaining daylight fades from the museum. Meanwhile we examine the subjects we plan to photograph, our time schedule and the camera settings. Our first model is Allen’s hummingbird.
Suddenly it’s pitch black and we are alone in the dark with the animals. An air humidifier rattles steadily in the distance, and someone somewhere is plonking away on a piano. The night watchman satisfies our curiosity: it’s the explanatory film that is still running in the room next door. Finally our six little spotlights come into play. We direct them at the exhibits from different angles to make them stand out from the darkness.
We’re still busy with the hummingbirds and battling with pesky shadows and reflections. We still have several objects to photograph and our time is limited.
The next shots go smoothly. The shoebill stork is a welcome subject – it looks so dumb that it’s easy to make it look as if we’d captured a shot in the dark out in the wild.
Time for a break. We have a quick picnic in the Merian room. Unusual natural science artefacts are suspended from the ceiling - the skin of a baby elephant, a crocodile and other items that are hard to identify. When we learn that this is where the annual TV programme Terra X – Supertiere (animals of the superlative) is recorded for German TV channel ZDF, we quickly remove the remains of our picnic from the squeakyclean tables and get back to work.
Our last big challenge stands before us, the biggest object in front of our lens: the Tyrannosaurus Rex. How are we to do justice to this prince of exhibits? After a few tries we decide to present it just as we remember seeing it when we were small. From this angle, it looks powerful and menacing.
We’ve bagged our last subject. The cable snakes have been put away and we are exhausted but elated.
Senckenberg and BRAIN united by 3.5 billion years of evolution
The Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung claims to present the “World of Biodiversity”. This natural history research institution has been exploring the diversity of life and its significance for Earth’s system, from the largest eco-systems down to the tiniest organisms, for almost 200 years. Its scientific findings are presented to the public at the museums. With its scientific activities, collections and museums. Senckenberg occupies a prominent place in German biodiversity research.
It is this shared passion for biology and evolution, back to its origins 3.5 billion years ago, that unites Senckenberg and BRAIN. BRAIN has recorded biological diversity in “nature’s toolbox”, structured it and made it available for industrial use. These extraordinary resources and technical expertise make industrial processes more efficient and provide new answers to the economic challenges of tomorrow and beyond.
Senckenberg Natural History Museum