The curiosities at the University of Copenhagen Geology Museum are well worth a visit if you have a free couple of hours in the city.
I have to admit, I think Copenhagen is my favourite city. My husband spent last year living there and I got to know it quite well but I never managed to visit the museum in that time. It isn’t open regular hours, so check before you go.
The view of the Botanical Gardens at the University of Copenhagen from the window of the Geology Museum.
The museum isn’t huge but there are a number of small exhibits over two floors and you can look round in an hour or two. It is located in the stunning Botanical Gardens which are well worth a walk through and, if the weather is nice, there’s a small cafe where you can buy a coffee to sit on the grass and appreciate the surroundings. The gardens are completely free to visit.
At the entrance to the Geology Museum you are greeted by the sixth largest fragment of meteorite on Earth, Agpalilik. You can touch it and have your picture taken with it, if you like. It looks like a large rock. Hard to believe that it is actually made of iron and weighs a massive 20,000 kilograms. The fragment is from the Cape York meteorite, named after the place it was found in Greenland. It collided with earth around 10,000 years ago and you can learn more about the meteorite, its discovery and formation inside the museum.
There are four main exhibition spaces in the Geology Museum at the moment. The majority of the exhibition descriptions are written in Danish and that made for a fun game of ‘guess what this is’. It helped that I was there with a geologist who could answer some of my questions. That said, the people working in the museum were incredibly helpful and explained/translated some of the information that I was particularly interested in. They are student volunteers so if you do go, make sure you do chat to them.
The tour starts in the ‘Solar System’ exhibition which includes a slice of one of the largest meteorite fragments on the planet. You may have noticed a chunk missing from the meteorite in the picture above. It’s an impressive sight. One side hasn’t been treated but the other has been polished. You can even see my reflection.
You can see dark patches in the meteorite which are the rare earth mineral, troilite. There’s a fantastic online resource, written by Danish scientists, detailing more about the solar system exhibit, the story of the meteorite fragment discovery and the work of researchers at the University of Copenhagen here.
The Solar System exhibit features videos from current research scientists which are fantastic. The videos include a story of the discovery as told by Professor Vagn F. Buchwald who found the meteorite fragment. He also explains how they created the slice of the meteorite displayed in the museum. Cutting through solid iron isn’t easy. The videos also tell stories of the importance of studying diamond dust, formed from the explosions of dying stars, which is helping us to understand the early universe.
I really liked the way this exhibition integrated physical objects with the current scientific research and the scientists involved.
The Hubble Deep Field image on the ceiling gave me some ideas for when I redecorate my bedroom too.
Moving away from space the other exhibits included a geological history of Greenland in some fantastic exhibition cases. This part of the museum is all in Danish.
Upstairs is my second favourite exhibition in the museum, Flora Danica. The exhibition tells the story of the creation and printing of the complete volume of wild plants and fungi native to Denmark. The exhibition includes unpublished works too that have been kept hidden for 130 years in a store room. Flora Danica is a real art – science collaboration from the 18th Century. You can see the beautiful images online here on the Royal Library website.
The museum also houses the All things strange and beautiful exhibition. This contains some of the rather bizarre collections and letters of the 17th Century Danish physician, Ole Worm, who’s collection of oddities made one of the first museums in the world. He had a keen interest, as a physician, in new cures from nature. Beside the objects displayed are his own interpretations of what they are, and what they meant. These include letters to Pliny the Elder about stones which guarantee to ensure ‘prophetic dreams’. Some are amusing to read but they do remind you of how we have categorised and learnt about the world around us through observation, study and communication.
A horses jaw enclosed in an oak tree root, from the cabinet of curiosities
I especially enjoyed his scientific debunking of the ‘mouse that fell from the sky’ a common myth that Norway lemmings, which have rapidly fluctuating population, were spontaneously generated in the clouds. Ole Worm disproved this by dissection, demonstrating that the lemmings have sexual organs, but he did admit that the lemmings could be swept up to the sky by the brutal Scandinavian winds to then rain down from the clouds.
‘The mouse that fell from the sky’ the Norwegian Lemming
Lastly, but by no means least. It wouldn’t be a geology museum without a minerals collection. This one didn’t disappoint and it came complete with a display of fluorescent rocks.
The Geology Museum is part of the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum (which is actually made up of several museums). There’s a lot of redevelopment going on to create a large, connected, museum. The plans look fantastic and I hope I can revisit the museum when it is completed in 2017.
The museum costs:
Adults DKK 40
Children (age 3-16): DKK 25
Students at University of Copenhagen Free admission
You can also buy a season ticket DKK 140.- (adults) and DKK 75.- (children) – also valid at the Zoological Museum and to special exhibitions.
It is free for those that have purchased a Copenhagen Card.
This month is your very last chance to visit an exclusive exhibition in Aberdeen all about how biology effects our lives, and its future applications, at Satrosphere Science Centre.
You might normally associate biology with how your heart works, or with the creepy crawlies found at the bottom of your garden but this exhibition explains how biology is related to our everyday lives through agriculture, biotechnology, our food and our well-being. There’s a picture of a Highland cow too so it must be good.
MISSION POSSIBLE is currently touring Europe and flew in to Aberdeen in November. It will not be visiting anywhere else in the UK anytime soon so you should visit it while it is right here in Aberdeen. The exhibition is super interactive, with games and touch screens and it features displays created by researchers here in Aberdeen including some amazing microscopic images.
The exhibition challenges you to think about how difficult decisions are made, such as how fishing quotas are decided. It also looks at the complexities of our day to day needs such as where your food comes from in “You are What you Eat” which looks at the food miles, calories and CO2 emissions of everyday food.
You can also learn about the history of scientific breakthroughs in Scotland and how researchers today are trying to make Scotland, and the world, a better place to live.
The exhibition alone is worth a visit but there are also lots of events and activities taking place throughout the Easter holidays at Satrosphere which are based on the contents of the exhibition including Science Club (suitable for ages 6+).
The Cafe Controversial talk series is also running alongside the exhibition. The next event is on the 22nd of April (the very last day of the exhibition) and Professor Howard Davis from the James Hutton Institute will be discussing GM Crops and the place GM crops have in modern agriculture. All Cafe Controversial events are free to attend, and you just turn up ready for the talk to start at 7pm in the Satrosphere Cafe (they make excellent cakes too!).
Mission Possible is organised by the BIOPROM project consortium aimed at bringing together experts who work with or on new concepts for communicating bioeconomy research to the public from both regional and global sources. From November 2013 to April 2014 the project will focus on Aberdeen, communicating research through the Satrosphere exhibition in partnership with the University of Aberdeen. For more information on the consortium please visit www.bioprom-net.eu. To keep updated with the exhibition in Aberdeen and all events, follow @BIOPROMabdn on twitter.
If you escape the bright city lights of Aberdeen on a clear evening and look up you might get treated to an astronomical display of stars and meteor showers. If you are really lucky, then you might get a glimpse of the northern lights.
The relatively dry climate of North East Scotland gives us plenty of clear nights for prime stargazing and it’s a great, free alternative to a night round the tellybox. Before the days of the T.V., when there wasn’t much else to do once the sun went down, a local mathematician and astronomer, Sir David Gill, took the very first photograph of the moon in 1868.
If, like me, you are an interested (extremely) amateur astronomer without a telescope or space rocket and prefer the temperature to be above 20 degrees then you are in luck. The toasty warm Aberdeen Maritime Museum has just opened a free exhibition all about Aberdeen’s most famous astronomer and there are a series of free evening talks about local stargazing, the history of time and the life of Sir David Gill. You can even pick up a stargazing live calendar!
Gill is credited with taking that VERY FIRST photograph of the moon in 1868 but that was by no means his only contribution to our knowledge of space. Gill took accurate measurements of the stars and determined the distance of the sun from earth using the parallax of the planet Mars (see more on how that works here).
Gill was the son of a clockmaker and the free exhibition is well worth a visit to see some impressive telescopes, grandfather clocks and the heliometer he used from the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen Museums and Royal Astronomical society collections. The exhibition also details information about Gill’s life in Aberdeen and the history of timekeeping.
It is also believed that Gill took the very first photograph of the Great Comet of 1882, although that wasn’t taken in Aberdeen, it was taken when Gill was Her Majesty’s Astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Cape Town, South Africa.
One big realisation for me was that Greenwich mean time was only officially rolled out in 1884. Before that people in Aberdeen could have been eating their breakfast while London was having lunch and no-one knew when you were supposed to catch a train. Although I do quite like the idea of just setting my own time. That could come in very useful.
Gill was taught by James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish mathematical physicist in Aberdeen who’s own contributions to physics ranked alongside Sir Issac Newton and Einstein. He also took the first permanent colour photograph in 1861 (which is of a tartan ribbon, see below).