Giant dinosaur stars in rescued Berlin museum

Jurassic Park came to Berlin for real The world's biggest dinosaur skeleton returned to the city's natural history museum to mark the first stage of a €128m (£87m) renovation project for the war-damaged building.

Giant dinosaur stars in rescued Berlin museum

Rising 43ft from the floor of the 19th-century building and almost touching the glass cupola of its main hall, the awe-inspiring 150-million-year-old skeleton of the Brachiosaurus was the star of the evolution show.

The natural history museum was ravaged by bombs during the Second World War, and had been in serious decay. Until now.

The Brachiosaurus was unearthed by German archaeologists in east Africa before the Great War and is the tallest dinosaur in any museum. It has gone on display in Berlin with the skeleton of a 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx and five other dinosaurs' remains that make up one of the worlds' most significant fossil collections.

The Brachiosaurus, whose femur alone weighs 300kg, first went on display in 1937. But now it is being shown for the first time in what, according to latest research, is its authentic posture: instead of squatting on bent legs, the skeleton now stands erect with a grossly elongated neck.

The giant is part of the museum's new exhibition entitled "Evolution in Action" or EVA. Most of the show bucks the trend that favours interactive displays and computer screens, by using real fossils to demonstrate the evolutionary process and its research. But the exhibition merely scratches the surface of the museum's vast collection.

The Berlin museum's collection of birds alone contains 130,000 specimens including 50 now mainly extinct examples collected in Hawaii during Captain Cook's third Pacific voyage. It also houses the world's largest collection of beetles, a million mammals and 14,000 fish.

The east wing of the Berlin museum was badly damaged and was, until only recently, a blackened and ruined shell sprouting birch trees. During the Cold War, the building was on the Communist side of the Berlin Wall and suffered a chronic lack of funds.

Much of the museum's collection is still rarely seen, stored in upstairs rooms almost untouched since the era of Germany's last Kaiser. In summer, the 200,000 jars containing mammal remains pickled in alcohol make parts of the museum reek like an operating theatre. Because there is no air conditioning, the jars have to be constantly topped up and the rooms darkened.

The museum's directors hope most of the east wing's renovation will be done by 2009, providing a home for many of the pickled specimens. But the museum is still owned by Berlin's former East German Humboldt University which has insufficient cash.

This EVA exhibition is being paid for by Germany's state lottery and EU funds. The directors' latest hope is that the institution will be saved by being accepted for membership of Germany's state-funded Leibnitz Association, which would give it recognition as an independent research organisation, and an income.

The Independent

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Temmuz 2007, 15:19