Despite being called a Spirit Tour, and taking place in a part of the Natural History Museum dubbed The Spirit Building, this particular Museum Adventure has absolutely nothing to do with ghosts whatsoever (for those kinds of Museum Adventures, look over here…)
I know, it’s a bit disappointing isn’t it? But never fear, although there are no spirits of the supernatural kind, there are plenty of the other kind. You know the ones I mean -the ones that come in bottles.
Now, before you start thinking that the Spirit Tour is just wandering about the museum loaded up on vodka and gin, it isn’t (side note: how much fun does that sound?). No, the Spirit Tour looks at the part of the collection that is stored in Industrial Methylated Spirit -and occasionally Formaldehyde- hence Spirit Collection.
That’s right. I went to nose around the stuff in jars!
If you fancy having a look around the rooms full of Things in Jars, the museum run regular tours.
The best bit? They are completely free. You can pick up tickets when you arrive from the Info Desk in the Central Hall.
The worst bit? No photos allowed on tour.
Although I get the reason for this (the tours would never run to time, conservation issues and so on), some back stage tours, like the one of the Horniman Stores do allow photography so it is always best to check. So, alas, I can’t show you highlights such as Charles Darwin’ pet glow-in-the-dark octopus or the formaldehyde’d remains of a giant and colossal squids.
Seeing the specimens was a treat in itself, but learning a bit more about them was fantastic. To be honest, before, I just assumed that all the specimens were stored in formaldehyde. This isn’t the case, for, as our guide explained, formaldehyde doesn’t preserve the DNA and it hardens the specimen. Handy for keeping half a cow in a large tank without intestines and offal spilling all over the place, less good for looking at under a microscope. For DNA preservation, use the Industrial Methylated Spirit.
So, we couldn’t take pictures on the tour, but we could in the bit of the Spirit Collection that is opened to the public. To give you an idea of what it’s like, we were led through corridors like this:
Where we saw things like this:
And, of course, one of these:
the ghostly floating remains of a Vampire bat!
If you’re a big fan of things in jars in Natural History Museums, then you’ll *love* the Spirit Room in the Museum fur Naturekunde in Berlin.