RBINS Tour 1: Bernissart iguanodons

Going by memory here, please correct me if I am wrong!

The RBINS hides behind one of the ugliest buildings in Brussels – and that’s saying a lot! In fact, The Ugly is the collections tower (says a friend who used to work there – hi Dimi!). Behind it is a partially old and rather nice building, of which I only got to see the inside and a rare glimpse out of windows. I’ll spare you the view of the front and instead concentrate on the Iguanodon model in front. What else could they place there but….

Here’s a side view:

and a frontolateral one:

I’ve cut away as much of the building as possible, but you can still spy a little piece of The Ugly Facade in the top right corner. Sorry!

From a distance the model looks like it is made from bronze, but in fact it consists of many small pieces of wood. Some of them are rotting, and I really hope they fix them soon! It is a pretty impressive model!

more RBINS below the fold
Inside, the RBINS starts the way most museums do, with an entrance hall with the cash desks. Unlike many more modern buildings, the room is spacey but not monstrously so, and of rather simple shape. but it’s got a whale skeleton hung above the heads of the visitors – neat!

I’ll omit a description of the area behind it, except for noting that it is chaotic and confusing, holds the mineral exhibit, the lockers, the hidden-away restrooms, a conference crypt (where the Darwin meeting took place), and a very nicely stocked gift shop. I got my kids the toy dinos there.

From there you can take many paths, to the mammals collection or elsewhere – in fact, the building seems almost as horribly littered with obvious and hidden staircases as the MfN in Berlin, and they take you to many places (as opposed to Berlin), and the signs for what’s on what floor and accessible via the staircase you’re in in fact are easily understandable (none of these in Berlin, because the public doesn’t have access beyond the ground floor). Eric Snively, my travel companion, and I opted for the dinosaur hall first – quelle surprise! And this is what you see when you enter it:

(yeah, I showed this before. Click through for larger scale.)

This huge hall used to house the iguanodons* at the foot of the stair you see on the left, but now they have been relocated after re-preparation and re-conversation into the huge glass cage on the left. The material suffers from Marcasite decay (usually known as Pyrite decay; see also here, where the sidebar explains the treatment the Belgian iguanodons were subjected to), so that keeping it dry is paramount. The skeletons all come from Bernissart, a small town a good hours drive SW of Brussels. I was there during the Darwin conference hosted at RBINS, and to be honest it was not very impressive. Also, the skeletons come from coal mines, were found underground. The museum has a small model on exhibit, and a handful of miners’ tools.

* Why am I not capitalizing the iguanodons? Because, well, it’s not all Iguanodon. Darren Naish had a great series of posts over at SciAm’s guest blog back in 2010; head over and check it out: part I, part II, part III.

Here’s now a handful of good photos of the famous critters, some of which I posted before:

There are nine (count them – NINE!) mounted skeletons, and the floor underneath hides a neat surprise: many skeletons in position as found! I guess that’s the largest group of real skeletons of large dinosaurs from one locality anywhere in the world!

The glass reflects a lot, and it is in some places quite smeared by the grubby fingers of visitors, or dusty, which does not help taking pictures at all. Eric, the smarter of the two of us, has a little second flash for his camera, which he can point at an angle. He took some amazing pictures. I was limited to searching for places where dark backgrounds behind me meant few reflections, or where I could hold the camera flat against the glass (the two head shots above, for example). Luckily, there is a gallery leading along one long and one narrow side of the huge hall, so that I was able to see the mounts from head height and from ground level.

OK, enough of that, here’s some in situ stuff. It is located in one continuous glass sarcophagus with the mounts, just one floor below, and you can spy it from the museum’s ground level through a gap running around the matte glass forming the floor for the mounts, and through individual “missing” panes in that floor which are used to mirror spotlights from below onto the mounts.

and that’s it for today! Maybe I’ll find time soon to write a bit about the posture of these mounts and how opinions have changed.

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About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in Dinosauria, Iguanodontia, Ornithischa, Ornithopoda, RBINS. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to RBINS Tour 1: Bernissart iguanodons

  1. Steve P says:

    WOW!!! I must visit…

  2. SanSaurio says:

    I´ve visted twice the museum, and I was a week each time whit the Iguanodons inside studing their feet. I think they are my best experiences in my “work” travels.

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