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MV snr curator selects 5 from NHM loan

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly. Photo: Courtesy of Museums Victoria. For more images click here.

Elizabeth Flux, Closer Look: Five Priceless Natural Treasures Coming to Melbourne, Broadsheet, 1 April 2021

Melbourne Museum welcomes the world’s largest butterfly, Charles Darwin’s birds, and a 200-million-year-old ichthyosaur.

An ornate brooch embedded with an ancient trilobite fossil. A Martian meteorite. Creatures both familiar and long extinct. Melbourne Museum’s grand new exhibition, Treasures of the Natural World, features an extraordinary array of more than 200 handpicked, priceless items drawn from the vast collection at London’s Natural History Museum. Each has a story to tell about life on earth as well as the personalities who discovered them and shaped our understanding of the natural world. Rebecca Carland, Museums Victoria’s senior curator of history of collections and senior curator on the exhibit, talks us through five key items.

Charles Darwin’s Birds
Darwin’s theory of natural selection was inspired, in part, by examining mockingbirds in different parts of the world. On his formative travels in the 1800s, Darwin compared specimens from Chile with those found on the Galapagos islands over 3000 kilometres away, noting stark differences between the isolated island dwellers and their mainland relatives. Some of these very birds will be on display. “I’m so looking forward to seeing them up close and personal,” says Carland. “You get to see the exact specimens that he was working on when he changed the way we understand our existence.”

The Baryonyx Claw
The Baryonyx Claw is an enormous fossil from a crocodile-like creature that stood on two legs and slashed at its prey with this fearsome in-built weapon. A relatively recent discovery from the 1980s, it was uncovered in England and is thought to be 125 million years old. “It’s terrifying and awesome at the same time,” says Carland. [It] elicited similar levels of excitement from my 12-year-old son as it did our resident palaeontologist.”

See also: Treasures of the Natural World