The Museum holds one of the world's largest collections of Blaschka models - unique nineteenth century glass miniatures of animal and plants. This exhibition is currently closed.
No Wheelchair Access
The stunning glass models of the third floor balcony of the Museum were manufactured in Dresden in the late nineteenth century by the father-and-son team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. Their animal models were based on descriptions in the textbooks of the day and were true to every detail visible to the scientists who studied the real creatures under the microscope.
Much of the magic of the ocean is hidden from view simply because it is microscopic. The radiolarian Aulosphaera elegantissima is made from a single cell and would be far too small to see with the naked eye. It is one of a huge variety of animals living among the plankton of the world’s oceans.
Jellyfish and sea anemones are close relatives. In many species they are simply different forms of the same animal at various stages in its life cycle. In the jellyfish, or ‘medusa’, phase the organism can swim freely by contracting its bell-shaped body and squirting water to jet forwards. Sea anemones are fixed to the sea floor. They can be thought of as upside-down jellyfish, with a central mouth surrounded by tentacles. Just as with jellyfish and corals, these tentacles can give a poison sting, to assist with the capture of its prey.
Coral colonies look like plants at first glance, but they are in fact animals. Coral animals, or ‘polyps’, are generally small, with a set of short tentacles surrounding a central mouth. They are related to sea anemones and jellyfish. They live in tubes that form a ‘skeleton’ made of lime, the same as in many shellfish. Red coral Corallium rubrum was once widely used in jewellery but is now a protected species. Only the skeleton is preserved in these examples, and without the Blaschka models, visitors would have little idea that they were seeing only part of these animals.
Blaschka models are used for many animals around this balcony. Most of these animal groups are not familiar to the public. Exhibition cases of worms, including parasites, would be much less graphic without the skills of the Blaschkas.