Fitting 350 years of studies on nature in a narrow room is an ambitious goal. Eventually, too hard if the aim is to contain highlights from a collection of 500,000 artworks and illustrations, as we can see in “Images of Nature”, the new permanent exhibition of the National History Museum.
The main idea is that art has been the first instrument for classification in the scientific research, including the study of proportions, the illustrations for scientific books and the many records of exotic species from long voyages early in the 18th century.
But without a clear division into sections and a focus on a particular issue, the exhibition closely reminds an antiquarian shop, and most visitors give only a quick look at the walls, before giving up.
Pictures of insects are next to drawings of flowers, fossils and the painting of a rhinoceros. Moreover, there are three microscopes, some satellite images of the surface of Mars, six illustrations of the anatomy of a chimpanzee, three samples of rock types, a pap of England and also the skulk of a dodo.