Inside a 19th-Century Transylvanian Zoology Museum

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
May 1 2014 12:26 PM

Inside a 19th-Century Transylvanian Zoology Museum

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The zoological museum at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania is a bit tricky to find. You'll need to roam long halls edged with unmarked doors and navigate a spiral staircase or two. But once you reach the heavy doors marked MUZEUL ZOOLOGIC, you're in for an astonishing experience.

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Founded in 1859 — the same year that Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species — the zoological museum has retained its Victorian feel. Rows of gorgeous wooden display cases are filled with stuffed deer, pinned butterflies, jars of floating crustaceans, and dissected rodents. A dusty taxidermied snake, its expression one of drunken amusement rather than menace, is curled around a tree. Stuffed birds dangle from the ceiling, their feathers at the mercy of the open air.

Among all of this spooky beauty, the most surprising sight is a small collection of preserved human fetuses floating in alcohol-filled jars. Though modern natural history museums generally avoid displaying human specimens, at Muzeul Zoologic they're just another part of the animal kingdom.

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The taxidermy room.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

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A less-than-menacing taxidermied snake.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

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A heart, dissected rat, and other organs.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

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Dissected human fetuses and organs.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

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A two-headed calf.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

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Sea specimens.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

Natural history on display:


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