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

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

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.

Advertisement

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.

2197521967_535fe5a86b_o
The taxidermy room.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

2198306622_e62a5511f7_o
A less-than-menacing taxidermied snake.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

2197517497_32c51f6fc4_b
A heart, dissected rat, and other organs.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

2198307472_18ccf5414b_b
Dissected human fetuses and organs.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

2198317948_f66269dece_b
A two-headed calf.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

2198302124_d5da0c71ce_o
Sea specimens.

Photo: Michelle Enemark

Natural history on display:


View Zoological Museum in a larger map

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.