I’m currently living with a baby dinosaur. The noises he makes – gurgles, hiccoughs, squeaks, grunts, sighs, squeals and grumbles – are primal, almost prehistoric. And his little mouth is like a tiny pterodactyl or elephant – that kind of beaky but human shape. (Although his coos and increasingly regular smiles are very human 😉 ). So perhaps it’s appropriate that we recently took him and our not-so-baby-dino to the Dinosaur Museum / Sauriermuseum at Aathal, a 20 min drive from Zurich.
I must admit, I was a tad sceptical about a dinosaur museum. I mean, I have nothing against dinosaurs per se. Except for the fact they seem kinda fake. But I guess I believe in science more than god so, yeah. Anyway, the Dinosaur Museum exceeded my expectations. For one, it was bigger than it looked. There were heaps of full size skeletons of some really huge and not-so-huge dinosaurs (mostly replicas, although a few displays contained genuine dinobones) as well as models and pictures of what they’d look like in the flesh.
There were lots of rooms over several levels that were loosely themed so you got to see standing dinos, swimming dinos, flying dinos, meat eaters, herbivores, etc. Pretty much all the info was in German, but that didn’t matter much. P, our nearly-4-year old, can’t read (although his spoken Deutsch is better than ours) and the names are all in Latin so they’re the same anyway. Plus, there was almost too much info to stand around reading everything. An unexpected plus was a whole display on Archeopteryx – a sort of half-bird, half dinosaur about the size of a crow from c.150 million years ago – which just happens to be mentioned in one of P’s books about birds, so he was fascinated to see that.
Other particularly notable displays were the triceratops skull (very sci fi), giant turtle dinosaur bones, pterodactyl bones and those of the Steven Tylosaurus – a huge-mouthed shark-osaur.
On the whole though, P was a bit freaked out by the dinosaur museum. And fair enough, they are pretty freaky, and big. The website does say suitable for age 4 and over. Plus, we’d mostly convinced him they were all extinct and just models anyway and he’d calmed down, then we came across an awfully lifelike model of a baby dinosaur with a WINKING EYE that freaked him out all over again. (Also: how to explain dinosaurs are real and extinct but, say, dragons never existed?)
The museum was created in 1977 by a Swiss guy, Hans-Jakob Siber, a mineral and fossil dealer, who worked on some pretty hardcore excavations of dinosaur bones in the US and suchlike. So it’s got proper chops. And there did seem to be plenty of good information about palaeontological research, excavation methods, fossils, dinosaur eggs, dinosaurs in Switzerland etc. Although again mostly in German. (Interspersed with cheesy displays of Dinosaur and Monster movie paraphanelia and screenings of films such as The Land Before Time, heh). Plus there were activity corners where kids could do colouring in and stuff.
So on balance, the Dino Museum was pretty cool, but I don’t think we’ll go again too soon. A bit scary for young kids and, at CHF21 per adult, quite pricey for the rest of us!