Naturhistorisches Museum Bern, Ausstellung die grosse Knochenschau, Raum von oben

The great bone gallery — Inside the belly of the whale

Permanent exhibition

Do you know where a horse’s hands are, or why an elephant walks on tiptoe? There's more meat on the bone than you might expect in this contemporary revival of an almost 150 year-old collection of skeletons.

The 328 animal skeletons in this time-honoured collection (the largest of its kind in Switzerland) were once kept at the Institute of Anatomy at Bern University, where they served exclusively scientific purposes. Now on permanent loan to the Natural History Museum, the skeletons (plus 518 loose bones) have had new life breathed into them. The exhibition celebrates in equal measure the aesthetic aspect of science and the delicious appeal of the macabre. It's a showy affair with a carnivalesque touch whose main attractions are the 23 metre-long skeleton of a fin whale, the carousel of carcasses and the skeleton of an African bull elephant shot by big game hunter Bernard von Wattenwyl.