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  • Susan Elaine Jones

The weird and wonderful

Rat dissected to show nervous system

I never fail to be astonished by the weird and wonderful things out on display in museums that people don't even notice. And the infinite variety of ways that zoologists and anatomists find to slice up and bottle animals.

I finally got the combination of time, energy and a willing accomplice to visit the Horniman Museum. I heard about the marvellous walrus years ago, and have long wanted to visit. (If you haven't heard of it, imagine a bewildered taxidermist being supplied with the first walrus skin and, not knowing what the animal may have looked like, basically stuff the skin to capacity, so that it now looks like a mixture between an overinflated balloon and Eamonn Holmes).

But one of the other delights in the museum is the series of partially dissected animals shown in a new and weird way. In addition to the rat (above), there is also a cat, a rabbit and a - well I honestly don't know, as I couldn't read the label. And without a label, its quite difficult to identify these things. I love them though. They show the nervous system as both complex but also in context. And hopefully saved many other rats from being similarly dissected.

(Having searched the catalogue, I haven't been able to find this specimen to tell you what sort of dissection this is. So I'm sticking with my description of "weird".)

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