After a refit lasting over three years and costing €14 million, Bucharest’s Grigore Antipa Museum of Natural History finally reopened today. (Actually, it opened for the press today: the public can visit as of Saturday, from when the museum will be open 10:00-20:00, Tue-Sun. It will be closed Mondays).
A year late (see this post for more on the Antipa’s various false dawns: it has been reported as being poised to open at least three times over the past year) the quick tour we had of the place this morning suggests that the wait has been worthwhile and the money well spent.
Even before the refurbishment the Grigore Antipa was one of the most popular (and best) museums in Romania, attracting more than 350,000 visitors per year. It was dependent, however, on temporary exhibitions to boost visitor numbers, as it was unable to display all of its collection in one go.
The well thought-out and thorough refit (the interior is unrecognisable from before) however makes far better use of the magnificent building which houses the museum, which is able to permanently display far more of its extensive collection.
Set over three levels, the basement is commendably dedicated entirely to Romanian animals and plants (including an exhibition on now extinct Romanian species), the ground floor to animals around the world (both the living and the extinct: it’s here you will find the dinosaurs and mammoths) while the upper level is devoted to man and his impact on the planet. (Somewhat predictably, the museum has taken a slightly politically correct turn and now feels free to lecture visitors on the harm man is doing to the environment).
Still, for balance, right around the corner is the Hall of Hunting Trophies:
One other small thing we found slightly disconcerting was at the entrance to the Origins of Life on Earth section:
What probably impressed us most – beyond the excellent layout – was the standard of information available, in both Romanian and English (although the English could have done with a native-speaker proof reading it first). Every major exhibit is accompanied by full captions, and touch screens which not only work, but which actually add something to what you are looking at.
The entrance fee to the museum is 20 lei for adults, 10 lei for pensioners and 5 lei for children. With the exception of Casa Poporului, the price is more than double that of any other museum in the city. However, if Bucharest (and Romania) wants to have world class museums then a world class entrance fee alas needs to be paid. Besides, is 20 lei really too much? A family of four can come here for 50 lei: that’s cheaper than a trip to the cinema. (One gripe would be the fact that if you want to take photos you need to pay an extra 20 lei. While we know that such practices are now common in many museums worldwide, it is quite simply a rip off. Whoever it was that first came up with the ‘charge people more money to take photos’ policy wants shooting).
Still, small grumbles. Bucharest’s new look Grigore Antipa is an excellent museum that the city should be proud of, and it is well worthy of your time and money. It is unquestionably an Essential Bucharest sight.
There will be a major feature on the museum in the next print edition of Bucharest In Your Pocket.