Top items – skeleton of a whale

1. 11. 2016 | The skeleton of a fin whale has become, without a doubt, the symbol of the National Museum. In 1887, the opportunity to buy the skeleton of an unusually large female whale that had died on the coast of Norway appealed to the brothers Václav and Antonín Frič, who decided to get this specimen as an exhibit for the newly established museum building on Wenceslaus Square.

In 1885, the raging sea spat out a female fin whale, the second largest mammal in the world, on the coast of Norway. The whaling company that processed the carcass decided to use the whale literally down to the last bone. They offered the whole, exceptionally large skeleton to various traders in natural history specimens across Europe.

Antonín Frič, the director of the zoological and paleontological collections of the Museum of the Kingdom of Bohemia (nowadays the National Museum) found out about the offer. He decided to acquire the skeleton as an exhibit for the newly established museum building on Wenceslaus Square.

The skeleton belonged to a fin whale. Large cetaceans are often referred to by the collective name of whale.

However, the museum did not have enough funds for this purchase. Antonín Frič, together with his brother, organized a collection within the patriotic “table society” Jour fixe. The necessary amount of 2,500 guldens was collected quite fast, and so in mid-1887 the whole skeleton was transported to Prague.

For the first time, in November 1888, the people of Prague had a chance to see the skeleton of a fin whale in U Halánků house, which nowadays houses the Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures. In 1892 it was moved to the current Historical Building of the National Museum and installed on steel supports. In the 1950s the installation underwent significant changes, and since then it has been suspended in the way we are nowadays familiar with.

During the current reconstruction of the Historical Building of the National Museum, the skeleton will remain in its place in the hall of mammals and will be restored in its current position.


What next?

Top items – Head of a Celt

Top items – the Bodhisattva of compassion

Top items – Sacred ibis

Top items – cranium of a Neanderthal man

Top items – the Jena Codex

Top items – T. G. Masaryk’s suit

Top items – Mozart’s piano

Top items - Horoscope of Albrecht von Wallenstein

Top items – From the New World

(EK)