Natural History Museum

The Ottoneum in Kassel, Germany was the first theater building built in Germany and is now a museum of natural history.
The Natural History Museum in Ottoneum, one of the most beautiful and oldest preserved buildings in Kassel, has a highly interesting and varied history. The collection of natural history dates back to the rarities of the rarities of the country, making it one of the oldest in Europe. The most prominent pieces are Herbar Ratzenberger, the skeleton of the “Goethe elephant” and Schildbach’s wooden library, a “collection of wood species, Hesse of Nature”, from the 18th century, consisting of 530 artful wooden books, Created 1771 to 1799.

The Ottoneum is currently home to the Goethe Elephant Skeleton, which was lent to Goethe by Soemmerring for his anatomical research of the premaxilla. The elephant’s skin that was preserved by Soemmerring was one of the casualties of the museum’s fire in World War II. Also housed is the Schildbach Wooden Library, which was created by Carl Schildbach from 1771 to 1799. This library is made up of 530 volumes which each serve as a representation of the flora present on various trees. Each part of the book, from the spine to the front page, is made up of the different sections of the specific tree. Specifications about the tree such as where it grows, what it looks like and how it changes with the seasons is also given. The Wooden Library is now presented in a cabinet constructed by American artist Mark Dion for documenta(13).

One of the oldest artifacts housed in the museum is the Ratzenberger Herbarium, created from 1556 to 1592. Here there are 700 pressed plants preserved in three large leather-bound volumes. The ordering of these plant species already hints at a natural arrangement and grouping of species, prior to the work of Carl Linnaeus.

The Ottoneum is also home to the varied history of the area of Kassel, beginning from the Permian era in the Paleozoic, through the Mesozoic, and finally through to the modern day in the Cenozoic, including the Ice Age. This includes multiple representations of large reptiles, dinosaurs and mammals from each era, including a life sized Iguanodon skeleton and a woolly mammoth.