I have a question for you. Can you identify the dinosaur in the picture above? I’m guessing you said Stegosaurus, right? But if you know a bit about your dinosaurs you might conclude that it’s a touch thin to be a Stegosaurus, and the bony plates on its back don’t look quite right. At which point you’ll probably conclude that this is a cheaply produced toy whose manufacturer cared little for anatomical correctness (that was my guess). But Beanie-boy knew better. He took one look and said “It’s a Kentrosaurus, mummy”. I Googled. He’s right.
Which is all a bit of important context for me telling you that Beanie-boy thought the Orlov museum was absolutely amazing. It feels essential that you should realise his assessment is that of a budding paleontologist and probably not that of your average pre-schooler. Because the Orlov is not the kind of museum that goes out of its way to be child-friendly. There are no lighting effects, sound effects, buttons to press, or “stand here and measure how big your footprint is compared to a Diplodocus” type of interactive feature. But what it lacks in whizz-bang technology, it more than makes up for with its sheer number of dinosaur and other prehistoric skeletons and fossils.
I don’t like to be disloyal to my home country so please read this next bit in a conspiratorial whisper: for dinosaur fans, the Orlov may actually be better than London’s Natural History Museum. Seriously. Certainly if you judge by volume, there are definitely more fossilised skeletons here. And not just skeletons, this for example was just one of about a dozen fossilised dinosaur nests that we saw.
And there’s more than dinosaurs, there are rooms full of other prehistoric creatures too: from the biggest mammal that ever lived (the Indricotherium), through prehistoric rhinos, to the perfectly preseverved remains of a baby mammoth (which they’ve called Dima). The collection is huge, in fact in several places the Orlov had enough fossilised skeletons that they could create whole family groups of creatures.
Beanie-boy of course thought it was all wonderful. Little Pickle was less sure. Although she’s been well-schooled in dinosaur facts by her elder brother (he taught her to say dinosaur before she could say either cat or dog), the lack of things to touch meant her two-year-old attention span was pretty short. We did try to interest her in the fabulous artwork, which was everywhere. Almost all the available wall-space was covered with murals or some sort of decorative feature, and I just loved the effort that the Orlov had made to turn their metal fences and gates into pieces of craftsmanship. It’s almost worth going for the art alone.
The Orlov Museum can be found in the south of the city (almost at the MKAD) at 123 Profsoyuznaya Ulitsa. Almost all of the information about the exhibits is in Russian apart from the Latin names, but if you have a QR reader app on your phone you can download an English audio guide to some of the main exhibits.
There isn’t a cafe on site, but if you’re hungry it’s just a 5 minute drive to the two Cafe Anderson’s on Ostrovityanova Ulitsa. The museum has a garden with some models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures where I guess you could normally sit to eat a picnic, but it was closed on the day we went. The museum’s website can be found at: http://www.paleo.ru/museum-en/