Osaka nature museum goes extra distance to get community involved



The Osaka Museum of Natural History has teamed up with a community-based group of supporters to provide special activities aimed at raising interest in nature, including behind-the-scenes tours not normally available.

In mid-February, the museum, operated by Osaka City Hall, opened its usually closed treasure house for a tour by members of the group. The house stores a huge number of animal and plant samples, old publications and fossils, among other items.

“While no more than 15,000 or so items are on display (in the museum), we have at least 1.3 million reference materials in the treasure house,” Takeshi Nakajo, a 46-year-old curator, told the group, which included children.

As part of the tour, they watched the process of stuffing a bird specimen.

“Let’s check the inner parts of the bird to confirm whether it is male or female,” a curator in charge said.

“It’s so enjoyable. My elder bother wanted to come but couldn’t attend this tour, so I will convey my experience here to him,” Aoi Tsuji, 10, from the city of Osaka, said excitedly.

The group was founded in 1955 to support the museum and has grown to include some 1,600 families mostly in the Kinki region centered on Osaka. Under curators’ guidance, members have engaged in research activities, such as the collection of plant samples and distribution surveys for bugs.

The tie-up between the Osaka museum and the group has become a model for other museums in establishing support organizations.

At the group’s annual assembly in late January, members reported the findings of their studies. One of them was Ryudai Ito, 15, a third-year junior high school student from Ikoma, Nara Prefecture, who displayed some 200 samples of bees spanning about 50 varieties he had caught.

“I wonder how they . . . evolved to have such colors and shapes,” Ito said, expressing a strong sense of curiosity.

The members include families that go back three generations, according to Mitsugu Tashiro, 68, who joined the group in 1974 and now serves as its deputy head. “We have shared pleasure in nature and will continue to do so,” he said.