It’s not often that visitors to a museum also have the option of spending the night there as well – but the Museum of Natural Mystery in New Zealand isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill museum.
The four-room museum in a house owned by artist Bruce Mahalski in the city of Dunedin features an array of curiosities, including the bones and skulls of more than 300 species – many of which have been turned into intricate sculptures that Mahalski has put together himself.
Other highlights include the jaw of an extinct cave bear, a clay sculpture allegedly damaged by a poltergeist in a Wellington art school, and a cow’s skull with a horn growing out of the middle.
Visitors who aren’t easily frightened can book a room at the back area of the hotel, though they’ll need to be OK with letting museum patrons in during opening hours to use the toilet if need be.
Mahalski says he’s only had good feedback so far on the room listed on Airbnb and no one has reported any ghosts of humans or animals.
“I think everyone should start up a museum in their house, ” he says.
Most of the materials for Mahalski’s art are sourced from the collecting trips he takes, to the beach, to forests and paddocks.
Others come from animals found squashed on the side of the road.
While many see bones as ghoulish, Mahalski sees them as “very beautiful and pure”.
“You can’t improve on a skull, ” he says. “They’re so perfect.” For him, bones are not symbols of death but enduring reminders of life.
Among the miscellany of mystery, there are also some human bones.
“I don’t go out of my way to collect human bones but I have been given quite a few over the years by friends of mine who are doctors. All of them are old medical specimens which were used for teaching.”
Much of Mahalski’s work is connected with the idea that humans are an integral part of the natural world and have no right to claim a special, separate status.
By incorporating human bones, he says, he is trying to break down the “invisible barrier between being an animal and being human”.
“We are all animals, ” he adds. – dpa