Institute for Ecomuseum Research in Tulcea
Located in the center of Tulcea in a beautiful building that is also an architectural monument, the Natural Science Museum of the Danube Delta has been for almost half a century one of the important cultural elements in Tulcea and most of all, a very well known one. Opened in 1964 and designed as an informative, educational and relaxation point at the same time, the museum annually attracts thousands of Romanian and foreign visitors who are interested in the beauties of the Danube Delta. Through its entire activity, the museum wishes to be an alternative to the cultural and educational offerings that exist in Tulcea. Besides the attractive presentation of the significant elements – the flora, the fauna, the habitat and the landscapes – which makes of the Danube Delta an unique place in the world, 3-4 temporary exhibitions are being held every year, presenting varied and interesting themes which complete the informative content of the permanent exhibition. The events are organized either by using exhibit pieces from the already existent collections or by using exhibit pieces belonging to other museums in the country or even from abroad. Most of the time these exhibitions are accompanied by screening of documentaries, public conferences or debates related to theme. Another point of attraction of the museum is the aquarium which harbors a collection of over 200 items representing 50 species of aquatic organisms (plants, crustaceans, fish, reptiles) specific to the Danube Delta, as well as the tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa and South America. Here the visitors have the opportunity to learn about aspects regarding the biology and the etiology of aquatic organisms, the way of taking care of these organisms in captivity, as well as advice for those who are interested in aquatics as a hobby. It is a popular place for those who want to relax, considering the positive effect of an aquarium against the daily stress. Furthermore, the museum contains and manages a valuable patrimony consisting of almost 70,000 of biological and geological pieces, organized into nine scientific collections, which bears witness to the wealth and diversity of Dobrogea, as well as of the fauna of other ecosystems around the globe. A remarkable scientific and esthetical element is represented by the plant collection from the natural reservations in Dobrogea, the exotic butterflies and mollusk collections, designed by the famous biologists Fr. Konig and A. Popescu-Gorj, and Al. V. Grossu respectively, as well as the ornithological collection. Since it is a section of a research institute, the museum develops scientific research activities that target the museum patrimony (the scientific collections) and the natural patrimony of Dobrogea (the flora, the fauna, the eco-tourist potential, aggression factors, etc.). Research is being done on the structure of natural ecosystems, the preservation state of various taxa and the possibilities of using natural resources without destroying the regeneration capacity of these ecosystems. The results of this research are subsequently used in projects to protect and preserve the habitats and specifically the species that are almost extinct, through article writing, organizing scientific and exhibition events, developing the museum's patrimony, and last but not least signaling the competent forums on the potential aggression factors against the environment. The studies and the presentations are published in the magazine of the museum, The Danube Delta, edited once every two years. Besides the scientific research and the management of the museum's patrimony, special attention is being given to educational activities, aimed at drawing the public closer to the museum, so it can be viewed as an important partner in the educational process, with two target groups: the young generation included in the education system and the family. In this sense, the Natural Science Museum initiated various activities, such as alternative lessons in ecology or environment protection, theme contests that flag up different events (for example Environment Day, Earth Day, Birds' Day, etc.) or educational programs (My Friend, Nature; Nature's Friends; Little Nature Scientists, Protect Nature!), study trips in various protected areas in the county, or action of sanitation of the town parks. Within the framework of annual partnerships concluded with education units, the museum specialists provide scientific assistance and the necessary documentary and didactic material The international value of the natural patrimony of Dobrogea, the necessity of developing the Natura 2000 network of protected areas – a major requirement in the process of inclusion into the EU – constituted the premises of the implication of the museum researchers in the actions of identifying, researching and promoting of natural sites that hold a special ecological and esthetical value. For this purpose, collaborative partnerships were set up with the administration of the Macin Mountains National Park, the Ornithological Romanian Society, the Eco-Pont Foundation and the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History, with a view to organizing projects of environment evaluation, as well as elaborating opinions about the opportunity of economically orientated anthropic interventions in various protected areas and their neighborhood. We can mention our participation in two international projects, the Ecos-Ouverture – Monitoring of the great European river basins, and Integratio respectively – Places of cultural integration in tradition and perspective, which contributed to the accumulation of valuable professional experience and to the deeper knowledge of the natural patrimony existent in other areas of Europe (France, Italy, Portugal and Spain). A permanent preoccupation of the museum's researchers is ongoing professional training, since most of them are either PhD candidates or are following some form of postgraduate studies, many of them participating in various exchange programs with experts from other countries (Portugal, France, Belgium). Presently, the museum staff is involved, with a team of architects and designers, in the elaboration of an exhibition theme for the new museum to be opened next year.
by Cristina Dinu
Institute for Ecomuseum Research in Tulcea