Irkutsk Local History Museum: Natural History Branch
Иркутский областной краеведческий музей: Отдел природы
ул. Карла Маркса, 11
Hours: 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays
Cost: 200 rub for adults, free for university students. Special exhibits: 150 rubles.
300 rubles for a photography permit (butterfly photography free)
If you’re interested in wildlife and the natural world, the Irkutsk Natural History Museum is the place for you in Irkutsk. Its main hall features displays of Siberian wildlife, ranging across Siberia’s different environments from mountains to the taiga and steppe. There are also models of extinct animals, some specific to Siberia. It also features geological displays of fossils and minerals found in the Irkutsk Oblast, and botanical displays showing samples of the most common trees found in both coniferous and deciduous forests of Eastern Siberia along with a fun mushroom and lichen case, which could be interesting for any mushroom collectors visiting Siberia.
The Irkutsk National History Museum also features a secondary hall with special exhibitions shown from time to time. When I went, the current special exhibit was called “Live Tropical Butterflies, Fluttering Around You.” We didn’t know what to expect from a live tropical butterfly exhibit located in the dead of winter in Siberia, but thought we had to check it out. We found the exhibit behind a translucent green curtain in a netted room covered with vines of decorative ivy and filled with 20 or so tropical butterflies (and some moths), some perched, some fluttering around, and some busy eating around a tray of sugary, orange-infused water. The butterflies and moths varied in size between 2 and 4 inches (wingspan when fully spread). It was a nice, simple exhibit maintained by a very friendly fellow who happily talks about the symbolism behind different species of butterflies, their lifespans, and other issues.
All-in-all, the museum is quite small, but for that it is a friendly place to learn something about the natural environment of Eastern Siberia and have a chance to practice your Russian with the museum and special exhibit employees.