Chamaeleo vulgaris skeleton

Chamaeleon skeleton

Stuart Turner, Museum Assistant, writes:

The Museum is rather busy at the moment due to the refurbishment and one of the plethora of jobs I’ve been doing recently was attaching bar-codes, to help us to identify & locate individual items, on the many hundreds of crates containing packed spirit specimens.

As I was doing this I noticed the top half of “Chamaeleo vulgaris” and thought to myself ‘what fine preparation and presentation work this specimen has, it’s bound to be a “Fric.”’ Lifting it up, revealed the “V. Fric. Bohemia, Prague” label, and I knew my observations were correct. In fact, any of these specimens are easy to spot from a distance, even with my eyesight, as they are expertly produced. I really need to get some new glasses soon!

I was first introduced to one of the “Fric” specimens about 15 years ago by my colleagues-Ray and Ann, during my first run of topping up the alcohol specimens in the spirit store, so I can take none of the credit for discovering them! I have been (almost!) annually topping up the store since then- for many years with Ann and the last approximately seven years I’ve been going it alone and even though I had time constraints I still had time to admire the hidden gems that are the the “Frics” as I was working my way round.

I have often wondered about the history of V. Fric and the specimens he created and until now have never actually looked him up! This is a brief summary of his life and work:

Vaclav Fric was born in Prague in 1839 and he was a Natural history dealer and Naturalist who after training in taxidermy and chemistry decided to open a shop (in 1862) supplying zoological, botanical and mineral specimens (Worldwide) following a visit to his brother in London(in 1859-60) and seeing/being inspired by museum collections there. He exhibited his wares in many a World fair, not to mention other trade fairs and received various medals for his work.

All of his different shops were located on a street called Wassergasse (past) or Vodickova (present) in Prague, it was said that these shops were like museums and became visitor attractions. Vaclav passed away in 1916 and his son continued the business until the last shop finally closed in 1958.

The remainder of the specimens were donated to the National Museum in Prague.

I would love to have a time machine so I could travel back to late 19th century Prague, and visit one of his museum shops. Alas, since that is not possible, I will have to try and visit the National Museum in modern day Prague to see if there are any hidden Fric specimens!


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