Natural History Museum

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 (© Jonathan Brennan )
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© Jonathan Brennan
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 (© Tim Grist)
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© Tim Grist
 (Dinosaur skeleton at Dinosnores sleepover © Celia Topping)
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Dinosaur skeleton at Dinosnores sleepover © Celia Topping
 (Sabre toothed tiger skull © Celia Topping)
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Sabre toothed tiger skull © Celia Topping
 (Kids explore the NHM © Courtesy of Trustees of Natural History Museum)
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Kids explore the NHM © Courtesy of Trustees of Natural History Museum
 (Annual summer Sensational Butterflies event © Kevin Webb/NHM Image Resources)
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Annual summer Sensational Butterflies event © Kevin Webb/NHM Image Resources
 (Annual winter ice rink at the NHM © PETER KINDERSLEY)
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Annual winter ice rink at the NHM © PETER KINDERSLEY
 (Children's Dinosnores sleepover at the NHM © Kevin Webb/NHM Image Resources)
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Children's Dinosnores sleepover at the NHM © Kevin Webb/NHM Image Resources
 (Dinosnores adult sleepover © Celia Topping)
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Dinosnores adult sleepover © Celia Topping
 (Dinosnores adult sleepover at the NHM © Celia Topping)
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Dinosnores adult sleepover at the NHM © Celia Topping

Both a research institution and a fabulous museum, the NHM opened in Alfred Waterhouse’s purpose-built Romanesque palazzo on the Cromwell Road in 1881. Now joined by the splendid Darwin Centre extension, the original building still looks quite magnificent. The pale blue and terracotta façade just about prepares you for the natural wonders within.

Taking up the full length of the vast entrance hall is the cast of a Diplodocus skeleton. A left turn leads into the west wing or Blue Zone, where long queues form to see animatronic dinosaurs- especially endlessly popular T rex. A display on biology features an illuminated, man-sized model of a foetus in the womb along with graphic diagrams of how it might have got there.

A right turn from the central hall leads past the ‘Creepy Crawlies’ exhibition to the Green Zone. Stars include a cross-section through a Giant Sequoia tree and an amazing array of stuffed birds, including the chance to compare the egg of a hummingbird, smaller than a little finger nail, with that of an elephant bird (now extinct), almost football-sized. Beyond is the Red Zone. ‘Earth’s Treasury’ is a mine of information on a variety of precious metals, gems and crystals; ‘From the Beginning’ is a brave attempt to give the expanse of geological time a human perspective. Outside, the delightful Wildlife Garden (Apr-Oct only) showcases a range of British lowland habitats, including a ‘Bee Tree’, a hollow tree trunk that opens to reveal a busy hive.

Many of the museum’s 22 million insect and plant specimens are housed in the new Darwin Centre, where they take up nearly 17 miles of shelving. With its eight-storey Cocoon, this is also home to the museum’s research scientists, who can be watched at work. But a great deal of this amazing institution is hidden to public view, given over to labs and specialised storage.

The latest edition to the Museum is a human evolution gallery exploring where we come from and what makes us human. Casts of the reconstructed skull, hand and foot of Homo naledi feature in the display, alongside the first adult Neanderthal cranium ever discovered. 

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Posted:

Venue name: Natural History Museum
Contact:
Address: Cromwell Road
London
SW7 5BD
Opening hours: Daily 10am-5.50pm (last admission 5.30pm)
Transport: Tube: South Kensington
Price: Free (permanent collection); admission charge applies for some temporary exhibitions
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  • Photography Until Sunday September 10 2017
  • Friday March 31 2017 - Sunday September 17 2017
  • Late openings Friday April 21 2017