London’s Exciting Natural History Museum
Exhibition Road in South Kensington is where you’ll find three of Londons greatest museums. With just a short walk between them, its tempting to think it might be a good idea to see all three in one day. A day each would be more achievable, but wed suggest you allow at least half a day.
The Natural History Museum is a spectacle for lovers of the natural world and Victorian architecture. The first thing that’ll impress you is its Romanesque style gothic frontage, but the interiors are just as breath-taking. You’ll enter via the vaulted central hall, a fitting home for the museums most famous resident, Dippy the dinosaur. Of course, Dippy isn’t a live dinosaur; hes a replica of a Diplodocus carnegii skeleton, and one of a collection of mounted dinosaur skeletons housed at the Natural History Museum.
As a museum, not a zoo, there are no live exhibits, but a vast collection of models, bones and preserved specimens from all branches of biology. These range from countless samples of tiny things, like insects and plants, to massive creatures like Dippy himself. There are around 70 million individual items, and even Dippy is overshadowed by the museums greatest inhabitant, a life size model of the largest animal that has ever existed on earth, the blue whale.
Children’s imaginations will be captivated by the creatures, great and small, but the museum is also the focus of serious scientific study. Its a major research center for taxonomy (the identification and naming of species) and there’s a large collection of specimens gathered by Charles Darwin on his travels. Nonetheless, the Natural History Museum works hard to make its science interactive, accessible, and fun for all to enjoy. When you go, watch out for some special characters. There are a number of staff dressed as famous figures from the world of natural history. They’ll probably try and start up a conversation.
The museum is well organized, with color coded zones for different areas of interest. The Red Zone is all about the constant change in planet earths geology. The Blue and Green Zones cover the collections of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects. Its here that you’ll also find the dinosaurs and the sea mammals, including the blue whale. The Orange Zone is housed in a separate wing, and contains the museums wildlife garden and the Darwin Center.
In addition to the museums permanent displays, there’s a regularly changing schedule of special exhibitions. These cover a wide range of themes, but tend to be more specialist in their scope.
For a number of years now, the Natural History Museum has offered free entrance. This can be a massive bonus when visiting London, and the offer extends to most of the special exhibitions too. It makes it easy and affordable to just drop by at the museum, even if you only have an hour or two to spend. The opening hours are from 10.00 am until last admission at 17.30 pm. The museum is open every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.