1. Walrus, Horniman Museum

The walrus has been on display at the Horniman Museum for more than a century. What makes him the exceptional creature he is, though, is not his great age (he was first seen in London in the Canada section of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in South Kensington, in 1886) but that he appears over-stuffed. The taxidermist who stuffed him had never seen a walrus in the wild and so, when he was confronted with the notoriously wrinkly skin, he just kept on stuffing.

2. Pink Fairy Armadillo, Grant Museum

These armadillo specimens remain a bit of a mystery. It's not certain where these particular armadillos came from or when, but they are the smallest species of armadillo and are excellently adapted to burrowing and swimming through sand. The Grant Museum has one taxidermy armadillo, one skeleton and one preserved in fluid.

3. The Evelyn Tables, Hunterian Museum

These tables (below) are believed to be the oldest anatomical preparations in Europe. The set of four shows four different preparations: veins, arteries and nerves, dissected from a human specimen, glued to a wooden board and covered in varnish.  They were acquired by John Evelyn in Padua in 1646 and were later donated by Evelyn to the Royal Society.

Image: Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons

4. Sooty and Sweep, Pollock's Toy Museum

The original puppets from the children's TV show are a star turn in this hidden gem of a museum-cum-toyshop off Goodge Street. There, among the china dolls, toy theatres and teddy bears, are the familiar faces of Sooty, Sweep and Soo, first operated by Harry Corbet on national television in the 1950s.

5. Blue Whale, Natural History Museum

This life-size model of the largest creature ever is the centrepiece of the museum's Large Mammals Gallery, originally called the New Whale Hall and built in 1934, especially to house the vast whale skeleton. The accompanying model was built a few years later, and there is an urban myth that a time capsule is built into its stomach.

6. Quartz Crystal Skull, British Museum

Large quartz crystal skulls of the type on display at the British Museum, are said to be examples of colonial Mexican art. Others have been attributed to ancient stoneworkers from that region and may even be of Mayan origin. This crystal skull is judged to have been made during the 19th century, but it speaks of a much older heritage. 

7. Jar of Moles, Grant Museum

This jar (right), full of tiny moles, points to the original purpose of the Grant museum: teaching and research in zoology and comparative anatomy. The eighteen moles are probably so tightly packed together because preservation fluid was pricey, and one jar was the easiest way to transport multiple specimens.

8. The Difference Engine, Science Museum

When Joseph Clement, the engineer hired by brilliant mathematician, Charles Babbage to build his Difference Engine, gave up on the project in 1833, the government had already invested £17,000 in the project. The Difference Engine was designed to perform fixed operations automatically and, although it was never completed, remains a hugely celebrated undertaking.

9. Cuneiform Letters of Complaint, British Museum

These clay tablets, dating from around 1850 BC, are some of many found at the site of Kültepe (ancient Kanesh) which was home to a great many Assyrian textile merchants. In these examples, a merchant writes to his brother, complaining about a lack of food, clothes and fuel in winter. 

10. Joseph Merrick's cloak hood, Royal London Hospital Museum

Joseph Merrick (aka the Elephant Man) spent the last few years of his life at The Royal London Hospital, and his mounted skeleton (not on public display) is now housed at the Medical School. The hospital contains a model of a church, built by Merrick, and a display on his life, which stands alongside displays on other notables of British medical history, such as Edith Cavell.