As a young boy, I loved dinosaurs. The house would constantly be littered with plastic dinosaurs (among other toys) and Jurassic Park was my favourite film ever. The fact that Jurassic Park is still one of my favourite films ever means it isn't much of a surprise that I still love the Natural History Museum as much as I did all those years ago. The extensive collection of Dinosaur skeletons and displays were (and still are) my favourite part of this Museum.
Entering through the front entrance and coming face to face with the iconic life-size skeleton of a Diplodocus (rather pleasantly named "Dippy") is not an experience someone would forget easily, nor one that ever loses its effect. There is always that feeling of awe when faced with the sheer size of the beast – an sense of wonder that such things ever existed. This feeling is continued throughout this section of the museum, which focuses solely on the dinosaurs and their life on the planet. I personally found that the feeling of wonder was lost slightly in the introduction of a life size animatronic T-Rex, however it is still quite a sight to behold – and was a huge success with the children in the room. All the skeletons shown however, and the preserved remains in fossils, are a joy to see and (like the Diplodocus) their sheer size is truly incredible.
Moving on from Dinosaurs, but keeping on the theme of sheer scale, the next brilliant gallery is the Mammals section – which boasts a life-size replica of a blue whale. Once again, the size of this animal is completely awe-inspiring, with the added element of wonder at the fact that these beasts still exist. Yikes! Something that I also took a keen notice of was the skeleton of an extinct giant deer, which was more impressive than I would have imagined. However, the museum offers a lot more than just massive beasts. The birds section of the Mammals area was lovely to walk down, with such a large variety of species on display – including a dodo. However, anyone who is uncomfortable with taxidermy might not be at ease in this part of the museum, as it is comprised almost entirely of preserved birds. I would also note the Animal Art exhibition, which was great – featuring various paintings of mammals from all over the globe. The artworks were very impressive, as was the level of detail in these studies of animals.
The geology section is also not to be missed, featuring one more of the museum's iconic attractions – an escalator that takes you through the centre of a metal model of the earth. It is thrilling to go through it, and has been a well-loved part of the museum on my part since I was very young. Inside this exhibition are various panels on the earth and the planets, along with the exhibition on volcanoes and earthquakes. Unfortunately when I visited, this part of the museum was closed until autumn – meaning I could not visit the famous Earthquake Simulator! However, going from experience and memory, this is a great laugh for both children and adults. Once the museum has been renovated I hope the fun of this section has been retained. Whilst on this topic, I have to mention the collection of various minerals and rock types that can be found upstairs in the museum. I found this to be a great exhibition featuring a vast range of rock formations and minerals – as surprising as it sounds, looking at lead proved to be really rather fascinating. Within this room there is also a cast of an asteroid that fell to Earth, which you simply have to go and see – it was an amazing piece.
Overall, the Natural History Museum is packed full of interesting exhibits and things to do that will keep you entertained and interested for many hours. All of the exhibitions are child-friendly – with interactive activities to guide their learning – and are similarly engaging for adults of all ages. Featuring so many iconic structures and exhibits, this museum is a must see for everyone.
The Natural History Museum first opened its doors to the public on Easter Monday in 1881, but its origins go back more than 250 years.
It all started when physician and collector of natural curiosities, Sir Hans Sloane, left his extensive collection to the nation in 1753.
Originally Sloane’s specimens formed part of the British Museum, but as other collections were added, including specimens collected by botanist Joseph Banks on his 1768-1771 voyage with Captain James Cook aboard HMS Endeavour, the natural history elements started to need their own home.
Sir Richard Owen, Superintendent of the British Museum’s natural history collection, persuaded the Government that a new museum was needed. He had an ambitious plan – to display species in related groups and to exhibit typical specimens with prominent qualities.
The chosen site in South Kensington was previously occupied by the 1862 International Exhibition building, once described as ‘the ugliest building in London’. Ironically, it was the architect of that building, Captain Francis Fowke, who won the design competition for the new Natural History Museum.
However, in 1865 Fowke died suddenly and the contract was awarded instead to a rising young architect from Liverpool, Alfred Waterhouse.
Waterhouse altered Fowke’s design from Renaissance to German Romanesque, creating the beautiful Waterhouse Building we know today. By 1883 the mineralology and natural history collections were in their new home. But the collections were not finally declared a museum in their own right until 1963.
Our vision is to advance our knowledge of the natural world, inspiring better care of our planet.
Our mission is to maintain and develop our collections, and use them to promote the discovery, understanding, responsible use and enjoyment of the natural world.
Admission is free
Natural History MuseumCromwell Road
London Greater London United Kingdom SW7 5BD
10:00 - 17:50
Last admission 17:30
Closed 24-26 December