The Natural History Museum in London is a magnificent building that is decorated with the Victorian spirit of collecting and interpreting the natural world. The edifice is both a research institution and great museum that was opened in the Romanesque cathedral of Alfred Waterhouse located on the Cromwell road.
The Darwin Centre extension was added to the place in 2009. The facade of the building, decorated with terracotta and pale blue paint can prepare you to enjoy the natural wonders inside the museum.
London’s most loved dinosaur since 1905, Dippy the Diplodocus, was present in the Hintze Hall of the museum. It is a twenty-six meter long replica of a Diplodocus skeleton that is made from plaster. However, the skeleton embarked on a nationwide tour in 2017, which started from the Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and will finish in Norwich by the end of 2020. While Dippy is on a tour, a Blue Whale skeleton has taken up his space in the museum.
Every year, the Natural History Museum features fresh exhibitions as well as all-time favorites like Wildlife Photographer of the Year and ‘Sensational Butterflies’. When you are on London tours, you can have many chances to visit the place after the normal hours (from 10:00 am to 05:50 pm), and you can catch the movie nights, Crime Scene Live, late openings, and sleep over chances with Dino Snores.
Rightly called as a ‘cathedral to nature’, the Natural History Museum started as an exhibit at the famous British Museum. However, the creative vision of Sir Richard and Alfred Waterhouse has changed the institution into an iconic place. Sir Richard was a former curator at the Hunterian Museum and Waterhouse was a great architect.
The museum is now home to more than eighty million exhibits and draws more than five million people per year. Below are some of the most popular exhibits in the Natural History Museum of London that you should not miss in London tours.
Cup from Human Skull
This specimen was found in Gough’s cave, Somerset, and is about 14,700 years old. It is believed that the skull was obtained from an immigrant from South Western Europe. Studies concluded that the soft tissue of the skull was removed after death. The skull also show signs of deep cleaning after which our ancestors might have used it as a cup.
The Dodo c.1626
This painting is believed to be of a Dodo. Before the invention of photography, illustrations were the only way to represent exotic objects and animals. The painting served as the reference for Curator Richard Owen while he was trying to connect fossils of Dodo. In 1866, he laid out bones on top of this portrait and interpreted the shape of the bird, which then became the scientific description of the Dodo.
However, his interpretation is no longer accepted and a painting made by Julian Pender Hume in 2010 has become the new benchmark. You can find the new painting hanging next to the old version. In the new painting, the bird is depicted as a ‘more upright, athletic looking bird’.
A Chunk of Gold
This chunk of gold is a cast of the largest nugget that was ever found in history. The piece was found in 1869 and named the ‘Welcome Stranger’. It weighed 71.4 kilograms out of which 64.8 kilograms could be harvested to get gold. This is not the actual nugget, but a cast of it. The largest actual nugget to survive the tests of time is displayed in the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas.
Stuffed Polar Bear
The polar bear is recorded as the largest carnivore on the surface of Earth. Polar bears are voracious hunters and can have height of about 1.5 meters. They can weigh a maximum of 720 kilograms. Much of this weight comes from the dense and water repellant fur coat, and thick layer of fat. Both the fur and the fat provide protection from the icy waters and cold conditions in the Arctic region.
The stuffed polar bear in the Natural History Museum of London can be attractive to kids and children and provide them more chances to understand more about the animal.
Origin of Species
The first edition of ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ written by Charles Darwin is showcased in this museum. The copy, published on November 24, 1859, is very rare and is one of the most influential books on biology ever written. Many accepted the theory of evolution; however, the idea of natural selection was not widely accepted. This book also led to big debates within various theological groups who believed that human beings are not descendants of animals.