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A visit to the Natural History Museum in London

The Natural History Museum in London is one of those special places that amaze both for its architecture and its content. It is, therefore, an essential visit in the British capital. What awaits you in it? Let’s see it.

History of the Natural Museum of London

The museum has its origins in the purchase of the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, Irish physician, botanist and collector. Sloane was in Jamaica for 15 months, collecting specimens of plants, molluscs, insects, etc. And he also investigated the customs of the island population.

Years later, he sold his collection well below its price to the British government, which initially housed it at Montagu House in Bloomsbury. Unfortunately, very little of this collection remains in the museum.

Until 1963 it was part of the British Museum as a specialist nature department. All this despite the fact that since 1866 some naturalists, including Darwin, had called for their separation. In 1986 it was merged with the Geological Museum of the British Geological Survey and since 2008 it has had an extension: the Darwin Center.

The Natural History Museum building in London

The building that houses the Natural History Museum in London was expressly planned to become the site of this museum. The construction is the result of a competition held in 1864 and that Alfred Waterhouse won.

The building was built between 1873 and 1880 and its spaces are specially designed for the pieces that are exhibited currently. Even the tiles and bricks that embellish the building are decorated with images of flora and fauna.

Its fa├žade, in Romanesque style, has two robust towers that are aligned with those of the rest of the buildings of the Albertopolis complex. This is a cultural and educational complex made up of the Natural History Museum, Imperial College, the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial.

All this architectural ensemble has the appearance of a cathedral, being, in truth, an authentic cathedral of knowledge.

Its spaces are distributed around the Hintze Hall, a large central hall covered by a large vault with metal arches reminiscent of those of train stations. On both sides we find church-like naves, which are accessed through small arches. And in the background, a beautiful staircase that leads to the upper floor.

The museum collection

The museum’s collection is very extensive and varied. It contains skeletons of dinosaurs, fossils, reptiles, fish, fungi, minerals and much more. This is divided into four zones. Thus, the red one is dedicated to the Earth; the green, to the terrestrial flora and fauna; the blue one, to the aquatic world and the dinosaurs; and the orange zone, to the wild world.

Of the elements that we should not miss, highlights the Hintze Hall exhibition. In it we can find the replica of the great skeleton of a diplodocus dinosaur, affectionately called Dippy, 32 meters long. You can also see the skeleton of a large blue whale suspended from the ceiling.

Next to the lobby is the blue area, where the dinosaur room stands out. There you can see the skull of a triceratops, as well as the skeletons of a tyrannosaurus rexof one of one iguanodon and of a Scolososaurus.

Also mention must be made of the mammal rooms. In them impressive replicas are exhibited, such as that of a blue whale, giraffes, mammoths… Other rooms are those of fish, amphibians and reptiles; and that of invertebrates. And, next to them, a precious collection of representations of nature from the 18th century onwards.

On the other side of the lobby is the green area, dedicated to birds, insects, minerals and marine reptiles. There is also the Hall of Treasures, which looks like a small Gothic chapel surrounded by stained glass. In it we see 22 objects chosen for their great significance for the history of the Earth and that span 4.5 billion years.

The visit

The visit to the museum is free. Its opening hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. every day of the year, except on December 24 and 26, when it remains closed.

It is a very active museum and during all seasons of the year it has exhibitions and activities for all audiences, especially for children. In addition, it is very well connected to the rest of the city, so you can get there by metro, bus, bicycle or on foot.

Besides, It has a program to help visitors with special needs. In these cases, you just have to notify them and they will assign one of their volunteers who will facilitate the visit to the museum.

Update: 10.06.2022

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