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The Natural History Museum

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published February 22nd 2010
Botany, Entomology, Mineralology, Paleontology and Zoology: the very scientific sounding words separating the galleries of the Natural History Museum. But as well as stuffed creatures, glass cases and towering skeletons, this museum also has exhibits you're supposed to touch and play with.

There are 70 million pieces in the Natural History Museum's collection, begun in the last quarter of the 17th Century, from eggs to dinosaur bones and fossils, to whole animal specimens in glass jars or stuffed, to rocks and minerals, pods and dried plants from all over the globe.

The museum's collection has been in this South Kensington building since 1881. On your way in admire the patterns of plants and animals around the building's facade: the rule is that the flora and fauna on the west wing still occur in nature and those on the east are extinct.

Standing guard in the entry hall is one of the Museum's most famous attractions: Dippy, the 26 metre Diplodocus skeleton cast.
The largest remains belong to a 25 metre long
Blue Whale, displayed next to a model of what should surround the skeleton. When this model was built it was the largest of its kind, and his belly was used for coffee and cigarette breaks it's so roomy in there. Behind the whale are some of the world's largest mammal tusks, from elephants, and even a narwhale.

Taxidermy isn't as popular in these days of collecting via video footage, but some of the stuffed animal skins in the collection were collected by eminent scientists like Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Thomas Huxley, and their worn inclusion in the museum serves to remind visitors of the golden age of the naturalist explorers.

The oldest organic piece in the museum is a slice of giant sequoia tree that was 1,300 years old when it was felled.
The most popular piece is probably the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex, he's been implanted with interactive sensors that make his movements unpredictable. T-Rex is on the
dinosaur gallery, also home to the skeletons and casts of pterodactyls, stegosaurus and velocerraptors. The Edmontosaurus fossil is one of the few examples of real dinosaur skin pattern, and helped scientists to imagine what dinosaur's skin looks like, so it's a notable, if not dramatic inclusion.

One of the prizes of the
Earth Gallery is the preserved remains of a man and dog excavated from the ruins of Pompeii, a model of active volcano Mount Pinatubo and a ride-able earthquake simulator.

Free entry means you don't have to see everything on the same day.
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Why? Because dinosaur skeletons are exciting whatever your age. And it's always interesting to learn about where we and the rest of the world came from.
When: Open 7 days: 10.00 - 17.50
Where: Cromwell Road, SW7, nearest tube South Kensington
Cost: Free, except for special exhibitions
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