As children rush around, the joy of sharp intakes of breath can be heard, marking each new fabulous thing they've spotted. The dinosaur skeletons are obviously a big hit. Reconstructed heads give you a chance to get a sense of how large and scary these animals were.
In one area, a curtain covers the entrance to a small booth. If you enter into its darkness and draw the curtain behind you, you find yourself in front of a set of rocks which glow in the dark. Naturally glow in the dark, they're guaranteed to fascinate you, glowing magically in a variety of shades.
Kept within the confines of one main hall, it's a safe space to let children run around in. The aisles are wide, and the cases are either low or reach right to the ground. In the newly-refurbished space, there are good toilet and baby changing facilities, as well as a café upstairs.
The staff are extremely friendly. They're knowledgeable, and happy to help you make the most of the visit. They can provide worksheets for children to attempt as they go round, but the engagement goes far further, and a whole range of workshops run throughout the year. Some of these are specialist events, but every Sunday afternoon the museum also bursts into family-friendly activity.
The interactivity remains key throughout the museum. Near the entrance are boxes for children to stick their hands into, in order to guess what might be in there. Opposite these a series of drawers marked A-Z give a challenge for visitors - can they guess what's in each? Answers are provided in the last drawer. As you can imagine, opening and closing lots of drawers is great fun, and the gasps of 'that's awesome' from the children make the revealing of more treasures even more exciting.
Around the sides are yet more things to discover. The locked rooms can seem disappointing, but reading out the names of the different disciplines they once housed can fire the imagination, and describing them as secret rooms offers endless possibilities for considering what goes on in there. The colonnade running round the outside gives children a chance to weave in and out and feel like they have freedom while staying safely in the same room.
The building fills with families at the weekend. Despite the mass of children, it remains at an acceptable noise level, given the height of the ceilings, although it can get quite hot. During the week, school groups abound, but do need to be booked in. The building itself is amazing. Its Neo-Gothic architecture is worth a visit in its own right, and daily tours are taken.
Access is up a set of stone steps, although buggies and wheelchairs do have a separate entrance. You're welcome to take the buggy up, and there's plenty of room to wheel it around with you if needed. Their website is excellent with advice and resources for planning a visit.