The Natural History Museum is located in a wonderful Victorian building in Cromwell Road, South Kensington, and contains one of the world’s most important natural history collections. The collection dates from the middle of the 18th century when was started by Dr Hans Sloan, who at the time was one of London’s top physicians. After his death the collection was purchased by the state. Sloan had requested that his collection should not be broken up and that it be displayed in London, where he felt the most people would have the opportunity to see it. The Natural History Museum acts as a research centre specialising in identifying and classifying species. This consists of five main disciplines, Entomology, Mineralogy, Botany, Palaeontology, and Zoology, with a total amount of specimens estimated at 70 million. Many of the specimens have historic as well as scientific value, such as those collected by Charles Darwin during his celebrated voyage of exploration on the Beagle.
Natural History Museum
In 1756 the original Sloan collection was first displayed in the British Museum, but the number of exhibits quickly increased and by 1860 the decision was made to create a separate specialist museum. The original architect chosen died, so the job passed to Alfred Waterhouse. Construction started in 1873 with the new Natural History museum opening in 1871 in what is now known as the Waterhouse Building. The facade is huge, with rounded arches and high spires, and considered to be one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the country.
The building is certainly grand on the outside, and as you enter you find it to be equally grand on the inside. As you walk in you enter into the Grand Hall which features a huge sweeping staircase at one end, and in the centre, a massive and very impressive skeleton of a Blue Whale which has now replaced a cast of a skeleton of a Diplodocus, affectingly known as Dippy.
Although this is a huge museum it is not difficult to find your way about, as the exhibits are all laid out in zones. The green Zone concentrates on primates, birds and everything creepy-
The Blue zone is one of the most popular because it is here we find amongst other things, the dinosaurs. By climbing the ramp it is possible to view the models from above. There is also an excellent animatronic version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Also part of the Blue zone is the Human Biology section and the Mammal section featuring a large number of animal skeletons.
This is a superb museum that has been updated a great deal with many interactive displays. Being such a popular visitor attraction, it can sometimes get very busy especially at weekends, and as it is particularly popular with children, during the school holidays. Facilities include a restaurant, a couple of cafes, and a large shop.