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The Natural History Museum has 69 million specimens covering every aspect of life on Earth – from our prehistoric past to the present day.
It started life in the 1750s when Sir Hans Sloane left his entire collection to nation. This went on to form the basis for the British Museum, but space soon became an issue – so the flora, fauna and fossils were moved to a separate building in 1881.
The Life Galleries contain many of the most impressive exhibits. As you enter the Dinosaur Hall you are greeted by the towering bones of Diplodocus – an 85-feet long cast of fossilised remains.
The museum includes an atmospheric walkway that lets you get close to the animatronics’ displays, and examines the many theories as to why the dinosaurs became extinct.
There is also a gallery devoted to every kind of bug and beastie that walks and crawls the Earth. (Definitely not for the squeamish.) The museum has its own thousand-strong colony of ants which you can watch from the inside – through static cameras and infra-red optics.
The Mammal Hall includes the impressive skeleton of a blue whale suspended from the roof, and the Darwin Centre has 45,000 jars of pickled remains – destined to grow to over 22 million when the building is complete.
The Ecology Hall focuses on the planet’s plant life. Exhibits include the giant sequoia tree – the largest living thing on the planet. The tree was over 1,335 years old when it was felled in 1892, and measured 276-feet from top to bottom. The gallery explains how traumatic events in Earth’s history have been recorded in its growth rings.
The Natural History Museum’s Earth Galleries are entered through a huge hollow sculpture of the globe. Look out for the genuine pieces of moon rock and fossils – which our ancestors believed were the weapons of Zeus!
This is one of the Natural History Museum’s most popular galleries, explaining the processes behind Earth’s powerful forces. Models of volcanoes erupting and tectonic simulators let you experience the sensations firsthand, and there is also a mock-up of a Japanese supermarket in the 1995 Kobe earthquake – which you can see shiver and shake as the power is unleashed.
If you like jewels and gemstones, then make your way to the Earth’s Treasury, where you can see sapphires, diamonds, rocks and minerals… and lowly grains of sand.
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