Natural History Museum review
If you lived near London as a little kid then you probably remember this place from the school holidays. I always ended up here because it's got dinosaurs in it and kids love dinosaurs. And now here I am, thirty-five years later... still a kid... wondering what they've done with the giant Diplodocus in the entrance hall. Where's Dippy gone? He was part of my youth! 150 million years he'd been standing there and they've replaced him with the bones of a big whale.
The first photo you'll take will be of the beautiful room itself -- it's like walking into a cathedral and the columns are crawling with concrete creatures. You don't appreciate the architecture when you're young because you're too busy looking at the pickled skin of a shark, but now I'm an adult I can happily stand here staring at the windows and bricks.
I'd normally start with the dinosaur rooms but they're full of school kids at the moment and I'm not competing with all of them -- that's the problem with this place. Too many kids. So I start with the creepy crawlies instead -- kids hate creepy crawlies. It's full of centipedes, millipedes, spiders and flies -- all the stuff you'd normally step on without giving it a moment's thought, but in here they're the star of the show with blown-up photos and spotlights shining on them.
After that comes a corridor full of stuffed birds with their feathers all fluffed up and posing for photos. One cabinet has got a hundred hummingbirds in it, another has an eagle, a six-foot emu and a couple of dead Dodos. Compared to the mangy pigeons in Trafalgar Square the stuffed one here looks like a supermodel, his wings all dipped in green and crimson oils.
The Earth Hall is worth a visit just to see the escalator rising up through the centre of a molten proto-planet. It makes you feel a bit Jules Verne riding that thing up to the exhibition of rocks and blocks of silica and stone. They must have every gemstone in the jewellery shop. There are a couple of hippy dudes hogging the crystal at the moment, pressing their hands up to the display case and bathing their faces in its aura.
As I enter the natural disasters zone I come across what looks like a full-scale evacuation in progress, but it's just another party of school kids in fluorescent yellow jackets being marshalled around by a bearded teacher shouting loudly at Ben to behave himself. They all pile into the Kobe earthquake simulator and start screaming as the floor shakes. It's just a few pots and pans banging about, a few bottles and boxes shuffling about on the supermarket shelves -- it seems more like a windy day than an actual earthquake -- but the kids decide they're going to be pretend to be absolutely petrified and start drowning out the sounds of destruction with their high-pitched screams. By the time I walk off I'm practically deaf, but I suppose they made the experience a bit more realistic.
The mammal rooms are my favourite... maybe my favourite museum rooms in the whole of London (although the Cast Room at the V&A runs them close). They call this place the 'dead zoo' because it's full of stuffed lions and tigers, brown bears, polar bears, kangaroos, crocodiles, hippos, hyenas, bison, bats, monkeys, moose, rhinos, zebras... imagine the passenger manifest from Noah's Ark, and that's basically what it's like. They've got elephants on pedestals, dolphins swooping down from the roof, a submarine-sized whale suspended from the ceiling... it's the same as London Zoo, except the animals are in display cases instead of cages.
I suppose I'd better tackle those dinosaur rooms now. To say they're crowded with people would be a huge understatement. You move through the rooms like you're trapped in a river, past cabinets of dagger-like talons and fossilised footprints, getting dashed upon the bottleneck of bodies that forms around every corner. You're surrounded by kids, huge schools of them, who suddenly stop like a flash mob so their teachers can count heads.
If you don't mind all of that then they do have a few things worth seeing: the best skeletons are a Triceratops, Iguanodon and Camarasaurus (plus a Stegosaurus in the Earth Hall). They've got a few robotic monsters as well, then you'll round the final corner and come face-to-face with an animatronic T Rex who's lunging around a misty stage of purply ferns. He's loud enough to scare your kids, big enough to give them nightmares, and every time his head swoops around the kids jump back a few paces and bury themselves inside their mum's coat.
Events at Natural History Museum…
|Kid’s events in June|
|Kid’s events in July|
|Kid’s events in August|