Natural History Museum London Out of Hours

Natural History Museum London Out of Hours

Last week I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Natural History Museum in London with no-one else around. It’s one of my favourite places to visit in the UK and even better it is completely FREE.

If you do want to take a look around I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds. I would also recommend taking a look online and time your visit so you can attend one of  the special sessions such as NATURE LIVE which run daily. At these short talks you can hear from the researchers and curators who work behind the exhibitions on display with the collections.
There is so much more to the museum than dinosaurs but it wouldn’t be right to feature a blog post without  a picture of Dippy.

Speaking of collections, you wouldn’t believe it from the empty looking main hall in the photograph below but there are over 70 MILLION specimens held in the museum. 70 MILLION. Can you get your head round a number that big? I can’t. These range from giant squid to tiny specimens on microscopic slides.

I had a spare 30 minutes to take the ‘spirit tour’ at the museum which was fantastic but be warned it can be a bit gruesome (see the photo of the partially digested squid head found in a sperm whales stomach below – I would love to have one of those on my mantelpiece). I learnt a lot more about the museum from the trail and the guide was able to answer questions about the specimens and collections. The tours run daily and give a peek into some of the specimens in the museum. The giant squid was impressive but seeing some of the original specimens Darwin collected on the Beagle voyage was very special.
I also learnt that the museum uses flesh eating beetles to clean the bones of specimens and I saw a jar of sperm whale eyes. It would be a great visit for a Halloween trip.
Beyond the exhibitions that make you go WOW, OOH and EWW. The museum is also an active research institute partnering with universities around the globe to answer some of the big scientific questions from understanding complex ecosystems to investigating the fundamental geological processes that shape our planet and solar system. These questions are being answered through use of the museum collections, expertise and resources.
Darwin watching over the main hall.

The Earth Hall. Unfortunately the escalators weren’t working so I couldn’t travel through the Earth.
A partially digested head from a Sperm Whale’s stomach of course.
Disco rocks are found on the first floor of the museum.
This was my favourite exhibition in the museum which is the Images of Nature gallery. There are some beautiful drawings, paintings and visualisations of nature.
I was visiting the museum for Universities Week 2014 so there were lots of pop-up exhibitions going on including a volcano on the lawn.  
A view of  of the main hall from above
At the very top of the hall is a section of trunk from the giant sequoia tree. It’s HUGE and this tree was over 1300 years old when it was felled. 
The museum is far to big to get round in one day. I’ve been a number of times and still haven’t seen most of the building. I’m glad I wandered up to the top of the hall to see this ceiling though.

I really enjoyed  the ‘Treasures’ exhibition too and you can explore that online. It’s a small exhibition but each of the exhibits in this collection are of mind-blowingly huge significance. This includes a first edition book of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published in 1859 and the oldest UK lion skull since the extinction of wild cave lions. I didn’t even know these were a thing.

If you walk through the doors of the Natural History Museum I think it’s impossible to walk out again without saying ‘Wow, I never knew that’.

The museum is open every day from 10 am and is FREE!

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The Cruickshank Botanical Gardens

The Cruickshank Botanical Gardens

Today I took a stroll through the beautiful Cruickshank Botanic Gardens in Aberdeen. The gardens are free to visit and open every day in the summer from 9am until 7pm. More information about the gardens including an interactive online map for those not lucky enough to be in Aberdeen can be found here.
If you visit the gardens during the week you might catch a glimpse of some of the researchers working in the greenhouses. There’s lots of active research in soil and food sciences at the university going on and you can read some more about it here.
There’s a cafe sci talk on soil science later in the year too!
And just to prove that the gardens are in Aberdeen because you might not believe me….
There are benches in the garden where you can sit and have some lunch so they are perfect for a picnic on a sunny day!