Ever since I was a child, I've loved Natural History Museums. Every time I travel to a major city, visiting the local Natural History Museum is on the top of my list. There is one thing that I've noticed that all of the Natural History Museums seem to have in common...neglected exhibits. Dan had not visited the London Natural History Museum in many years and had nostalgic memories about it, especially the giant whale model. When you're a kid, those things are larger than life!
Our visit to the museum was a bit of a let down. Many of the exhibits were old and had clearly not been updated in a long time. It very much reminded me of the neglected Los Angeles Natural History Museum, where everything seems "Cutting Edge Circa 1980". I'm guessing lack of funding, due to lack of interest might be the factor. Do we grow up and forget about the wonder that we once experienced as children in these museums?
In any case, I was very excited to visit the London Natural History Museum and we spent a rainy afternoon exploring its grand halls. Here are pictures from my first look at the gorgeous exterior of the building.
The Grand Hall, was indeed, very grand. It was overwhelming. I liked the primate sculptures on the pillars and the enormous marble statue of Charles Darwin.
As soon as we entered, we headed straight to the giant Blue Whale. Dan took a few panorama shots with his iPhone.
We took a good look at the whale from above and below. We did not throw coins on the tail.
Around the base of the whale, there are a variety of other animals, stuffed ones, not models. We even found a Capybara, which happens to be our favorite animal. Yup, we have a favorite animal as a couple. Cute, right? Maybe sickeningly so?
I have no idea what kind of animal this is, but I think it might belong on the "Crappy Taxidermy" website.
It seems like another thing that Natural History Museums have in common, is a fancy new wing dedicated to dinosaurs. I guess it's kind of like the way certain animals at the zoo ( elephants, gorillas) seem to get upgraded enclosures, due to their popularity, while others get overlooked. The London Natural History Museum definitely has a recently upgraded Dinosaur section with big animatronics and fancy interactive displays. The cool thing, is you can enter the exhibit from an upper-level and view the exhibits from the top, before seeing them eye-level. I liked having multiple-perspectives.
My favorite part of any Natural History Museum is the gem and mineral section. When I was six, my mom took me to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles and read her book, while I spent two hours looking at every single rock. Now, this part of the museum is just frustrating, as I've forgotten nearly everything I've learned from my college geology course! I wander around mumbling about how I should know this stuff.
The newest addition to the museum is a very modern eight story laboratory called The Cocoon. As you might imagine, it's named because it is shaped like a cocoon. Two of the eight floors are open to the public and they contain information on the plant and insect research that is being conducted on the other floors.
When we entered The Cocoon, we were given cards with barcodes that scanned into exhibits, so we could look up more information on the museum website when we returned home. Although, I think this technology can be very cool, I've found that when I've used it ( seems like every museum has it now), I become distracted and too focused on scanning stuff. I cease to be in the moment and inevitably, I lose the card or lose interest. This time, I stuffed the cards into my purse and enjoyed the exhibit in real time.
I'm glad that we spent the afternoon in the museum, but really, if you live in a major city, I don't think that the London Natural History Museum has anything unusual that you can't see elsewhere. It would be great if you have kids, but barring that, there are so many other things to do in London, that I can't recommend it.