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Saturday, April 23, 2005

My visit to The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in South Kensington opened in 1881 but the museum started long before that, & is still evolving. On his death in 1753, the wealthy physician Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his immense private collection of books, animal & plant specimens, rocks & minerals to the nation, forming the basis of the British Museum's collection. Joseph Banks, the wealthy naturalist who accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage around the world in 1768, bequeathed his huge herbarium to the Museum, & later the entire contents of the museums of the Zoological Society of London & the East India Company were acquired. Material was added from scientific expeditions, particularly Darwin's voyage on HMS Beagle, & overcrowding became a major problem. A decision was taken to relocate the natural history collections to a separate building. In 1881, after several years of construction, their magnificent new home at South Kensington, purpose built by Alfred Waterhouse, opened its doors to the public.

Collections of over 70 million natural history specimens lie at the heart of the Museum's work. This vast resource forms a unique database of life, providing materials for a wide range of dynamic & stimulating exhibitions & unparalleled research opportunities. Behind the scenes over 350 scientists & librarians collaborate with other research institutions & governments worldwide to extend our knowledge & understanding of the natural world.

Well it was a bit of spur of the moment thing, something that would amuse my kids I thought. It seemed everyone in the country had decided to do this too as the weather was pretty overcast & they obviously didn't fancy walking around the shops. Lucky for us, getting up there early avoided the crowds. Well first impressions it hadn't actually changed much in the 4 or 5 years since I was here last, still the same scary gargoyles watching from the huge window ledges & the large imposing skeleton of a Diplodocus in the Central Hall. No admission fees but they certainly make their money from the few "donation boxes" scattered around & on the over-priced rocks & children's stationary & toys in the gift shops. Still the same staircases & exhibits & after walking around for over 3 hours my feet had finally given in, so sore, but i'd forgotten that we were supposed to be walking around the shops too. So after a few tube rides & shop visits later I was so glad to get my backside on the train home.

One thing I did find out was whilst visiting the Creepy Crawlies exhibit was the life of a Mayfly. Did you know that the mayfly nymphs feed on algae & absorb oxygen from the water through their gills & can take from 2 months to 2 years before they swim to the water surface to shed their skin & emerge as the winged fly. Because of their undeveloped mouth, the adult doesn't eat so therefore only lives for a day or so, just enough time to mate & lay their eggs in the water. Everyday's a school day!


At 8:31 PM, Blogger Nam LaMore said...

wow, what a nice day trip! i hadn't been to a natural museum in a long time; maybe three years ago when i last went, and it was to the los angeles county natural museum. this is very sad, considering i did get my degree in biology (but strong emphasis on biochemistry!) yeah, i was considered a nerd until i moved to silicon valley, where i'm just a dweeb or some nonesense.

glad to hear your kids enjoy the visit, and they were able to have hands-on fun. i like museums where you can touch and feel -- as much as i love art musuems, the (understandable) 'no touch! no starring too long! etc' policy always annoy me, but what can you do! i make it up by going to the statue/sculpture garden (if they have one) and try to do a vulcan mind-melt, often to no effect - wonder why?

like most kids by the time they reach the age of 10, i could name more dinosaurs than my parents! but ask me know if i know what a diplodocus is, or what it eats and you'll find me glazed over without sign of life. i wonder why that's the case? it seems a universal phenomanon that adults forget their childhood affinity for dinosaurs. i think the reason for three movies on 'jurrasic park' was because kids the world over organized a letter campaign to steven spielberg.

while we're on the dinosaur talk .. i absolutely hate it (more like fascinated by) when scientists deduce the whole life story of a dinosaur species, not just an individual, from a found fossil fragment. it's a bit arrogant in the name of science .. but if they said they were artists, then that's a different story :-)

the life of a mayfly is sad, but glorious in a way as its life fire burns twice as bright but, in this case, lasts just a few days long. i mean, yeah, it sits under a babbling brook or quiet stream for a couple of years; but when it emerges as an adult, it has a while orgy until it dies. not a bag way to go out. a true bang!

At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Henry said...

I think you have an interesting blog - a nice mix - I didn't know what post I would get next!

- Henry
FYI: I came here via the Laugh Loud blog.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Love Hurts said...

nam - thanks for your comment as always. In a way i hope i'm a mayfly after i'm dead, oh & by the way, a diplodocus (or longneck) was a herbivore.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Love Hurts said...

Henry - thankyou for visiting my blog via nam's blog, i hope i keep you interested in the future

At 6:49 PM, Anonymous james said...

I cam here for Laugh Loud and Often (he has a funny blog).

My new trick when i take the kids on an outing: give them walkie-talkies and let them run around. I realize with all the kidnapping that I should be a bit more careful. But my kids are bright and we check every few minutes. They need to be 'kids' and run around like when I was a kid.

It seems that today's kids don't get to play outside or allowed to have any trust or respect. Has it become really unsafe for kids to be kids?

- James

PS: I love your other posts; well, actually, my wife loves your other posts.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Love Hurts said...

Hi James - Unfortunately the way this world is at the moment i don't think kids can be 'safe' these days, i'm always making sure my girls are always by my side or in front of me, but thats probably me just doing the protective mum thing.
Thankyou for visiting my blog, i hope to post lots for everyones tastes!


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