While I was in Madrid, I didn’t get a chance to do my laundry and I was running out of clean clothes fast. Thankfully, I knew that Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage in London had a laundry room, so I spent some time the day after I arrived making sure that things were all fresh again. I had already checked out of the 28-bed room that I was staying in, but I needed to wait until the afternoon to check into my 12-bed room. I figured that laundry would be a good way to pass the time. Laundry ended up going faster than I had expected, so I packed up my things, put my bag in the storage room, and decided to go out and explore.
Last time I was in London, I asked one of the people in my hostel what he recommended seeing. He lived in London, though he was originally from Brazil, and he was staying in the hostel temporarily while something was happening to his apartment. Anyway, he had suggested going to the Natural History Museum and it piqued my interest. I used to go to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles a lot for field trips when I was in elementary school, but I haven’t gone in a long time. I love museums and this one was free, so it kind of seemed like a no-brainer that I should visit now that I had the time.
The Natural History Museum is close to the South Kensington tube station and several other museums in London. The building opened in 1881 and has a huge collection of mounted animals, fossils, stones, and other items to help visitors learn more about the natural world. The main entrance leads to Hintze Hall, where a diplodocus named Dippy is on display.
I actually entered through the Earth hall and not the main entrance. There, I was greeted by a stegosaurus skeleton named Sophie. Sophie is the most complete stegosaurus fossil in the world with 90% of its bones present, giving scientist the best idea of what the animal looked like. The fossil was discovered in Wyoming in 2003 and took 18 months to dig up.
There are so many galleries inside the Natural History Museum that I don’t even know how to approach this post. Here are some things that I thought were interesting and where you can find them:
[[HUMMINGBIRD DISPLAY]] – Gallery: Birds
There are a ton of hummingbirds displayed in this cabinet that was built in around 1800. It was supposed to showcase the diversity within the species and the birds used to be very bright and colorful. Unfortunately, they have since faded after two centuries of light exposure.
[[CENTIPEDES AND MILLIPEDES]] – Gallery: Creepy Crawlies
Ever wanted to know the difference between centipedes and millipedes? Well, centipedes are meat-eaters and the largest of them can even devour mice. They also have one pair of legs per body ring and the legs stretch out more to the sides. Millipedes are vegetarians with two pairs of legs per body ring. Unlike the centipede, the legs are more directly underneath the body. There are about 2,800 kinds of centipedes and 8,000 kinds of millipedes.
[[DINOSAURS]] – Gallery: Dinosaurs
I always love looking at dinosaur fossils and there are a good number of them displayed in this gallery. A lot of them are levitated in the air so you can also see underneath. As you continue through the room, you eventually run into an animatronic t-rex. One of my favorite parts of the exhibit is a section on dinosaurs in pop culture, which includes films about dinosaurs as well as various dinosaur toys.
[[ALICE IN WONDERLAND PERCEPTION GAME]] – Gallery: Human Biology
This is one of the saddest exhibits in the museum because Alice looks like she’s seen some horrible things in her life and has come to the conclusion that everything is meaningless. Just look at her face. This is part of a perception game in which a screen will show you a view of the tea set on the table. You have to figure out which of the characters has that view. The concept was pretty cool, but man, Alice and her friends need an intervention ASAP. Are we sure there isn’t any booze in that teapot?
[[BLUE WHALE]] – Gallery: Mammals
The blue whale skeleton is covered up because the museum is planning on moving it to the main entrance lobby in 2017. The whale was beached in Ireland in 1891 and the skeleton first went on display to the public in 1934.
[[ASSORTED MAMMALS]] – Gallery: Mammals
One of my favorite things about going to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles when I was a child was seeing the mounted animals since they were exhibited in a way that they would looked more natural. The ones in London’s Natural History Museum are more just spread out on stands around the room. Not as exciting, but hey, it’s still a room full of animals.
[[EARTHQUAKE SIMULATOR]] – Gallery: Volcanoes and Earthquakes
The Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery has a special room dedicated to the 1995 earthquake that killed 6,000 people in Kobe, Japan. There is a faux-supermarket and a platform that people can stand on to experience the shaking while video footage of the earthquake plays on television screens. It would be better if it wasn’t infested by school kids who just want to go for the ride without realizing that this event actually killed a lot of people. I don’t think I would have been annoyed with them had this room not been decorated to specifically look like a small store in Japan. The California Science Center has an earthquake room, but I think it is just a box and not meant to look like a certain place in particular.
Being a huge museum, there is so much more to see. I actually went to the museum on two separate days because I missed out on quite a bit during the first time I was there. This post contains things that I saw on both days, but look out for a separate post in the future focusing on the museum’s Treasures gallery.