Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to my last episode dedicated to the glorious Cultural City of All Possibilities – London.
Indeed, I’ve already had the opportunity to present the highlights of my birthday trip in my previous three blog posts dedicated to House of Dimener, Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum, but nothing compares to the enlightening experience of visiting the Natural History Museum, an exempt charity and a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology.
Moreover, I dare add, the Romanesque style of the building slightly resembles Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which infused my spiritual journey as visitor with a great sense of mystery when approaching the depths of evolution, as exemplified by the exhibition of dinosaur skeletons, the priceless historical and scientific value of the specimens collected by Charles Darwin and the ornate architecture of the museum, which features the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling – these being just a few, observable items which have deeply enriched my perspective.
Considering this article to be a culmination of the Spiritual Adventure sprinkled with editorial moments related to my well-deserved Birthday celebration, which both recalibrated my Energy and articulated the Power of my Intention towards Visualization and Manifestation, I would like to thank God for the inspiration He provided in carrying my footsteps towards the architectural highlights of London, my parents for the Education they continually provide which polishes my Divine State of Being into a brightly shining Diamond and enables me to seek Knowledge in order to expand my Conscience and Compassion, and myself for taking the decision to enter the cultural dimension of a fascinating metropolis, also regarded as one of the highlights of European Raving centers by the global community. This happens to be the reason I have been London first some years ago for raving reasons, therefore I am most grateful for having the chance to visit it throughly at a stage in life where my intellect is focused on improving myself, my skills and my dedication to Art and Beauty. I would also like to thank Claudiu Ciubotaru from House of Dimener for inviting me to celebrate our Twinning birthdays in London and granted my every Wish at the expense of other suggestions – in spite of his desire of investing precious time in partying and shopping, he held all doors to Perception and Possibilities opened for the Queen.
Nevertheless, on our way to the Natural History Museum, as I firmly believe in synchronicities, I was absolutely thrilled to discover The College of Psychic Studies, an educational charity offering regular classes, workshops, lectures and private consultations in the fields of personal, psychic and spiritual development and the healing arts, which caught my eye instantly, later to discover it has a College Integrated Healing Diploma Course I am most interested in attending. The instant manifestation of my thoughts while in London will never cease to surprise me, as well as the marvelous synchronicities which have contributed to glamorizing this British experience to reach the well-deserved status of being one of the most thrilling trips I have ever had.
London SW7 5BD
Free, open daily 10.00-17.50
Last entry to the Museum 17.30
Closed 24-26 December
Let’s begin our magical journey following the path of earthly Evolution with the acclaimed fact the Natural History Museum is one of London’s most iconic landmarks, recognized as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world, as it has continually proven its scientific excellence in the discovery of taxonomy and biodiversity, and promotes the discovery and enjoyment of the natural world through such exciting exhibits as the Life and Earth Galleries, its wildlife garden and geological collections.
The Museum was founded in 1754 or 1756 (the websites I have accessed offer conflicting information), thanks to the generous contributions of Sir Hans Sloane, who allowed his significant collections to be purchased by the British Government at a price well below their market value at that time. The fact this purchase was funded by a lottery sounds incredible to me. Sloane’s collection, which included dried plants, and animal and human skeletons, was initially housed in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, which was the home of the British Museum. Apparently Sloane wasn’t pleased with the natural history collection at the British Museum, and as a result he decided to help fund a second museum in a separate building to house more of these items. The new museum opened in 1881, although the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883.
Most of the Sloane collection had disappeared by the early decades of the nineteenth century, according to Wikipedia. Dr George Shaw (Keeper of Natural History 1806–13) sold many specimens to the Royal College of Surgeons and had periodic cremations of material in the grounds of the museum. His successors also applied to the trustees for permission to destroy decayed specimens. In 1833 the Annual Report states that, of the 5,500 insects listed in the Sloane catalogue, none remained. The inability of the natural history departments to conserve its specimens became notorious: the Treasury refused to entrust it with specimens collected at the government’s expense. Appointments of staff were bedevilled by gentlemanly favoritism; in 1862 a nephew of the mistress of a Trustee was appointed Entomological Assistant despite not knowing the difference between a butterfly and a moth.
Another surprising fact is that J. E. Gray (Keeper of Zoology 1840–74) complained of the incidence of mental illness amongst staff: George Shaw threatened to put his foot on any shell not in the 12th edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae; another had removed all the labels and registration numbers from entomological cases arranged by a rival. The huge collection of the conchologist Hugh Cuming was acquired by the museum, and Gray’s own wife had carried the open trays across the courtyard in a gale: all the labels blew away. That collection is said never to have recovered.
The Principal Librarian at the time was Antonio Panizzi; his contempt for the natural history departments and for science in general was total. The general public was not encouraged to visit the Museum’s natural history exhibits. In 1835 to a Select Committee of Parliament, Sir Henry Ellis said this policy was fully approved by the Principal Librarian and his senior colleagues.
Many of these faults were corrected by the palaeontologist Richard Owen, appointed Superintendent of the Natural History departments of the British Museum in 1856. His changes led Bill Bryson to write that “by making the Natural History Museum an institution for everyone, Owen transformed our expectations of what museums are for“.
When entering the museum, I was simply fascinated, as you will surely be when you have the chance to visit it. This is because the ornate nature of the Museum is not random at all. When the building was built, the sculptures and representations were of living species in the west wing, and extinct species in the east wing. It is thought that Richard Owen planned this as a rebuttal of Darwin’s contemporary attempt to link present and past species. Three of the arches of the Central Hall are adorned with 78 monkeys. They were part of Waterhouse’s designs for the museum. He was keen on accuracy, and checked his initial sketches with the museum’s scientific staff before allowing the carving and moulding to take place. These being said, the Natural History Museum is one of London’s more impressive offerings. It’s hard to know where to look in the marvellous Hintze Hall, but make sure you look up, as the ceiling is covered with 162 individual panels depicting plants from all over the world.
The Natural History Museum is conveniently divided into four different coloured zones, each focusing on specific topics or subjects.
The Red Zone can be entered from Exhibition Road, on the East side of the building. It is a gallery themed around the changing history of the Earth.
The Earth Lab is a gallery that centres around geology, and contains specimens of fossils, minerals and rocks. The Lab Area is only open to reserved groups and allows an interactive approach to the gallery, allowing the use of microscopes. It is currently the only gallery in the red-zone without step free access. Earth’s Treasury shows specimens of rocks, minerals and gemstones behind glass in a dimly lit gallery. Lasting Impressions is a small gallery containing specimens of rocks, plants and minerals, of which most can be touched.
While the Red Zone features the Earth Lab, Earth’s Treasury, Lasting Impressions, Restless Surface, Earth Today and Tomorrow (closing soon), From the Beginning, Volcanoes and Earthquakes, Visions of Earth and The Waterhouse Gallery (temporary exhibition space), the Green Zone provides insights on Birds, Creepy Crawlies, Ecology, Fossil Marine Reptiles, Giant Sequoia and Hintze Hall (formerly the Central Hall), Minerals, The Vault and Investigate, while the Blue Zone is Home to Dinosaurs, Fish, Amphibians and Reptiles, Human Biology, Images of Nature, The Jerwood Gallery (temporary exhibition space), Marine Invertebrates, Mammals, Mammals (Blue whale) and Treasures in the Cadogan Gallery. In the Orange Zone you can find the Wildlife Garden and Darwin Centre.
Some of the most fascinating items at the Natural History Museum include: Dippy the Diplodocus skeleton, the first T. Rex fossil ever discovered, the Wold Cottage meteorite (which is 4.6 billion years old – making it the oldest item in the museum), an archaeopteryx fossil (which is the most valuable fossil in the museum’s collection), a 14,700-year-old cup made from a human skull (which was found in Somerset), the largest gold nugget in the world (which weighs 27.4 kg, and is worth around $1.5 million), the first edition of Charles Darwins’ Origin of Species, the Pompeii casts of a man and dog (dating back to the Vesuvius volcano eruption near Naples in 79 AD), the Aurora Collection (consisting of nearly 300 different coloured diamonds) and an earthquake simulator in the Earthquake Room (where visitors can step onto a platform in a “supermarket” and feel the room shake, just as it would during a real earthquake).
The Museum houses one of the world’s most important dinosaur collections. The collection includes 157 taxa, 115 consist of original material and 69 are type specimens. There is also the first fossil ever found from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the largest carnivores ever to have walked the Earth. The museum’s mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex, helps visitors understand how the dinosaur moved and behaved. This is a wonderful experience for everyone who embarks on a mission of discovery as I have no doubt it fascinates both children and parents from all over the world.
The Museum’s fossil mammal collection features an estimated 250,000 specimens from around the world and it is rich in type and figured material. There are fossils and skeletons of extinct animals alongside specimens of their living relatives. The collection includes historical research sub-collections, such as mammalian material collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle.
In the Large Mammals Hall you can see blue whale model, seemingly swimming with the other cetacean skeletons and replicas suspended from the ceiling.
The Earth Galleries have an extensive and interesting collection of material on the geology and minerals of the world. Regular lectures and film shows are offered on particular subjects, and in the Main Hall, a rotating globe, almost 2 meters (6 feet) in diameter, serves as a reminder of the museum’s purpose: to tell the “Story of the Earth.” The Museum’s mineralogy collection is one of the most important and comprehensive collections of its type in the world. It contains about 500,000 rocks, gems and minerals, including 5,000 meteorites.
Since we are talking numbers, the Museum’s botany collection holds an estimated six million specimens of bryophytes, ferns, seed plants and slime moulds from all over the world; the Museum’s entomology collection is the oldest and most important entomology collection in the world of over 34 million insects and arachnids, the Museum’s zoology collection consists of over 29 million animal specimens, while the Museum’s palaeontology collection consists of over seven million vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils. Despite the enormous territory and immense number of exhibits, the Museum is quite easy to navigate.
Just when you think you know everything, there comes the moment to take the hats off to the museum’s excellent scientists. Not only do they know more than we could ever hope to know about the natural world, but they are still doing research and uncovering new things. In 2008, a species of insect not seen in the UK before was found in the museum’s own Wildlife Garden, and in December 2016, scientists discovered three new species of parasite wasp.
These being said, I hope I had provided sufficient insight to motivate your choice to visit this splendid Museum, as I promise the experience to be one of the most delightful you could ever have in London. I am nothing but grateful for the opportunity to feel so warmly welcomed by everyone during my spectacular birthday weekend and I am confident there will be numerous occasions for me to indulge into the wonders of this fascinating city again.
The best is yet to come!
Your Supreme Highness,