Who can resist dinosaurs? Not me. The Natural History Museum of London is the best place to see them. Dippy, the 105 ft. Diplodocus replica, greets you as soon as you step inside the central hall, called Hintze Hall. And it’s all interesting, nerdy fun from there on.
The cathedral-like structure of Hintze Hall is not only Dippy’s home but that of a Glyptodon and other fossils, as well as a statue of Charles Darwin and a section of a 1,300 year-old sequoia. The hall itself is worth taking the time to admire. Its terracotta tiles feature flora and fauna specimens, both living and extinct. As a matter of fact, the whole building is covered in terracotta tiles, inside and outside.
The Natural History Museum is divided into four zones: Blue, Red, Orange and Green. Hintze Hall is in the Green Zone along with the Fossil Marine Reptiles gallery. A nice way to whet your appetite for dinosaurs.
And now, for the pièces de résistance. The Blue Zone houses the big mammals collection with its famous model and skeleton of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling. My husband was keen to see this, as he had fond memories of the time he visited the museum as an 11 year old.
The dinosaur gallery has a rather unusual layout. As we entered, we climbed a set of metal steps to a sort of gangway the length of the gallery. We could admire the fossils and replicas hanging from the ceiling or look down to the rest of the collection. At the end of the gangway is the star of the show, a moving lifelike model of a T-rex roaring away. Visitors are not supposed to stop moving but they do and create a bottleneck if there is a big crowd. Then we went down to see the rest of the exhibition, a mix of real fossils (Euoplocephalus tail club, anyone?) and replicas. The explanations were clear and concise.
Visiting the Minerals gallery in the Green Zone gave us an idea of what the museum looked like in the 1880s. Beautiful gems and raw minerals are inside original oak display cabinets. I was glad corsets are out of fashion, though. When I saw those sparkling diamonds and emeralds, I considered doing a smash and grab thing but I had the sneaky suspicion it would not go down well with the authorities.
I refused to see a couple of galleries for diffferent reasons. The human body would freak me out as I’m very squeamish, and the stuffed animals. It was a sad sight. I used to not mind when I was younger but age has hopefully brought some wisdom. Or has made me more sensitive.
I had mixed feelings about the Treasures in the Cadogan Gallery. On the one hand, it was incredibly exciting to see the first skull of a Neanderthal adult ever discovered or Audubon’s original drawings. On the other hand, the skeleton of the extinct dodo made me despair of humanity. How can we inflict so much pain and destruction on Nature?
I learned about many things during this visit, about the world and about myself. I view things from a different perspective now. I’m grateful for science and research but I wish Man would stop destroying out planet.
The Natural History Museum
London SW7 5BD
Open daily from 10 am to 5.50 pm
You can download a nifty app from the Museum’s webpage to help you navigate the galleries. Having free wi-fi help.
Closest tube station: South Kensington on the District, Piccadilly and Circle lines.