HRH Prince William of Wales and Sir David Attenborough to lead exploration into the heart of new Darwin Centre

Press release - 01 September 2009

Celebrations planned to reveal scale and importance of the Natural History Museum’s collections, scientists and research ahead of public opening on 15 September

On Monday 14 September, His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales will stress the importance of understanding nature when he is the guest of honour at the grand opening of the Natural History Museum’s new Darwin Centre.

In what will be Prince William’s first official opening at a museum, he will view the work carried out by scientists striving to understand and protect the planet and meet young patients from The Royal Marsden Hospital learning about biodiversity and the natural environment. The visit will reflect Prince William’s interest in climate change and the preservation of the natural world.

The new Darwin Centre is a state-of-the-art scientific research and collections storage facility, and an
awe-inspiring new public space inviting visitors to explore the natural world in an exciting and innovative way. Prince William will be one of the first to see some of the Museum’s scientists in action, working in high-tech laboratories, preparing real specimens and working among the 3.3 kilometres of cabinets that hold the millions of plants and insects. From Tuesday 15 September, the visiting public will have an uninhibited snapshot into these once concealed spaces at the Museum as they travel through the new Cocoon experience and share the excitement of exploring, studying and preserving the world around us.

Prince William will be joined in the opening celebrations by Sir David Attenborough. In a tribute to excellence in science communication, the Darwin Centre’s high-tech Attenborough Studio will showcase natural history film footage, new media and face-to-face encounters with Museum scientists. The day of celebrations will include other guest speakers, such as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, The Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP.

Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, comments, ‘With so many issues facing the planet at this time, we are thrilled Prince William will join Sir David in helping us celebrate the opening of the Darwin Centre. We hope that Prince William will be the first of many visitors who will leave with a real sense of awe and wonder at nature, a better understanding of why the work of the Natural History Museum is so relevant – now more than ever – and be inspired to share in our collective responsibility over the future of the planet.’

If you want to keep up to date with Darwin Centre developments ahead of the opening on 15 September, and to find out what’s on at the Museum, sign up now to our monthly enewsletter at

Darwin Centre visitor information
Dates: open from 15 September 2009
Opening times: every day, 10.00–17.50 (last admission to Cocoon 17.00)
Admission: free, to book timed tickets for Cocoon call 020 7942 5725
Nearest tube: South Kensington


Notes for editors

  • The eight-storey, landmark building project completes the Darwin Centre, the most significant development at the Museum since it moved to South Kensington in 1881. The first phase, housing the Museum’s 22 million zoological specimens stored in alcohol, opened in September 2002.
  • Major supporters of the second phase of the Darwin Centre include the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wellcome Trust, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Cadogan family, Professor Anthony and Mrs Angela Marmont, GlaxoSmithKline plc, the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and Anglo American plc.
  • The second phase of the Darwin Centre was designed by Scandinavian architects C F Møller, who won an international architectural competition in 2001. It was built by BAM Construct UK Ltd, formerly HBG UK Ltd.
  • The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer treatment, research and education. Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe, treating over 40,000 patients every year. It is a centre of excellence and the only NHS Trust to achieve the highest possible ranking in the Healthcare Commission’s Annual Health Check for the third year in a row. Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, has helped raise over
    £43 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital. For more information, visit or contact Catherine O’Mara on 020 7808 2605 or catherine.o’
  • Selected by Time Out in 2007 as one of the Seven Wonders of London, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to protect the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in over 68 countries.

For more information and images, or if you would like to register your interest in the Darwin Centre media preview event on Tuesday 8 September, please contact the Natural History Museum Press Office:
Tel 020 7942 5654 email (not for publication)

For more information about the Royal Rota on 14 September, please contact St James’s Palace press office:
Tel 020 7024 5728 email (not for publication)