Natural History Museum takes you inside the Darwin Centre ahead of public opening on 15 September 2009

Press release - 08 September 2009

  • Cocoon, Attenborough Studio and the 12-metre Climate Change Wall among highlights revealed in new, free-to-visit landmark London building
  • see the hidden scientific life of the Museum for the first time
  • millions of plants and insects revealed in hub of world-class life sciences research
  • major supporters include the Heritage Lottery Fund (£20.5 million), the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (£10.7 million) and the Wellcome Trust (£10 million)

The Natural History Museum today reveals the inspirational new public spaces and programme that will feature in the Darwin Centre when it opens to the public on 15 September 2009.

You will be able to journey deep into the heart of the eight-storey cocoon, glimpse the working life of our scientists in collections storage areas and laboratories, quiz scientists about their cutting-edge research, view specially created natural history footage in the high-tech Attenborough Studio or interact with the 12-metre Climate Change Wall – all opening up the hidden world of the Natural History Museum’s scientific collections and research.

The new £78 million Darwin Centre is a state-of-the-art scientific research and collections facility that is used by over 200 scientists at a time. It is an awe-inspiring public space, inviting you to explore the natural world in an exciting and innovative way. The architectural highlight is a 65-metre-long, eight-storey-high cocoon – the largest sprayed concrete, curved structure in Europe. It safeguards the 17 million insect and three million plant specimens held in the building.

Entrance to the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum is free. You can experience:

  • Cocoon travel through the Cocoon experience deep into the heart of the collections to glimpse the working life of our scientists and the previously hidden world of scientific research. Through viewing decks, video, intercom and over 40 high-tech installations and hands-on interactive activities, you can experience how scientists travel to discover and name new species, prepare specimens and organise collections, and how these are being used to help fight malaria or react to climate change.
  • NaturePlus – take a NaturePlus card with you to personalise your journey around Cocoon. Use it to collect your favourite exhibits and specimens – from butterflies to a rhino beetle – and then discover more online at home, where you can also join in discussions with Museum scientists.
  • Attenborough Studio – the Attenborough Studio is a state-of-the-art communication centre. Innovative technology, Museum specimens, live animals, spectacular natural history film footage and Museum scientists come together to create an inspiring programme of free daily films and live events.
  • Climate Change Wall – interact with the un-missable 12-metre wall of screens. They display films and interactive graphics that spotlight Earth’s changing climate and how the Museum’s research informs global efforts to understand that change.
  • Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity – a new resource centre for people or organisations with an interest in UK natural history. Much of the Museum’s UK collections are available here for amateur naturalists to study and visitors are encouraged to bring in their own finds and meet the Centre’s dedicated enquiries staff.
  • Architecture – explore this architecturally stunning building with breathtaking views from the eight-storey cocoon, look over the west London skyline, into the Wildlife Garden and up close to the Museum’s original terracotta façade.

Sharon Ament, Director of Public Engagement at the Natural History Museum, comments, ‘The Natural History Museum is one of only a very few places in the world that can generate vital knowledge about the planet through its collections and research, and then share this understanding of the natural world with millions of people a year.

‘The Darwin Centre will invite everyone to explore the natural world in an exciting and innovative way. It will really show our visitors why and how our scientists tackle some of the most pressing issues we face today – from the spread of disease to the impact of climate change on the planet’s wildlife. We hope it will provide an inspirational experience that will highlight the vital importance of understanding nature, our planet and its impact on all our lives, personally, locally and globally.’

Darwin Centre visitor information
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, visit the Museum in person or log on to
Nearest tube: South Kensington


Notes for editors

  • The Darwin Centre, built in two phases, is 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.
  • Cocoon is supported by GlaxoSmithKline and Anglo American. As leaders in their fields, they support the Darwin Centre’s mission to promote the development of knowledge, understanding and skills that are needed to make sound decisions about the science-related issues we face every day.
  • 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 first phase was designed by HOK International.
  • 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 please contact the Natural History Museum Press Office:
Tel 020 7942 5654 email (not for publication)