Take butterflies, bees and bugs home from the Darwin Centre

Press release - 19 August 2009

Natural History Museum launches range of beautiful NaturePlus cards, a high-tech passport to the Darwin Centre

The Natural History Museum today launches a series of beautiful NaturePlus cards, your passport to the Darwin Centre when it opens on 15 September 2009. Take a NaturePlus card with you to personalise your journey around Cocoon. Use it to collect your favourite exhibits and specimens – from butterflies to diatoms – and then discover more online at home, where you can also join in discussions with Museum scientists.

NaturePlus cards are free and come in a range of designs featuring beautiful images from nature, such as a bumblebee (Bombus sp), butterfly (Pheobis sennae), pine cone (Pinus coultari) and seaweed (Palmaria palmata).

Cocoon is a self-guided experience deep into the 65-metre-long, eight-storey-high cocoon at the heart of the Darwin Centre. Here, you will discover some of the 20 million plants and insects protected by the enormous structure – from huge tarantulas to metre-high poisonous plants. For the first time see into the hidden world of scientific research, where Museum scientists work on cutting-edge research that could help protect the future of our planet.

Along the way, installations highlight the work of our scientists and feature fun, interactive features that can be saved to your NaturePlus card using barcode technology. When you get home you can then access these highlights, as well as special bonus features, by typing your unique NaturePlus card number into www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus.

Highlights include:

  • Use the latest zoomify tool to get right up close to some of your favourite specimens from the collections. Study the intricate details on a wasp’s head, a butterfly wing, a strawberry, a bee’s leg or scanning electronic microscope (SEM) images of mites and diatoms (beautiful single-celled algae).
  • Get inside a rhino beetle or a mummified cat with spectacular, cutting-edge 360-degree videos. Study the internal structures of these specimens using these images from our own micro-CT scanner. This scanner allows scientists to study specimens without having to dissect them.
  • See 360 degree rotating images of five different bumblebee species in the UK. Use the rotations to explore the bees in detail and help identify which species is which.

The NaturePlus area of the Natural History Museum website gives you your own online space. Use it to store and explore the highlights you have collected on your visit, save and bookmark other content, take part in forums and blogs with Museum scientists and receive RSS feeds for news, along with updates, events, scientific surveys and exclusive offers.

Entrance to the Darwin Centre will be free. Advance booking for timed slots is available now for visitors wanting to be among the first to experience Cocoon by calling 020 7942 5725. You can also get your free NaturePlus card from the Natural History Museum now, or pick one up when you arrive at the Darwin Centre for your visit.

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.


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

Website:    www.nhm.ac.uk


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.
  • GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies and is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. In 2008, GlaxoSmithKline’s community investment was £124 million (valued using average cost of goods) and targeted health and education programmes in almost 100 countries. GlaxoSmithKline is one of the largest charitable givers in the FTSE 100 and has a long history of supporting initiatives that encourages public engagement with science. For more information, please visit www.gsk.com/community
  • Anglo American is a leading diversified mining group with a presence in 40 countries. Because of its significant social and environmental footprint, sustainable development is central to the way it plans and operates its businesses from exploration through to mine closure. It works with local communities to promote beneficial development outcomes and to minimise or offset any negative impact of its operations on the environment. Anglo American has had a long relationship with the Natural History Museum and has supported the Darwin Centre as part of its corporate commitment to protecting and preserving biodiversity. The second phase of the Darwin Centre is an innovative approach to engaging the public and allowing them to explore the natural world www.angloamerican.co.uk   
  • 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.
  • 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 68 countries.