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The Earth Hall on Science Uncovered night last month. Bustling with cosmic and creative activity, cutting edge technology and prehistoric wonders. More pictures below.


Tonight, Friday 26 October, is a very special night for 10 lucky science and natural history fans, as they will be spending an exclusive evening sleeping over at the Museum.


At 28 September's Science Uncovered evening we ran a discovery trail called Stamped on Science and 5 attendees who completed the trail were drawn from almost 200 entries and won themselves, and a guest, an amazing overnight experience in our hallowed Central Hall, and tonight is the big night.



One of the many Stamped on Science-ers collecting a stamp on the night.

After they've enjoyed all we have on offer as part of our monthly Friday Lates with MasterCard, the 10 attendees will begin their unforgettable experience.


Museum scientists Dr Adrian Glover and Dr Victoria Herridge will guide them on exclusive behind-the-scenes tours and bring out specimens not normally on display to the public while they talk about their research.


After a night's sleep alongside the giant sequoia, in the upper Central Hall gallery, the lucky 10 will enjoy a continental breakfast under our iconic Diplodocus skeleton, Dippy. They'll then be taken on a tour of our Zoology Spirit Building and get early access to our ever-popular Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 exhibition.


Sounds like a lot of fun for those lucky 5 winners and their guests, who were just a fraction of the 9,077 visitors we had through the South Kensington doors (another 554 attended Tring) for our third annual Science Uncovered festival last month.


More than 500 scientists, staff, volunteers and visiting experts helped make the event possible and we're sure everyone who attended will agree it was a wonderful evening.


Have a look at some of our favourite pictures and see for yourself. Select the images to enlarge them.


At the Space Station comets were re-created using (mostly) household ingredients: dry ice, gravel (for the carbonaceous materials), worcester sauce (for the organic materials) and Mr Muscle (for the ammonia).


The skulls and other remains of our ancient ancestors at the Human Origins Station were a talking point for lots of visitors who chatted to Museum experts on the subject of where we came from.


Making your own cave art was a popular activity and resulted in a colourful display of familiar images and more contemporary hands-on contributions.


A state-of-the-art digital specimen table uncovered layers of a mummified cat (pictured) and Martian meteorites with the swipe of a finger.


Discovering the magic of minerals and their structures


The incredible palaeontological specimens at the Extinction Station station were a hit.


Scientists enjoyed the chance to chat about their research and show off their specimens, including here at the Ocean Stations (above and below).


Sea silk, one of the strange underwater specimens on show at the Oceans Station.


The Antarctica Science Station gave people a taste of the cold conditions scientists, researchers and explorers experience at the South Pole.


Many of the younger visitors could be found experimenting at being a vet and treating some very cuddly (toy) creatures at the Vets Station.


Behind-the-scenes tours gave visitors the chance to step into the role of scientist in our labs.


The tour of the Museum's library proved popular for its special access to historic artwork and texts.


Our roaming animal handlers let those brave enough hold real live animals.


The Food Station was as colourful and tasty as we would expect.


The Sopabox Art sessions attracted curious listeners, especially the discussion about breeding a mouse with the DNA of Elvis.


Science Fight Club in full sway.


The night was made all the merrier by the specially-concocted Science Uncovered cocktail, the Pollinator.


And who found out what this hairy brain-like mystery speciman was?

Feast your eyes on these cuties that greet our Museum shop visitors. Our seasonal selection of soft toys are as cuddly as they come, from penguins to arctic foxes and reindeer to polar bears.

New festive gift shop recommendations this year are the big radio-controlled inflatable clownfish and shark air swimmers, and the little wind-up dinosaurs. Of course no home should be without either a cow poo photo frame or rhino-poo-in-a-box banana tree kit, and there's more to choose from in the Museum's range of green gifts. Browse our online shop for Christmas gift ideas or the four Museum shops on your visit.


'Hello. I'm more cuddly than you...' 'Yeah but I'm a dinosaurrrr' Click the images to enlarge.

Our Festive season pages are swirling with suggestions for entertainment and activities over the Christmas period and the outdoors Ice Rink is open late over the holidays, except for Christmas Day.


The next special festive event is our Winter Wonderland Night Safari with MasterCard on Monday evening, 12 December. This seasonal Central Hall tour promises to reveal some intriguing specimens, including real mammoth hair, a polar bear fossil discovered in London, and Dinosaurs by torchlight (above), as well as a look at the botany of Christmas.


Following that is the kids' favourite sleepover, Dino Claus on 17 December, which also includes a Dinosaurs torchlit tour. And if you can't make the Santa-led sleepover in December, there are more Dino Snores coming up next year year - tickets a terrrific Christmas gift for little dinosaur lovers?


There are lots of other events, talks and activities to enjoy over the festive period, whatever age you are and the unmissable Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition, with beautiful, wintry award-winning photos available in the exhibition shop or as prints online. (Note the last day to order in time for Christmas delivery to the mainland UK is 19 December and 15 December for prints.)



The Museum is only closed for 3 days over the festive break, on 24 to 26 December inclusive. So come and visit during your days off work. And if you can't make it, remember you can always shop online or find ideas of wildlife in winter to explore near you.


Last week on Friday evening, at 6.30pm, three extra special and extra enormous visitors arrived at the Museum.


A team of 8 people with a forklift truck moved the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus into the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

It took three and a half hours to show our guests into the building - nothing compared to their six-week sea voyage from Tokyo though - after which they were quietly ushered through to the Waterhouse Gallery. Here they will wait in the wings while their new prehistoric home is painstakingly created.


The three giants, Camarasaurus, Tarbosaurus and Gallimimus, will be the big stars in Age of the Dinosaur exhibition, opening on Good Friday, 22 April.


Paul Gallagher, our exhibition Project Manager, explains: 'We had to rig up a temporary lighting system to help illuminate our transport route into the gallery and also construct a scaffold platform on the front steps of the Museum.'


'I am really impressed by the skin quality and the realism of the dinosaurs up close,' says exhibition Project Manager, Paul Gallagher after inspecting the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus inside the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images


Now, the installation work in the Waterhouse Gallery begins. Age of the Dinosaur will take visitors back millions of year into the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. It will feature six life-size animatronic dinosaurs, one animatronic bird, and about 75 specimens and specimen replicas with hundreds of insect, plant and tree models.


Workmen manoeuvre the Gallimimus dinosaur model into the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

Next time you see these gargantuan beasts, they will be moving in the rocks, trees and watery places of their ancient world. It will be a very different encounter.


Read the news story about the animataronic dinosaurs' journey from Japan and arrival at the Museum

Enjoy more pictures of the animatronic dinosaurs arriving here Select the images to enlarge them. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images


Carefully unloading the first dinosaur outside the Museum
Gallimimus emerges from the rear


Gallimimus braves the bright lights


Exhibition project manager Paul Gallagher introduces himself to Tarbosaurus


Unveiling the head of Camarasaurus

On Friday 24 September, 2 weeks from now, we are planning our biggest-ever after hours event, Science Uncovered. It promises to be an amazing science festival and more.

The Museum opens its doors until 22.00 on Friday 24 September for its biggest-ever After Hours

If you've ever wanted to visit the Museum for an evening drink and never quite made it, this is the night you should come.


As well as being a historic, atmospheric venue for Friday night drinks, it's the perfect event to recapture your first vivid Museum encounters as a child, like T.rex and the blue whale. As well as discover new treasures and the latest scientific and natural history research going on behind the scenes.

The event is free and the Museum's doors will stay open until 22.00. Although it's mainly for adults, there are earlier family events and shows starting about 16.00 in the afternoon. Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night happening across Europe, so on the night there will be over 200 cities in Europe having their own celebrations.


You'll find all the details of the event on our Science Uncovered website. But in a nutshell here's what's happening:


We'll have 3 bars open, 26 exclusive Museum tours you can join, 9 science stations around the Central Hall to stop by and meet scientists and explore 'star' specimens, 5 special nature talks in the Darwin Centre Attenborough Studio and a Natural History Roadshow in Dinosaur Way.


Over 50 of our scientists and curators are your friendly hosts throughout the evening.


In the next 2 weeks you'll be hearing more about the exciting and inspiring things to enjoy on the night.


One of the special attractions of our big event is The Science Bar in the Central Hall Cafe. Here you can join scientists for a drink at tables, in an informal atmosphere, and chat about hot science topics listed on the menu cards at the tables. You'll also be able to chat with scientists face-to-face at a variety of science stations that you'll find around the Central Hall and in the Darwin Centre and Fossil Way.


Before you come, maybe think about some questions you've always wanted to ask a scientist or curator. This is your chance to ask them face to face. But don't worry if you haven't got any questions, the night is for you to enjoy the galleries and listen in too.


Here are just a few of the scientists you may bump into during the evening.

At the Science Bar. L to r: Roland Jenner, zoologist, on 'Is science noble?'. Karen James, botanist, on 'What stops women in science?'. Paul Taylor, palaeontologist, on 'Are we in the midst of a mass extinction?' Amoret Whitaker, forensic entomologist, on 'Would you donate your body to a body farm?'


Face to Face science stations. L to r: Richard Sabin, mammals curator, zoology station. Sandy Knapp, botanist, botany station. Eva Valsami-Jones, nanosciences researcher, European Researchers' station. Mike Rumsey, mineralogist, mineralogy station.


Museum tours. L to r: Alan Hart, mineralogist, The Vault gallery. Susie Maidment, palaeontology researcher, Dinosaurs torchlit tour. Roberto Miguez, zoologist, Whale Hall tour. Alex Martin, science lab manager, DNA lab tour.


Scientists talks. L to r: Jon Ablett, zoology curator, The Giant Squid. Heather Bonney, human remains palaeontologist, A Body of Evidence. Geoff Boxshall, zoologist, Life in the Oceans. Adrian Glover, marine biologist, Mysteries of the Deep.



I am sorry - I have been away, again, several times..and well, it is hard to keep up to date with the blog...and so I have fallen behind, I can but apologise and add lots of pretty pictures in the hope of making amends!!


Ok so a couple of weeks ago I went to a NatSCA (Natural Sciences Collections Associations) conference, in Plymouth ( It was a good conference and dealing with natural history on museum webpages. All sorts of talks about how different museums around the UK deal with their natural history collections and how they advertise them. So many people do not realise how many natural history collections are dotted about the UK, hidden within County Museums that house so many interesting specimens. I have just read something very sad about a natural history collection in Sao Paulo that was destroyed due to a fire. This is a very great loss for Natural History and societies like NatSCA are trying to prevent this type of loss through the mixing of procedures and ideas around UK museums. This conference brought home to us about the importance of the web and the use of museums and institutes to search for natural history information (we all do very badly!)


I have been teaching on a masters course last week down in Bristol on insect sampling and surveying including the use of insects for rapid bioassessment. I still really like lecturing (I did a lot before starting at the museum) as I basically like to talk about insects as much as possible! The course is designed for future ecolological consultants and I am always amazedat how few have actually studied insects before, most had conducted surveys with bats, newts etc. I will always argue that this gives you a very limited picture of the habitat etc.


Being away a lot at the moment i still have to keep up with the day to day life of a curator. I am still reciving loan enquiries and requests for other bits of information which i had to deal with. I have been sent requests for photographs of specimens, missing papers of an obscure reference from an even obscurer journal  as well as type specimens. I am very lucky though with very understanding colleagues at the moment who I am passing the urgent requests to! As it is there are many late evenings and weekend working to keep my head above water. It is unusual to be doing so much travel but everything seems to have come at once!


Oh and another Dinosnores...and then at 6.30 the next morning I was on another trip back to Tajikistan! It was just me retuning this time with our coordinator to train up the researchers on ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) protocols. We had 3 huge bags of lab equipment which we were both surprised that arrived intact and unharmed! It was a very productive training session and by the end i feel that they were happy to carry out the procedure which is the outcome that we wanted.  It was odd teaching people how to use pipettes again!



they were so attentive as students!



Project Leader (sitting down!) and Dilsod, who looks like he is about to go running!!


And the final product (the yellow wells indicate that there is a positive identification for Malaria - although in this case we cheated to see whether the technique works!)





We did not have any problems with flights this time although we did get stopped in Turkey to check whether we had recieved Polio vaccinations and if not, would we like to as there was a Polio outbreak in the city!


Oh and Dilshod named his daughter Erica, as she was born when he was over here being trained by me


When I got back to the Museum, there was the Internation Biodiversity Day, where the museum brought out a lot of collections that are normally hidden away, and Ed Baker and I gave a talk on Big and Beautiful Insects.



(You may recognise some of these!!!)


I attended a conference in Ottawa last week, and spent the week before in New York on my way over as a minibreak but did manage to go and check out the American Museum of Natural History, which has a good biodiversity wall and some very old fashioned Dioramas.


Biodiversity wall

Copy of IMG_4658.JPG

It was all very dark but I guess many are after living in the Darwin Centre and having so much light. There were some good dioramas featuring earthworms though that i was particularly pleased about


Copy of IMG_4664.JPG


The conference itself was a SPNHC *the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections) conference and the talks were manly from North American Museums and University collections. On the first day we went round two of the major collections in Ottawa; The Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes and the storage facilities for the Canadian Museum of Nature They were both very different! The first had the collections amongst the staff (in Diptera this included Scott Brooks, Bradley Sinclair and Jeff Cummings, all of which are exceptionally good dipterists). This has its advantages in that you can access the material but there is no way you can control the environmental variables or pests!


Owen, the Collection Manager with one of the Drawers


Cabinets full of Vials of Mosquito larva etc....




The second storage facilities were state of the art and there was so much space. Oh how I would love space but sadly, in London, that is something that we do not have! However, they were distinctly lacking in flies!!


I loved this drawer!


And these were pretty smart too...



The talks themselves focused either on collection management and conservation or on digitisation of the collections. Everywhere is seeing a real push to digitise the collections, both the specimens themselves and the metadata attached to them. However, everyone faces the same problem in the lack of funding. Many discussions were given over to how we should be prioritising what we digitise! If anyone would like to volunteer to come in and photograph our specimens that would be most useful!


I gave a talk on the New Darwin Centre and how the museum was becoming much more interactive with the public (including this blog) as well as highlighting the research that is undertaken here. Sue Ryder from the department lead a session on Integrated Pest Management whilst Geoff Martin presented a poster on the Lepidoptera collection move. There were others from the NHM from both Zoology and Botany so it was nice to drink beer with colleagues in the pleasant evening atmosphere! It was the 25th Anniversary of SPNHC and there was a banquet towards the end of the week and man, the dancing!! I do not want to bring it to the front of my mind again let alone have it written down for all eternity in a blog


I have been back at my desk for a week! Trying to catch up. However I am posting this to you on a Saturday night (well technically Sunday morning) after just coming home from doing another Dinosnores. It was a good event again and no one cried, which when talking about all the insects etc than can kill you - I think is a positive. Tomorrow morning though I am off for a week to South Wales to catch flies with the Dipterists Forum - it will be great to go out hunting again....


We have the next Night Safari event coming up on Monday night, 10 May, starting at 6.30pm.


Paul Barrett, our dinosaur specialist, leading the first Night Safari visitors through the torchlit Dinosaurs gallery

At our first Night Safari event in March, the feedback was fantastic. Everyone raved about it, describing it as a 'magical' night, 'one in a million' and 'you guys and girls rock!'


What most people loved was the chance to enjoy a more exclusive experience of the Museum in small groups, and with a relaxed and personal touch.



Monday's rare treats include getting up close to meteorites, spiders, a mummified cat and two-headed sheep skull (!) and of course, the dinosaurs by torchlight. The torchlit Dinosaurs gallery tour was a late addition to the March event, and is back again.


Visitors will meet some of the scientists from the recent BBC Two Museum of Life documentary and hear about their favourite specimens, including admiring the Central Hall's magnicient ceiling decorations with botanist, Sandy Knapp.


As before, the tours starts around 7ish and groups are taken around the Central Hall to hotspots where they'll meet scientists, specimens and exhibits, and shadowy dinosaurs. With a 30-minute break in between to enjoy the bar... and bellinis.


There's also time after the tour to chat with the scientists at the bar before the doors close at 10.30pm.

Book tickets online.

Museum treasures will be revealed on the exclusive new Night Safari tour

When we announced the first Dino Snores sleepover event in January this year, many adults were understandably miffed that the only way you could join in was if you accompanied a group of children. (After all, it is a children’s event.)


But now there’s something new and exotic for adults and it’s called Night Safari. The first safari will take place on 8 March. Expect all the adventure and atmosphere of a real wildlife safari, but here in the comfort and splendour of our iconic Central Hall, not to mention a bar.


Night safaris won’t be all-nighters, they’ll start around 6.30pm and end at 10.30pm, and they promise some rare treats.


On arrival at the Museum, there will be an introductory talk and safari visitors can enjoy the bar before the tours start (drinks can’t be taken on the tours for obvious reasons). Groups of 25 visitors will then join our Night Safari guides for their tours around 7ish, starting at different points in Central Hall.


Tour groups will explore both the Central Hall ground floor, featuring a stop at Dippy, our famous Diplodocus skeleton (below), and the upper galleries, including Minerals, the Vault and the giant sequoia tree trunk at the very top of the balconies.


On the tour, visitors will meet some of our leading scientists and researchers who’ll reveal and discuss their favourite, treasured specimens. Some of these ‘top five’ specimens are usually kept in our collections behind the scenes, so this is a really unique opportunity to get close to something extraordinary, with the expert on it at hand.


I’m told that at the March safari, one of the scientists' chosen specimens will be an awesome set of great white shark jaws and skin - presented by our well-known and respected fish curator, Ollie Crimmen.


To ease off the safari heat, there’s a 30-minute break in the middle of the tour. Tours finish around 9.45pm, so enough time for a last drink and chat before heading out from the Central Hall wildlife at 10.30, when the doors close.


If our Night Safaris are anything like the Dino Snores events, they are likely to sell out quickly, so book tickets online early. Night Safaris are planned for every 2 months on a Monday night and the next ones are confirmed for 10 May and 12 July.



Dinosaurs by torch light

It was bound to be a success of course. Torch-lit tour of the Dinosaurs gallery, sleeping in Central Hall next to Dippy (our famous diplodocus skeleton), a bugs’ talk and the new Sony PlayStation game to try out. A child’s dream, come true.


The first Dino Snores in association with Sony PlayStation was a sell-out, pretty much as soon as it was announced before Christmas, and attracted lots of media attention. On Saturday 16 January, about 200 over-excited kids descended on the Museum to experience a real Night at the Museum, and find out exactly what goes on when the dinosaurs should be getting their shut-eye.


dino-snores-boy-costume.jpgLIke the boy pictured left, who really got into the dino spirit, Mack Pegram, aged 9, was one of the lucky children there, he loved it:


"It was very very very very very very very very fun! And brilliant because there were lots of fun activities to do and I liked sleeping in the Central Hall because you can look up and see the diplodocus. My favourite activity was the Bugs Bite Back because they talked about loads of cool bugs that were poisonous and venomous. I definitely would like to go again."


And did Dippy, the 26-metre-long diplodocus skeleton, twitch at all as the children slept alongside, I wondered?


Event organiser, Terry Lester, filled me in on the spooky stuff: "Three of us, Matt, Beth and me stayed awake the whole night and kept an eye on Central Hall while everyone was sleeping. At around 3.30am I was looking towards Dinosaur Way and saw a shadowy figure run from the Dinosaur gallery entrance across into Human Biology. We knew it wasn’t anyone from Central Hall, so Matt and I grabbed our torches and in our socks (shoes were removed beforehand so as not to wake the sleeping hoards) and dashed to investigate. Slightly spooked we searched the darkened galleries, but to no avail. Not a soul to be seen (well, not a living one anyhow). We checked with the Control Room and as agreed, they had not been patrolling the ground floor of the Waterhouse building. Figment of a sleep-deprived mind or something more other-worldly?"


Ooooh, weird...


The whole occasion was filled with memorable highlights, as Terry describes:

dino-snores-central-hall.jpg"Seeing the kids entering the museum with such evident excitement (parents sporting resigned looks on their faces), hearing the cheers during the welcome talk, the friendly rivalry between the groups, the screams (of excitement, not terror) from the Dinosaur Gallery during the torch lit trails and the clapping as the lights went out in Central Hall at bedtime were just a few of them.


"Erica McAlister and TV host Nick Baker, who did a talk about bugs - had never met before doing their show, Revenge of the Mini Beasts, but you’d never have thought it seeing them in action, they looked like they’d been working together for years. Couldn’t quite see which one was the side-kick, but I think Erica came off marginally as the one in charge."


"The kids' favourites were the stories about the aggressiveness of killer bees, scorpions and caterpillars," recalls Erica, "specimens of which Nick happened to have hidden in his sleeping bag!"


The next Dino Snores is on 13 February and there are more to come. Adults, don't despair, you can get in free accompanied by 5-6 children, but stay close, because dinsoaurs and bugs are about...


Read the news story about the first Dino Snores. See what Erica McAlister who presented the bugs show has to say in her blog post.



Zzzzz or Roarrr?

One of the Museum's most exciting events for children starts in January when our  monthly Saturday sleepovers are launched.


We adults are jealous, because you have to be 8 – 11 years old to attend, although an adult needs to accompany each group of children, so you can go along as a group leader and get in free. But you have to be responsible!

The first Dino Snores sleepover is on Saturday 16 January 2010 and is in association with Sony PlayStation who are giving kids the chance to try out their new game, which I'm told is fantastic.


Fun activities at your exclusive night at the Museum will also include a torch-lit tour of some of the galleries including Dinosaurs, a live show from TV presenter and naturalist Nick Baker and our own Museum insect expert, with art and crafty things to do too.

But the real fun will be finding out what really happens after dark in the Museum as you bed down in the shadow of our famous Diplodocus skeleton as midnight beckons…


Dino Snores sleepovers are planned for the middle of every month, so if you can’t make the first, there will be more to come.


Read our Dino Snores helpful questions and answers to find out more.