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It's almost a year since I started blogging for the Museum, and as I considered what I should profile for my 12th Specimen of the Month, I inevitably began to reflect on all the amazing specimens I've already written about, those on my list to write about in the future (which, for various reasons, can't be featured today), as well as all the specimens I've yet to even discover exist here.

 

One of the most incredible things about the Museum is just how many specimens we care for. To describe it by coining a phrase from Charles Darwin (although he was talking about the evolutionary Cambrian explosion, but anyway...), the Museum's collection is full of 'endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful'.

 

So today I thought I would celebrate all the specimens in our collection. All 80 million of them!

 

As you can obviously gather, not all 80 million are on public display. In fact, only about 0.04% of our total collection is on show in the public galleries. The rest is housed behind the scenes, in specially-built, and often specially-temperature-controlled, storage facilities.

 

Our 80 million-strong specimen collection is composed of:

 

More than 34 million insects in 140,000 drawers, of which 8.7 million are butterflies and moths.

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Some of the modern and historic storage cupboards containing the drawers that house our insect collections.

 

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The collection was boosted in 2010 with the donation of 45,000 weevils of 4,500 different species from Oldřich Vořisek, a private collector in the Czech Republic. Half were new to the Museum, and it included almost 750 type specimens. Pictures © Libby Livermore.

 

More than 27 million animals, ranging from the smallest fishes and frogs to enormous elephants and blue whale skeletons.

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Before Dippy took pride of place, elephants were a dominant feature of Hintze Hall (or Central Hall as it was back then). In this picture from 1924, three elephants can be seen on the main floor, while a further two elephant heads are mounted above the Darwin statue on the stairs.

 

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Mounted heads used to be much more prominent around the Museum in years gone by, as illustrated by this photograph of the balcony of Hintze Hall from 1932 (left). [Note, also, the terrifying location of the glass display cases at the top of the stairs!]

Today, most of our mounted animal heads are kept in storage (right).

 

More than 7 million fossils, with the oldest dating back more than 3.5 billion years.

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One of my favourite fossils is this petrified tree trunk: the wood of a conifer from the Triassic era (250-200 million years ago) has been replaced with the mineral agate.

 

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Another fossil I'm quite fond of, which also has a mineralogical connection, is this ammonite (Parkinsonia dorsetensis), from the mid-Jurassic era (174-166 million years ago): its chambers have been filled by calcite crystals.

 

More than 6 million plants, algae, ferns, mosses and lichens, 10% of which come from the British Isles.

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Our oldest plant specimen is a mounted American hop hornbeam (Carpinus virginiana), which dates to 1740 and was collected just about a mile from here at the Chelsea Physic Garden.

 

 

Watch herbarium technician Felipe Dominguez-Santana demonstrate how plant specimens are mounted in this video from 2009. It was filmed around the time that all our herbarium specimens were moved into the then-newly-built Darwin Centre.

 

More than 500,000 rocks, gems and minerals, of which 5,000 are meteorites.

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Here I am reflected in some pyrite in the Minerals gallery.

 

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For some reason this malachite specimen causes innumerable giggles. We don't know why.

 

And, more than 1.5 million books and artworks in the Museums Library and Archives.

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As a book junkie, the Museum's Library collection (of which there are six sub-collections: zoology, Earth sciences, botany, entomology, general, and ornithology at Tring) is a thing of beauty in itself, to me. This is a view from the balcony over the Earth sciences collection, which is in the old Geological Museum building (now the Red Zone), built between 1929 and 1933.

 

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Just a small selection of some of the 540+ copies of Origin of Species held by the Museum's library. We have the largest collection of Charles Darwin's works in the world.

 

Finally, not officially counted in the 80+ million, but...

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The web team's collection of dinosaur toys, totalling 15.

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The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival took place in Dorset on 2-4 May 2014. Our palaeontologists Lil Stevens and Zoe Hughes report back from a weekend of sun, sea, fossils and fun.

 

Saturday in the festival marquee was a busy one with lots of people queuing to sieve for sharks teeth from Abbey Wood (which they got to keep!).

 

Charlie Sieving.jpgCharlie Underwood sieving for teeth.

 

Elsewhere Museum staff were also quite busy. Mark Spencer and the Angela Marmont Centre (AMC) team were talking about seaweed using samples which they had collected from the beach that morning.

 

Mark spencer sorting seaweed.jpg Mark Spencer with some of his seaweed.

 

Emma Bernard’s shark measuring activity proved very popular - she had crowds of rapt people hanging onto her every word. People like big Megalodon teeth! Emma has also been busy tweeting for @NHM_FossilFish.

 

Emma and Ralph.jpgEmma Bernard with her popular shark activity.

 

Andrew Briscoe and Suzanne Hocking have been teaching people how to extract DNA from strawberries- incredible that this can be done in a marquee on the beach!

 

DNA extraction.jpgAndrew Briscoe and Suzanne Hocking showing us how to extract DNA.

 

In the rest of the marquee lots of other organisations had some great activities. Zoe Hughes discovered that she walks like a Velociraptor with Plymouth University and that she is as tall as an extinct fossil penguin from Antarctica with the British Antarctic survey.

 

Penguin height chart (BAS).jpgZoe has a look to see which penguin she is as tall as.

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We've packed the car and we're ready to go to this year's Fossil Festival! The Museum will be in its usual place in the main marquee on the beach near the Lyme Regis Museum - this is my first trip to Lyme so it's all new to me.

 

I'm looking forward to the tropical climate and warm, shallow sea...oh no, that was in the Jurassic period. Forecast for this weekend: cool with occasional showers and the possibility of overnight frosts. Ah well, we're in a tent!

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Museum volunteers Sam McCausland and Mike Smith pack the important stuff into the Fossilmobile.

 

This year we will be bringing anthropologist Margaret Clegg to talk about ancient humans, and palaeontologists Pip Brewer and Jerry Hooker to showcase some very ancient mammals.

 

You can sieve for sharks teeth with fish curator Emma Bernard and expert David Ward, and if you can find them you can take them home with you! They will also show you how to use shark jaws and teeth to estimate the body size of some of the largest sharks ever to have lived.

 

Zoe Hughes, our cephalopod and brachiopod curator and I will be explaining how palaeontologists reconstruct fossils to work out how the animals looked when they were alive. Test your palaeo-skills with our drawing challenge! Palaeontologists Martin Munt and Noel Morris are Lyme veterans and will be on hand to answer all your most technical paleontological questions - so you'd better think of some!

 

Those mysterious Museum mineralogists are planning a sparkling surprise so come down to the beach and see some very special pebbles...

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Although Neave Parker (1910-1961) had artistic ambitions from an early age, he was dissuaded from pursuing them by his father and was not allowed to attend art school. Instead, he took up employment in a bank but after just one disasterous week, he was firmly but kindly advised to seek another profession.

 

After working as a surveyor for a short while he then went on to serve in the Royal Air Force during World War II, working in the Photographic Unit. It was not until Parker was discharged that he finally was able to pursue art as a career. After making the acquaintance of Maurice Burton (1898-1992), a Scientific Associate at the Natural History Museum, London and also Honorary Science Editor at the Illustrated London News, he began a collaboration with Burton to produce animal illustrations for a non-technical audience. The first of his drawings of prehistoric animals appeared in the Illustrated London News on 30 September, 1950.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burton then introduced him to Dr William Elgin Swinton (1900-1994), a palaeontologist at the Museum, and it was through this collaboration that Parker completed numerous dinosaur illustrations. These featured in a range of publications including The Dinosaurs (1970) and Dinosaurs: their discovery and their world (1961). He was also commissioned by the Museum to produce a series of reconstructions which were sold as postcards.

 

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Parker pioneered the art of restoring entire palaeo-environments of dinosaurs and was highly regarded by his scientific associates at the Museum. His drawings in monochrome gouache and wash drawings became trademarks of his distinctive style, which vividly represented the formerly held opinions of how such creatures appeared.

 

Parker's other passions in life was food, beer, pistol shooting (he was a British Open Champion), photography and films. It was in a cinema that he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1961.

 

Learn more about our art collections and see some great examples via our Library & Archives pages.

 

Further reading:

 

Debus, Allen A. (1987) 'Neave Parker: vertebrate palaeontology's masterful necromancer', The Earth Science News, vol. 38, No. 11 pp.21-24

Debus, Allen A. and Debus, Diane E. (2002) Paleoimagery: the evolution of dinosaurs in art, Jefferson N. C.:McFarland & Co., Publishers

 

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This is a special additional blog written by our fossil preparator Mark Graham, who was part of our group who went to Morocco. Here Mark tells us  why he was excited to visit Morocco and what we found at the famous Kem Kem beds...

 

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Mark happy to be at the Kem Kem.

 

While I am fascinated in all aspects of palaeontology, it is the vertebrates of the Mesozoic Era that have always been the main focus of my interest, whether collecting, preparing, or just reading about specimens. The fauna of the Late Cretaceous worldwide includes some truly amazing creatures and one of the iconic locations is the Kem Kem beds of Morocco.

 

Our visit to the Kem Kem was, for me personally, the part of the recent fieldtrip that I was most looking forward to – although I knew that every location would be fantastic.

 

In my mind’s eye, I was picturing the red exposures and imagining the wonderful fossils that we might find: Carcharodontosaurus saharicus, the fearsome theropod dinosaur and apex-predator of the region at that time, the sail backed Spinosaurus aegypticus, a relative of our own Baryonyx, massive sauropods like Rebbachisaurus – not to mention dromaeosaurs, crocodiles and pterosaurs!

 

It was very exciting as we neared the steep exposures and got our first glimpse of the upper layers, where local collectors dig triangular-shaped caves into the cliff face and work their way many metres in without the benefit of any supporting rafters.

 

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Mark Graham at the entrance to one of the mines at Kem Kem.

 

The climb up got all of us puffing but happily there was good footing so plenty of grip (unlike some other exposures that we had climbed). Here they pick at the rocks and drag them outside the cave-mouths to form spoil heaps and it was on one such mound that Zoe Hughes and I scraped away and found what looked like two jaw pieces, about 15cm long. There was a lot of the sandy matrix still attached, so identifying what they are will require some preparation in the lab.

 

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Mark Graham with a piece of jaw (Zoe Hughes found another piece).

 

All too soon we were out of time, back in the cars and off to the next (non-vertebrate!) location. I wish that we’d had more time at Kem Kem, but the trip encompassed many other important locales and we were cramming in a whole lot of geological and road time.

 

It’s difficult to single out the ‘best part’ of the fieldtrip as we were finding important materials to enhance the collections everywhere we went. The stromatolite exposures were incredible, but so too was collecting mantle xenoliths with mineralogy colleagues on the side of an extinct volcano and visiting echinoderm miners in the Sahara.

 

But the Kem Kem – ‘there be dragons’…   

 

I have to say I felt similar visiting the Kem Kem beds. I grew up being facinated with dinosaurs and hearing things about Spinosaurs, so being able to visit the place where some of these ferocious beasts once roamed the land was a special treat. I have to say I was slightly jealous of Mark and Zoe's find! We also collected some sediment from the Kem Kem which is being sieved and we are sure to find some more interesting fossils!

 

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Me at the entrance to one of the mines at the Kem Kem.

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The hour is fast approaching when we open our doors to the Museum's greatest show of the year on Friday, 27 September to mark the Europe-wide event of the year, European Resarchers' Night. Of course, Science Uncovered is much more than just a show, it gives visitors exclusive and extensive access to hundreds of scientists and our collections and research. But this year, in particular. there are some unmissable star attractions. A few are hot off the press.

 

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Must-sees at Science Uncovered on 27 September include a beautifully-presented Archaeopteryx fossil and hologram on show at the Extinction Science Station from 16.00-22.00 in Fossil Way. Image courtesy of The Munich Show.

 

Following its sensation at the Munich Mineral Show - and thanks to a private collector - we are showcasing a rare Archaeopteryx fossil (thought to be the 11th known example of Archaeopteryx) at the Extinction Science Station throughout the evening. In addition to getting a glimpse of the fossil up close, a hologram brings the Archaeopteryx to life. Alan Hart, Museum Collection Manager, hails it as 'an amazing specimen, especially in the way it is presented. And the hologram reconstruction is a really innovative way of examining it.'

 

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Watch the video of Archaeopteryx and its hologram unveiled at the Munich Mineral Show

 

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Satisfy your app-etite for dinosaurs at Science Uncovered. Catch T. rex on the prowl in the Darwin Centre, using an iOS or Android device. A massive Stegasaurus can be stalked in the Central Hall.

 

Excitingly, we will also be joined by digital dinosaurs roaming the Museum around the Central Hall and Darwin Centre atrium. But to see the 3D animated dinosaurs, you'll need to download the free Aurasma app on an iOS or Android device. Then watch and listen as a realistic-looking dinosaur strides into view, using augmented reality. Museum volunteers will be on hand to help out if needed. Once you've found a dinosaur, you can take a photo of your friends with it and tweet it using the hashtag #SU2013.

 

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We've just had news that the incredibly rare T. rex fossil (pictured above being unpacked in readiness), featuring in Dr Paul Barret's Dinosaur Extinction studio event at 17.00, will now make an appearance at the Extinction Science Station from 20.30-22.00. Remember, you'll need tickets for the free Attenborough Studio events, but they are on a first-come, first-served basis, so this is another way for you to see this incredible specimen if you don't make it to the talk.

 

Along with these big blasts from the past and other amazing highlights on the night, make sure you soak up some of the really cool and quirky stuff too.

 

Get more out of gin than you can imagine over at the Darwin Centre's Food station, use a seismometer to create your own earthquake at the Natural Environment station, examine sticky crime scene evidence (and we're not just talking blood samples) at the Forensics station, or peel away layers to see the intricate insides of specimens using the Insider Explorer Table and 3D Imaging unit in the Earth Hall. And much, much more all over the Museum.

 

Family-oriented activities kick off earlier in the day, so check the website for details.

 

food-soapbox-art.jpgThe ‘beautiful’ future of food: Soapbox Art speakers from the Royal College of Art divulge their creative culinary tactics.

 

Don't forget to stop a while in the Lasting Impressions gallery (near the Birds gallery) to hear what Soapbox Art speakers have to say about their creative tactics for the future of food and where babies will come from.

 

Download a map online, or grab one when you arrive, to plan your exploration and entertainment for the evening. Keep an eye out for the scientists wearing 'talk to me' badges on your travels.

 

Download the Science Uncovered map listing all activities and locations [PDF]

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered

 

Countdown to Science Uncovered blogs

 

Read the recent news story about what scientists will be confronting at Science Uncovered

 

Can't make it to the event? Keep in touch with what happens on Twitter via @NHM_Live and #SU2013

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Eight days to go and the Museum is starting to buzz with excitement about the biggest event of the year in our busy calendar. Stephen Roberts, lead co-ordinator, gives us a warm welcome and introduction to this year's fabulous Science Uncovered. Put 27 September 2013 in your diaries now.

 

'Every single day that the Museum is open there are usually scientists and researchers on hand to talk with our visitors and friends. But Science Uncovered will see an amazing 400 scientists joining in a Friday night opening with a difference.

 

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Above: Last year's Oceans Science Station was a jaw-dropping experience for many and beetlemania was rife at the Entomology Station. Both return for this year's Science Uncovered night on 27 September.  (With the beetles at the Forests Station this time.)

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'Our event is one of hundreds taking place in more than 35 countries on European Researchers' Night, all made free by the EU, and we are pulling out all the stops for this celebration of science.

 

As well as meeting the people behind ground-breaking discoveries at this unique event, you'll see masses of amazing specimens from our collections, normally carefully stored behind the scenes. Some live creatures too.

 

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The lower jaw of the first-ever T. rex skull discovered makes a rare appearance at Paul Barrett's Dinosaur Extinction talk at 17.00 (this talk is also BSL-interpreted.)

 

'Highlights not to be missed include the Dinosaur Extinction studio event revealng extremely rare T. rex remains that have never been on display anywhere in Europe before, and a piece of Mars from our collections that you can explore its insides at the Space Station, just as our researchers do.

 

These are two among hundreds of other amazing objects that could help answer big questions about life and indeed the solar system.

 

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Cave art and live creatures: among the many tactile experiences coming your way on the night.

 

'From creating your own cave art to linking-live with NASA scientists, or presenting your own weather forecast, touring our rare books library or trying our science-inspired cocktail - check out what's on at Science Uncovered on or website and download the map showing you where everything is happening.

 

'Or just come along and see what takes your fancy on the night. Have a think about the questions or puzzles you've always wanted to quizz a scientist about. There are even Science Fess Up tell-all sessions going on in the Central Hall if you're game enough. And you can tweet your photos and comments using #SU2013.

 

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Cool vibes and candid confessions at the Science Bar and Science Fess Up sessions...

 

'This exclusive interaction with our science and scientists is at the heart of Science Uncovered, but we also want you to have a great evening out in one of the most famous and historic venues in London.

 

'We've got a choice of 6 bars and the Restaurant open across the Museum's galleries offering delicious food and drink. As activities wind down from 22.00 you can chill out in the Science Bar which stays open with a DJ until midnight.

 

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Nocturnal Creatures at the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire will be part of their festivities

 

'Our sister Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire is also joining in the Science Uncovered festivities and will showcase its latest bird research, with a chance to catch the Nocturnal Creatures exhibition open after hours too (above).

 

'About 1,000,000 people across Europe are expected to join in on the night. We'd be delighted if for you to come and be one of those million yourself!'

 

Keep up to date with Science Uncovered on the website

Download the map and activity details

Read blogs by our scientists

Find out about booking for BSL activities

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As ever, there are heaps of things to do at the Museum over the half-term holidays and you don't even have to come inside the building to enjoy all of them. Just step into the outdoor Sensational Butterflies house and meet 100s of live ones (and it's warm in there), enjoy a coffee or ice cream by the lawn's cafe kiosk, or take a stroll in the lovely Wildlife Garden and its bustling ponds to meet London wildlife among the daisies and buttercups.

 

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Left: An awesome Atlas moth in the butterflies exhibition, snapped by our butterfly house manager. Why not take your own butterfly pics inside the exhibition or at home and enter our Pinterest competition?

 

On Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 2 June, the Wildlife Garden is the focus of our free Bat Festival weekend, which also spreads its wings into the Museum's Darwin Centre for extra displays and talks, so make some plans if you're a batty friend.

 

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Tadpoles, yellow rattle, buttercups and the thriving bee tree in our spring-filled Widlife Garden, which also hosts the Bat Festival on the weekend of 1 to 2 June. Below, batty action at last year's festival.

 

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Inside the Museum, there are over 30 wonderful galleries to explore and the chance to book in advance for the ever-popular Dinosaurs, as well as puppet shows, hands-on activities and investigative fun. Browse our What's on for kids section to get the best recommendations.

 

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Left: Fossil corals display in Dinosaur Way. Right: The roaring jaws of the sabre-tooth cat in the Extinction exhibition - look out for our 2for1 ticket vouchers for Extinction in the Museum.

 

For more grown-up stimulation, there's a choice of two major ticketed exhibitions, Sebastaio Salgado's Genesis and Extinction. Or you could drop in to one or more of the many free talks in our Attenborough Studio scheduled through the week. Starting Sunday 26 and ending on Wednesday 29 May, the talks include live-links to the Isles of Scilly where the Field work with Nature Live team are accompanying Museum scientists performing their research. The Treasures Cadogan Gallery is also a must for anyone who wants to get to the heart of the Museum in one gallery.

 

Volunteers week, 1 to 7 June, coincides with the half-term holiday break and you can get a look at some of the Indonesian fossil corals volunteers helped to prepare for research in a new display cabinet in Dinosaur Way. Or take the lift up to the Specimen Preparation Area in the Cocoon on 30 May to see our new volunteers actually at work.

 

Keep up to date with our What's on and What's on for kids pages.

Find out more about volunteering at the Museum

Read the Wildlife Garden blog

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It was our first day at the festival proper yesterday, and the weather was great!

 

We had a day of great interactions with local primary schools. Scientists from the Museum brought along a massive cast of a baryonyx skull, and visitors were invited to take a closer look at some microscopic life through one of our amazing scanning electron microscopes (SEM).

 

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Cast of the skull of Baryonyx, a Cretaceous dinosaur with huge claws for hooking fish 


Other great exhibitors included:

 

  • The Buckland Club, who invited the public to help excavate a model plesiosaur
  • Rock Watch, running creative plasticine fossil workshops
  • The University of Plymouth, who measured visitors' strides to work out which dinosaur they are most like
  • a great collaborative artwork of the Jurassic coast, led by artist Darrell Wakelam

 

photo 2(1).JPGThe fine art of fossil excavation

 

Here's hoping for some good weather this bank holiday weekend! More news from the learning team soon.

 

Posted on behalf of Emily, Ben and Jade from the Museum's learning team.

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The Museum learning engagement team's first day at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival ended yesterday and it was an epic day!

 

We were up at 6.30 to start at 8 yesterday at Thomas Hardye School, where five schools from the Dorset area participated in earth science related activities throughout the day. The team have been helping students investigate a dinosaur dig and identify what they uncover.


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Jade assists a willing group of fossil hunters

 

Other activities included creating meteor impact craters and extracting copper from malachite using electricity!

 

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Extracting copper from the mineral malachite

 

Scientists from the Museum brought lots of amazing specimens for the 450 students, including tektites, formed from sand rapidly heated by meteorite impacts and ejected to form these beautiful tear drops shapes.

 

photo 2.JPGA tektite (on the left) formed when sand is rapidly heated by a meteorite impact, with a pound coin for scale.

 

Other highlights included the biodiversity team's activity, where students identified bugs and other arthropods, contributing to important citizen science data. There was also a great stand featuring Thomas Hardye's very own Fossil Club, who were busy inspiring fellow students to get into fossils.

 

We finished packing up, headed to Lyme Regis to set up for the festival on the water front and today's primary school day, (and finished off with some well earned fish and chips!)

 

The festival runs from today until Sunday 5 May so if you're in the area come and join us and many other exhibitors for more earth science fun!

 

Posted on behalf of Emily, Ben and Jade from the Museum's learning team.

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From spotting exotic butterflies in the just-opened Sensational Butterflies exhibition out on the Museum's East lawn and examining real beetles in the Darwin Centre to discovering the most perfect thing in the Universe - the egg, or is it chocolate(?) - in a free talk, there’s heaps on for all ages at the Museum over the Easter holidays.

 

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You can book free timed entry tickets for the Dinosaurs gallery if that’s what you’re planning to visit. But, if things get too busy in that area of the Museum, find your way to the Darwin Centre where kids will enjoy doing our Quest for the Curious challenge, and head over to the Red Zone on the other side of the Museum to enjoy the awesome Earth galleries and more amazing dinosaur displays in From the beginning (note, the earthquake simulator is offline at the moment while our Power Within gallery is closed for refurbishment).

 

 

Get a sneak peek inside the tropical butterfly house of Sensational Butterflies in the video above.


quest-curious-1000.jpgJoin in the Quest for the Curious challenges (above) at our week-long Easter free event for all the family.

 

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How about doing your very own dodo trail? You'll find this iconic creature features in quite a few places in the Museum, including in the highly topical Extinction exhibition, the Birds gallery and in our recently-opened Treasures Cadogan Gallery (there's one more place too, but I'll leave you to discover it).

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And look out for the 416 flower pots installation in the Images of Nature gallery as part of our India contemporary art exhibition.

 

Check our What’s on and What’s on for kids sections for the details of what to do during the holiday period, and follow NHM_Visiting on Twitter for updates on queues.

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It's just one week to go until our Extinction exhibition opens. As I write, installers and designers are frantically putting the finishing touches to the displays, visuals and lighting in time for its unveiling to the public on 8 February.

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The exhibition's tiger display - in the process of being installed - is sure to be one of the main attractions in our Extinction: Not the End of the World? exhibition opening in the Museum's Jerwood Gallery on Friday 8 February.

 

It's full steam ahead,' says Alex Fairhead, the exhibition's developer, who is very excited about the new slant this show will put on the subject of extinction.

 

Alex explains:

'Usually people only ever think of dinosaurs and dodos when they talk about extinction. In Extinction: Not the End of the World? visitors will discover the positive side to extinction and that the animals and plants we see today would not have survived if others had not first become extinct. There will also be opportunities to discuss modern conservation, see the conservation successes and failures, and consider whether we're now on the verge of the next mass extinction.’

 

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Just why did the dodo die out, but not the leatherback turtle? This and many crucial life-and-death conundrums will be explored in our Extinction exhibition. This new dodo reconstruction has been made especially for the exhibition based on current scientific research.

 

'Understanding extinction underpins all of the scientific work of the curators and researchers at the Natural History Museum and is crucial to discovering more about the evolution of animals and the natural world.' said Alex.


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Rustic wood reclaimed from a 150-year-old cotton mill is the fitting theme of the exhibition's design.

 

And it's not just the array of creatures featuring in the great story of extinction and survival that is impressive, but the design of the show itself. The design of the exhibition has taken the subject matter of the exhibition to heart:

'As you can see,' describes Alex, 'the rustic recycled-wood furniture that has recently been installed, looks fantastic. Minimising our use of natural resources was key to the exhibition’s design. The reclaimed wood was originally used for the flooring in a 150-year old cotton mill in Lancashire. If you look closely you can still see where the joists were.'

 

From the gigantic skull of Chasmosaurus belli - one of the last land-dwelling dinosaurs to become extinct - that greets you at the gallery entrance, the new scientifically-accurate dodo, the awesome tiger, giant elk antlers, to the cool interactive 3-console Extinction game and more, this is an exhibition not to be missed by those who care about the natural world.

 

Find out about the Extinction exhibition and book tickets online

 

Glimpse some of the featured species in our Exhibition image gallery

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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.

 

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

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

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Discovering the magic of minerals and their structures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Science Fight Club in full sway.

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

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And who found out what this hairy brain-like mystery speciman was?
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So summer’s definitely over, but autumn brings with it our spectacular Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

 

This Friday 26 October's Lates with MasterCard is the first late opening of the exhibition and what an exhibition it is! If you haven’t had a peek at the line-up of winning images, you can do so on our online gallery but there’s nothing quite like seeing the full show so make sure you get your tickets early for this Friday if you’re planning on coming along.

 

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Paul Nicklen's Bubble-jetting emperors is the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner. Get up close to this and 99 other prize-winning photographs in the exhibition open late on Friday evening.

 

This month we’re bringing back our increasingly popular Open-mic in the Central Hall and we’ve got 11 awesome performers. They’ll be playing from 7pm until 10.30pm and we’ve got a fantastic mix of artists. With everything from country to rock and pop it’s bound to be a great night. Get a taste of one of the performers, Marie Naffah, in this video, and see some of the other performers' videos at the end of this blog.

 

 

This month we also have some really exciting activities going on at Lates. Join our discussion event exploring the pitfalls and possibilities of a manned mission to Mars in our unique event, Should We Go To Mars? This event is ticketed and you need to book online in advance.

 

Our amazing half-term Campsite event will be opening an evening early for a special preview. With film screenings in campervans, human-sized cabinets where you can label yourself a specimen and a real polar tent in the mix, you can have yourself an indoor-outdoor adventure in the Darwin Centre. The Campsite will be open from 7pm – 9.30pm.

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Get a taste of the Campsite mobile festival of campervans, caravans and pop-up tents, arriving here on Friday evening. Right, join the crazy artists for some entertaining speed-sketching.

We’re also saying bonsoir to our Crazy Artists who are back and crazier than ever with a night of speed-sketching that will knock your socks off.  Can you sketch a squirrel in 10 minutes? Or draw a dinosaur? Or paint a porpoise? The Artists are here to put your skills to the test. Every 15 minutes between 19.00 and 21.00 the artists will bring out a specimen from the Museum’s collections. You’ll have 10 minutes to draw it before they cast their expert eyes over your work and choose a winner to take home a Natural History Museum prize.

 

If all that wasn’t enough, we’re opening the Dinosaur gallery, and you can get into the Halloween spirit in the Creepy Crawlies gallery, which is open for the the first time ever at Lates,

 

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Satisfy your curiosity about locusts (above), ants, butterflies, crabs, spiders, termites and 1000s of their relatives in the Green Zone's Creepy Crawlies gallery.

 

And with all that going on you’re bound to be peckish, so why not warm up with our tasty new pop-up restaurant menu? Featuring venison and wild boar stew, dumplings and mashed potato, you won’t be hungry for long.

 

So it looks like this is going to be one of our busiest Lates ever and I hope you all enjoy it. As always, if you do come along, please let us know what you think on the night or you can email the team at after-hours@nhm.ac.uk.

 

Andy Glynn

Visitor Events Manager


Open-mic performers at this month's Lates

 

Calvin Roche performs a variety of sounds from upbeat to chilled acoustic featuring amazing bass and vocals.

 

Clinton Tavares is a singer/songwriter from Watford that is currently playing open mics all across London.

 

 

 

Daniel Corsini plays acoustic folk with influences from Ray Davies to Kenny Rogers, to cups of tea, to sleeping in the sun.

 

 

 

Glen Kirkham is a star in waiting. His unique high-note harmonies and distinctive acoustic guitar playing produce a stunning synergy of blues and rock/pop.

 

 

 

Icicle Tree are an established folk fusion band from Surrey that plays memorable songs with distinctive melodies, creative arrangements and a truly identifiable style.

 

 

 

Jakob Deist, originally from South Africa but now based in Essex, is an amazing acoustic performer who blends a mix of pop, blues, rock and indie sounds. His new album, The Owl and the Crow, is out soon.

 

 

 

Kaitlyn Haggis, our youngest open-mic performer to date, is a teenage singer/songwriter from North London. She’s been developing her own material over the last 12 months and is currently recording her first EP.

 

 

 

Lucie Zara is a singer/songwriter from Devon. Her music has been described as a fusion of folk guitar, quirky lyrics and soulful vocals.

 

Marie Naffah is bound for big things, according to Love Music Love Life Magazine, who say: “With features on Balcony TV, Absolute Radio, XFM and her track about a girl who has lost her sight featured as top video of the week on NME breakthrough, this is just the beginning for the 20-year-old. You can expect to hear a lot more as she is set to record her new EP over the next few months.”

 

Paul Howley
Original soulful folk, big poppy choruses and some of the smartest lyrics in town.

 

The Frisbys
Often compared to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, the Frisbys write memorable folk/pop songs. Expect delicate folk textures and soaring harmonies from this four-piece.

 

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Where can you: create your own comet with a space expert or examine a large land snail back from extinction? Get close to rare cave art statuettes and Martian meteorites outside of their glass display cases? Look a fearsome Dracula fish in the face or marvel at a giant clam? Witness a blood spatter analysis by the police? Let a scorpion sit in the palm of your hand? Examine the insides of a mummified cat on a virtual autopsy table? Get inside the colon of a cow as a virtual vet? Take a tour of the largest natural history art library in the world? Or challenge a leading scientist on the latest discoveries about climate change as you sip on a cocktail? And all during a single night.

 

At our brilliant Science Uncovered festival from 16.00 to 23.00 on Friday 28 September, you can do every one of these things and more ... and also try to win your very own private sleepover here at the Museum.

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The Space Station where vistors can make comets and see the Tissint meteorite from Mars, and the Forests Station with its butterflies, beetles and moth displays are sure to attract the crowds at Science Uncovered. Select images to enlarge.

Stephen Roberts, Science Uncovered's co-ordinator, gives us a hint of this year's highlights:

 

'We have a little under two weeks to go until the biggest evening event in the Museum's fantastic yearly calendar - Science Uncovered. This year, in keeping with the summer theme of pushing limits and new records, we will see new science, new ways to take part and new specimens coming out – all for one night only in this unique festival of science, made free thanks to the EU.

 

'On the evening of Friday 28 September, more than 350 researchers will be in our galleries as part of European Researchers’ Night that takes place across 32 countries and gives us unprecedented access to world class research and the people who make it happen.

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Meeting a Dracula fish face to face - it may be tiny but it's huge for taxonomists - at the Evolution Station, and witnessing the police analyse a blood splatter at the Forensics Station will be other popular highlights.

'In a year that has seen science stories making such a splash it is terrific to have the chance to actually meet the people involved and get your hands on some of their work. From mini-mammoth remains discoverd in underground Cretan caves to amazing Martian meteorites and a live link to CERN's Large Hadron Collider control room or the chance to live-chat with researchers in Antarctica, there has never been a better time to meet the people at the cutting edge of discovery.

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At the Antarctica Station you can step inside a real polar tent and try out expedition equipment, and in the Attenborough Studio we video-link live to the control room of CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

'As well as the science and scientists, some of the most precious specimens from our collections will be brought out for this rare occasion, and there's the opportunity to delve behind the scenes into our collections on exclusive tours.

 

'And, of course, if you would rather get your hands dirty you could help build a comet, recreate cave art or extract your own DNA, to name but a few of the more practical aspects. Not least of which for a Friday night, we have a record breaking 7 bars and, by popular demand, our delicious Restaurant will be open till late.

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Homo sapiens and Neanderthal skulls alongside cave art figurines, rarely shown to the public, will be at the Human Origins Station, along with the researchers who more than anyone can answer the questions as to who we really are...

'Our Museum at Tring is also taking part with a fantastic Science Uncovered night in Hertfordshire, with the promise of curators giving us insights into how to prepare bird skins and skeleton specimens, shows of feather painting and natural history art illustration, and the chance to meet live creatures with keepers from Amey Zoo. Local beer and barbecue-style food are on the menu too. Check our Science Uncovered at Tring pages for more information.

 

'If you have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington or at Tring this is the night to come along and see for yourself.'

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered in London

 

Download the Science Uncovered map to see where things are and to plan your evening in London

 

See what's on at Tring's Science Uncovered