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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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I have always enjoyed taking part in Science Uncovered with its vibrant, interesting, exciting and revealing ambience.

 

As part of the European Researchers' Night, the Natural History Museum is one of the hundred institutions in 33 countries all over Europe to open its door for a night of discovery, learning and inspiration. The Museum's Science Uncovered for 2013 is here today, Friday the 27 September from 16.00 until Midnight, and it’s free!

 

Now, having said that, unfortunately I won’t take part in this year's event! I know this is very sad news for all my fans, or rather for all the fans of Lepidoptera, because they would have been the stars of the show, not me obviously!

 

Science-Uncovered-2-science-station-copyright-NHM.jpgThe Lepidoptera Station at last year's Science Uncovered.

 

But don’t despair! There will be lots of bugs on show, from large and shiny beetles to attractive and colourful butterflies and moths. Some of my entomology colleagues will be manning Science Stations so you can get up close to their favourite specimens and find out what they're working on.

 

Display_Drawers-png.jpgSome of the entomology display drawers you might be finding at this year's Science Uncovered.

 

One of the stations not to be missed is the iCollections projectdigitising the museum’s British and Irish Lepidoptera.

 

Let me tell you few things about this project and what you’ll find if you visit the station. The iCollections project is one of many digitisation activities currently undertaken by the Museum. The aim of the project is to make part of the vast entomology collections at our Museum more accessible to the public and to researchers.

 

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The iCollections project – digitising the museum’s British and Irish Lepidoptera.

 

Each specimen of British and Irish butterflies and moths from the Museum collections is currently being photographed, and the data on the label of each specimen is also photographed and transcribed. This is great news for curatorial and scientific purposes. In fact, once the specimens have been photographed they are re-housed into new drawers that will provide better conditions for many years to come.

 

The data from the specimens will also be extremely useful to examine the pattern of distribution of the species of British and Irish Lepidoptera, and how factors such as climate change and human impact through urbanization and intensive agriculture are affecting it. The data would also be valuable to assess the scale of the historical collections of the Museum.

 

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Some of the digitisers at work.

 

Elisa.jpgOnce the specimens are digitised they are re-housed into new drawers.

 

The project started at the beginning of this year and so far the digitising team has managed to photograph more than 80,000 specimens and transcribe each of their labels.

Erebia drawer.jpgA drawer with specimens of Scotch Argus (Erebia aethiops), one of the 60 or so British species of butterflies currently being digitised.

 

Apparently it is a reliable and very productive team, digitising one specimen every 2.9 minutes!

 

So, tonight, at Science Uncovered, do pay the the iCollections project Station a visit. Meet Elisa, Gerardo, Jo, Lindsey and Sara, the digitisers. They’ll be happy to tell you more about this project, answer your questions, and since the process of capturing the data from the labels is rather interesting and complex, they will have some of these labels for visitors to have a go at transcribing and deciphering them! And there’ll be prizes to be won, if you are smart enough that is!

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Meet the iCollections Project digitisers!

 

They will also have some drawers of their favourite species which have already been digitised. The digitising team will be located in the noisy Nature Games room (Marine Invertebrates Gallery), so listen out for our animal-themed buzzers!

 

Enjoy!

 

Science Uncovered takes place today, Friday 27 September at the Natural History Museum, London. Join us from 4pm to midnight.

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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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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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cocktail-long-1000.jpgAs our mighty Visitor Services team, caterers and planners swing into action for the Museum's biggest event of the year later today, and our Museum scientists make final preparations on their choice specimens, exhibits, equipment and talks for the show, I'm thinking of the things I will definitely be doing in a few hours time when I leave the office myself and visit Science Uncovered. It opens to the public at 16.00 and goes on until 23.00.

 

High on my list is, naturally, sipping The Pollinator cocktail (left) created exclusively for tonight's occasion. Its ingredients can't be revealed, but I've heard it is infused with vanilla and smells delicious, and is inspired by the pollination process... mmm nice! This concoction is available at the Cocktail bar in the Darwin Centre, and right next to the Food Station, which was a really cool place to hang out last year and have some really fruitful conversations.

 

Before heading over to the Darwin Centre, I hope to witness the volcano erupting at the Earth Station in the Earth Hall. And on my way from Earth to the Green Bar, I'll stop to listen to the Soapbox Art speakers in the Lasting Impressions gallery. I'm really intrigued about the possibility of a genetically-cloned Elvis mouse (below left) and perplexed by the prospect of women giving birth to endangered dolphins if the future need arose...

 

Both these somewhat surreal subjects and the speculative uses of scientific advancement, as seen through the eyes of budding Royal College of Art design graduates, are sure to give great food for thought. Soapbox Art is a new addition this year.

 

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'Tails' of mice at Science Uncovered tonight. Left a mouse that could be genetically-cloned from Elvis hair samples... featured in a Soabpox Art session; right a locust devouring a mouse at the Parasites/Pests Station.

On the subject of mice and pests, there will be more to explore at the Darwin Centre science stations. I definitely need to see the locust caught in the act of devouring a mouse at the Parasites/Pests Station, where I heard a rumour there might also be edible chocolate parasites. And I must remember to get some inside information at the Vets Station for a little person I know who wants to become a vetinary surgeon.

 

Another must is the roaming digital specimen table (below) where I'll have a go - if I can get a look in - at unwrapping a mummified cat and examining the core of the rare Tissint Martian meteorite. The table will be in the Earth Hall (where you can also see the Imaging Station) from 16.00 - 20.00, moving to the Earth globe just outside the Earth Hall from 20.00 - 22.00.


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And of course, I'll be drawn to weird fish, ancient skull cups, gorgeous butterflies, giant bugs, native gold, glowing minerals, amazing CT scans and much, much more along the way.

 

For anyone interested in science and in our planet's history, its solar system and its future, this is the place to be in London tonight.

 

Find out about the Science Stations and everything that's on tonight at Science Uncovered

 

Read the news story about the digital specimen table

 

Download the Science Uncovered map [PDF]

 

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Of course, if you're in Hertfordshire and close to our Museum at Tring, you can join in their amazing Science Uncovered at Tring night there too. The Edge of Extinction display and talk about birds, which is Tring's special area of research, promises to be fascinating as do some of their special bird art presentations. Pictured above is the forest owlet that has recently been making a recovery and actually 'returning from the dead'.

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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

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In under 8 hours, from 16.00 today Friday 23 September 2011, Science Uncovered officially opens.

 

For those who aren't in the know, this is our big science festival welcoming 8,000+ visitors to the Museum to celebrate European Researchers' Night with over 300 over cities across Europe.

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The Museum welcomes 1000s of visitors in to Science Uncovered tonight, 23 September 2011, from 16.00 to 23.00.  After dark, out on the Wildlife Garden evening tours you may even spot a bat... Select all images to enlarge

Many of the pre-bookable events are already sold out now. But for those who are planning to just arrive and see what's on, there may be the chance of a few unbooked tours and plenty of activities you can just drop in and join or visit during the evening.

 

These include 18 science stations spread out across the whole Museum including the Central Hall and adjoining galleries, the Earth galleries and the Darwin Centre.

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Highlights for families in the Darwin Centre: Entomology Station, more interesting insects to identify at the Natural History Roadshow and the Animal Vision show.

The event starts with the late afternoon activities that are more family-oriented, including the Animal Vision Show and Secrets of Spider Dating talk, 16.00 and 17.00 respectively in the Attenborough Studio.

 

While you're over in the Darwin Centre, you could join A Walk on the Wildside tour and step out into the Museum's lovely Wildlife Garden for an afternoon tour - later on these will include bat walks - admire the London Design Festival installations on your way - and head straight to the Natural History Roadshow to meet our identificaion team and see some interesting specimens.

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Science Station highlights near the Central Hall: Left: Scelidosaurus specimen at the Palaeontology Station an example of this oldest British dinosaur species in Fossil Way. Right: Section of the Thames Greenwich whale in Mammals Gallery.

Most of the evening's more adult activities and tours will start from 18.00 including the Meet the Greenwich Whale Station in the  Mammals galllery, where a section of the Thames Greenwich whale skeleton will be on show (above).

 

You can enter the Museum after 18.00 at both the main Cromwell Road entrance or the Exhbition Road entrance - head to the Welcome points at  either entrance to locate your tours or the activities, research and displays you're interested in. If all the tours or bookable events are full, seek out a nearby science station or drop-in activity.

 

From Central Hall into the Museum along Fossil Way - Marine Invertebrates gallery -  you'll find the Zoology Station where we're very

excited to be displaying a Tasmanian Tiger cub and our research into this species and are offering the chance to name an unnamed deep-sea worm...

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Upper Central Hall galleries include the Giant Sequoia where you should look out for some ancient remains....

If you're in the Central Hall area, you can migrate into the upper gallery for The Vault tour or visit the science station by the Giant Sequoia and be fascinated by the ancient human occupation of Britain with its intriguing early remains.

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Check out the Red Zone's Earth and Space Stations for meteoric, starry revelations...

Over in the Red Zone's Earth galleries, look out for the Earth Station with real meteories (above) and the Space Station featuring asteriod research. Or jon in the Science Fight Club sessions to see who wins some tough science debate rounds. In the Flett Theatre we also have the pleasure of hosting our prestigious Losing Our Principles? debate with David de Rothschild in the hot seat.

 

Bars are open to all visitors In the the main areas of the Museum, that is the Central Hall, Earth galleries and the Darwin Centre..

 

As discussion is one of the most important aspects, there are a myriad of opportunities to chat with scientists across the Museum. And particularly at The Science Bar in the Museum's Restaurant, where you can choose a tasty science topic from the menu and chat with scientists at tables over a drink.

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In the Central Hall's Social Media Bar take advantage of free Wi-Fi and there are 2 computers to log on to our online Science Uncovered community.


The Social Media Bar in Central Hall is open to all visitors and also offers hot food. It will be the last bar open till 22.30. Maybe I'll see you there with some of my colleagues...

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered and download a map


Right: Look out for two London Design Festival installations at the Darwin Centre. Osmosis: Regeneration image by Susan Smart
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Nearly 7,000 people turned up on the night for our biggest-ever After Hours event in 2010. Double the numbers we had hoped for. By 8pm there were queues stretching far down the Cromwell Road outside the Museum, South Kensington tube was rammed and the atmosphere in the Central Hall was buzzing.

 

(Click on the images to enlarge them.)

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First visitors arriving in the afternoon

I went down around 4ish to the Central Hall just as the event was starting and was lucky enough to get a glimpse of some of the great things at the science stations: Alan Hart's gold nugget, Ed Baker's domino cockroaches (scampered up my sleeve!), and Richard Sabin's rare dolphin skull, before passing by some very excited toddlers observing wriggly worms in a petri dish at the Natural History Roadshow in Dinosaur Way. This was the family time of the event and not so crowded. Although it was still too difficult to get near to Max Barclay's huge beetle collection at the Entomology Station, due to the avid fans around him.

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Ed Baker's Past and Present Insects Station - live cockroaches in the container to the right of the boy!

 

When I returned later from the office, around 8pm, it was really packed and Central Hall along had that amazing feeling of 'the place to be'. But the Museum tours were by now fully booked up, so I missed these. I met friends who had joined The Vault tour and were raving about Alan Hart our mineralogist who led this tour. They were also charmed by the live chameleon that had greeted them near the front desk.

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The live chameleon at the front desk, what a charmer

Around mid-evening it was pretty difficult to get close to any of the science stations so we headed to The Science Bar. Aoife, the bar's stewardess for the night, was shepherding the next batch of guests to their tables, with scientists at the ready to join the conversations. It was obvious they were all having a brilliant time. Aoife told me afterwards: 'It was probably the most intense and rewarding experience I've ever had. The scientists loved it. But I didn't get to sit down all evening or have a minute's break." I think the latter sentiment was echoed by many of the scientists and volunteers involved in the night's activities.

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The Whale Hall tour led by Roberto Miquez, especially popular because there was also a Spanish translator to hand

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The Darwin Centre's Forensics Station was a real hit, thanks to lots of recent press coverage for our forensic insect experts

Drifting over finally to the Darwin Centre, past a huge bone (or what is it a fossil?) being presented at the Natural History Roadshow, we made it to the Hendrick's Bar of Curious Concoctions. Annoyingly it was closing, but the manager proudly announced to us that they'd given away over 700 gin and tonics. He waved a huge wadge of postcards at us, shouting, 'we'll have to sort all these next, it's been fantastic.' I guess we'll hear more of those quirky 'natural history' stories exchanged for free spirits at a later point. But Hendrick's gin has now joined many of my colleagues' drinks collections that's for sure.

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'We gave away over 700 free gin and tonics' announced the Hendrick's bar manager proudly at closing time

On my way out as the event was finishing, I met Laura Harmour the event co-organiser with press officer, Sam Roberts. Both had big smiles on their faces. 'Wow, what a success, worth all the hard work and why were we panicking people wouldn't come!' we laughed. Ringing in my ears were Sandy Knapp's witty observations on freeze drying potatoes up in the Andes and Mike Rumsey's erudite identification of an opal that a visitor had thrust in his face on her ringed finger. Let's hear it for the scientists, thought I. It really was their night.

 

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Rare botanical books revealed by Mark Spencer on the Leafing through the Past tour behind the scenes

There were disappointments for those who couldn't get on the Museum tours and frustration at not getting as close to some of the scientists and their specimens as some would have liked. But hey, it was the first time we staged such a massive science event. Lessons to be learned and as Stephen Roberts, organiser of the event says, 'we'll do it better next time.'

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The atmospheric Fossil Way bar

 

Science Uncovered, au revoir.

 

Give us your feedback from the event and post your pictures on the Science Uncovered community website


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Our After Hours: Science Uncovered festival is about to start in a few hours. Scientists are gathering their special specimens together in preparation for their shifts in the Central Hall's science stations and adjoining galleries.

 

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We've had some really fabulous coverage this morning and over the last few days. Tonight's event was even on the BBC homepage this morning! Have a look at some of the recent media online to catch a glimpse of the amazing adventures coming your way tonight and see why everyone's raving about it.

 

BBC Today programme online - Night in the museum in pictures


BBC News online - Inside UK forensic insects team

 

BBC Online video - How flies help homicide detectives

 

BBC Today programme - Tom Fielden's blog

 

To recap on the main attractions, we have 3 bars open including The Science Bar and Hendrick's Bar of Curious Concoctions, more than 50 scientists hosting different activities, 100s of star specimens, 26 exclusive Museum tours, 9 science stations, and the Natural History Roadshow. And Cocoon will be open.

 

Especially for families, at the start of the festival this afternoon, we have the Animal Vision show and pond-dipping in the Wildlife Garden. Have a look at the full list of What's on at Science Uncovered.

 

Remember you can download the Science Uncovered map and leaflet to find out where things are.

 

ah-science-zoom.jpgThe spirit of the Science Uncovered night continues online Here you can keep up to date with discussions, blogs, post pics and follow-up on the event, even if you didn't make it.

 

Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night 2010.

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ah-science-zoom.jpgTonight's the big night. After Hours: Science Uncovered is about to happen.


‘Did you know you have sent me 185 emails in the last two days?’ asked Nigel Mullins, my invaluable operations manager yesterday as we went on our final operational walk through of the event. I’m not surprised to hear that as this has been an insanely busy week for those of us organising this huge public event. Some of us have given up on clean laundry, I’ve been living on biscuits for the past 2 days, and yesterday I didn't even managed a quick Hob Nob!

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This evening the Central Hall should be packed with visitors enjoying the science stations on either side and on their way to The Science Bar and other attractions at Science Uncovered

We’ve had endless operational meetings; sat in the Central Hall Café, thrashing out the best placings of the drinks dispensaries for the Science Bar and how best to get people in and out without tangling them up like bindweed. We held briefings and walkthroughs, sorted out how we are going to feed the 120+ staff working on the night (sandwiches and salads); and briefed our event security.

 

There have been endless discussions with our contractors, Event Concept, who are doing the ‘rigging’ of power cables from our Central Hall balconies to power up the Science Stations; and Blitz Communications who are putting together the laptops and monitors and plasmas and microscopes with and without cameras for the Science Stations so that our visitors can get really up close and personal with our science.

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Nigel has had a nightmare trying to track down microscopes, and we now know that compound microscopes can’t be had for love nor money in the whole of London. We've sorted out wifi access for our scientists, finalised all the signage, decided where exactly all the tours will be departing from; and not seen much of our homes for about two weeks!

 

I've finally completed the Operations Plan, which nearly killed me; refereed an argument between Event Concept and our signmakers over who is going to be rigging the Science Station signage tonight; sorted out our volunteers with their duties on the welcome desk and tour booking points; had complicated discussions about whether when you turn the lights off in Dinosaurs (for the torchlight tours), the animatronic dinosaurs stop working; written up an equipment spreadsheet for all our technical requirements and a furniture spreadsheet showing where exactly all the 6-foot tables (all 31 of them), the 3-foot tables and the chairs that we will be using for our Science Stations have to go.

 

I've pondered ridiculously long over the colour that the front of the Museum will be lit up tonight (light blood orange) and the colour of the tablecloths for the night (purple and dark lilac); written up the briefings for Front of House staff which were delivered this morning at the crack of 9.30am, a time I certainly did not make.

 

But now we are pretty much set to go, and as the event goes ‘live’ in a few hours, that is probably just as well.

 

We hope that you enjoy everything that After Hours: Science Uncovered has to offer. Our scientists are very much looking forward to the event, and so are we. It should be a great night out.

 

And remember you can follow all the conservations from the night, catch up on blogs, media coverage, and more online in our Science Uncovered community

 

Science Uncovered is part of the Europe-wide European Researchers' Night 2010.

 

Over and out

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It's only 3 days to go till our After Hours: Science Uncovered big night this Friday, 24 September, and the last operational plans are in frantic motion.

 

Yesterday was the dress rehearsal for scientists to bring out their star specimens and run through setting up the event's science stations in the Central Hall. The 9 Face to Face science stations are mostly located in the Museum's Central Hall bays. Each represents one of the Museum's main science departments and will showcase specimens from our collections and their research.

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Left: This complete skull of the female Yangtze River dolphin (also known as Baiji), was collected from Tung Ting Lake in 1922. It is on show at Science Uncovered and measures 54cm long and has 36 pairs of teeth in its upper and lower jaws.
Right: A live Chinese River dolphin rescued from the Yangtze River in 1980. She died in 2002. AFP/Getty Images

 

At the science stations you'll find some truly precious and extraordinary specimens to explore and discuss face to face with our experts. Many have never been on public display before. It's vital that they are handled securely and the timings of the rota of exhibits runs to schedule. During the evening from 16.00 onwards, different scientists with their different chosen specimens will alternate on shift

 

Of special interest will be the complete skull of the now-extinct Yangtze River dolphin (above) on display at the Zoology Station, courtesy of our renowned mammals curator Richard Sabin. This rare female skull came into the Museum's collection in 1922. There are only a few specimens of this extinct species in museums worldwide, so preserving it is crucial. This is what Richard has to say about the Yangtze River dolphin skull:

 

'The reason I am showcasing this specimen is to highlight how the nature of museum collections and specimens can change, and how they reflect what is taking place in the world. The extinction of a large marine mammal is not only a sad loss to biodiversity, it is also a shock that you cannot adequately prepare yourself for. As curator of marine mammals, I am at a loss to express how I feel about never being able to see this species in the wild. The specimen will be used to investigate the genetic make-up of the species, which will hopefully provide data that can be used to help conserve other closely-related cetacean species.'

 

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Other Zoology Station treats include a skull of a lion kept at the Tower of London more than 500 years ago. The lions were part of the Royal Menagerie, or zoo. And Richard is also going to show some of the Museum's mummified cats (right)... I did say there would be beauties and beasts, didn't I? Our Head of zoology collections Clare Valentine will also be featuring some unusual sponges (below).

 

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Insect lovers should head off to the Past and Present Insects Station in Fossil Way for the chance to meet live creatures like the rather pretty Therea petiveriana, Domino Cockroach (pictured left), which our entomologist Ed Baker will be bringing along. These cockroaches are often kept as pets. Ed is joined by palaeontologist David Nicholson who will also present some 100-million-year-old insect fossil specimens.

 

Meteorite fans should check out the Mineralogy Station in the Central Hall. We'll have a piece of the very rare Allende carbonaceous chrondrite meteorite (below) that fell as a huge fireball in Mexico in 1969. The Museum has about 5,000 meteorite samples, which hold secrets of the formation of the solar system.

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We hear mutterings that Alan Hart, who is leading The Vault gallery tours, will be showing some excavated Devonshire gold at the Mineralogy Station.

 

sponge-800.jpgTomatoes and poisonous algae are just a few of the botanical delights at the Botany Station, including an actual old-fashioned plant press.

 

And there is the enigma of the giant beasts on the Dinosaurs and Whale Hall torchlit gallery tours, with the chance to learn about identifying worms at the Natural History Roadshow in Dinosaur Way.

 

Moving over to the Darwin Centre Forensics Station, you'll be able to glimpse the first maggots used as forensic evidence (below) to convict a criminal in a court of law. This formed part of the famous 1935 Ruxton murder case.


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In short, 100s of star specimens and gallery treasures await you at Science Uncovered. This is your chance to witness them close up with the people who know them best.

 

After Hours: Science Uncovered is part of European Researchers' Night.

 

Read the latest news story about some of these rare specimens at Science Uncovered

 

Here are some links to related news stories about a few of these specimens that might also be of interest:

 

Did Egyptian mummification lead to the domestic cat? - news story

The Tower of London lion origins revealed - news story

Museum insect detectives join forensic team - news story

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

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Our winter After Hours begin on 29 October, but first, on Friday 24 September we are throwing open our doors until 22.00 for After Hours: Science Uncovered.

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Don't miss our biggest-ever after hours event on Friday 24 September as we join a Europe-wide festival

All across Europe, in over 200 cities, final preparations to kindred events that take place on that night are being made and harrowed-looking event managers (if we are anything to go by) will be crossing their fingers that all will go well.


Stephen Roberts, our Nature Live Manager, who with his colleague Ivvet Modinou, has worked extremely hard on the event (along with the rest of the project team), and was responsible for bringing it to the Museum in the first place, says that London needs an event like this and the Museum must be the best place for it.

 

‘Over 4 million people come to the Museum every year and we have over 300 science staff but, until the opening of the Darwin Centre last year, relatively few of them get to see our scientists, let alone chat.

 

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'After Hours: Science Uncovered changes the balance when an astonishing 60 of our own scientists as well as others from across London have pulled out all the stops to join in a European festival of science called Researchers' Night. We have watched with interest as this initiative, now involving over  500,000 members of the public in Europe, has grown and this year we have thrown ourselves in lock, stock and barrel.'

 

At our event there are over 50 different activities going on, ranging from 30 minute tours and Nature Live events in the Attenborough Studio to our Natural History Roadshow and science stations covering an astounding breadth of our science and collections that you can pop by for a few moments. In The Science Bar you can discuss the hot science of the day, from climate change to life on Mars and everything inbetween or, if you like, just kick back and enjoy a drink and soak up the atmosphere.’

 

Jon Ablett, pictured left, is one of the several zoologists you can meet on the night. He'll be introducing us to The Giant Squid in his Nature Live talk.

 

You can also enjoy a glass of champagne or wine in our Red Bar in Fossil Way, and if you have an interesting specimen, or a story related to the natural world, you can go along to the Hendrick's Bar of Curious Concoctions in the Darwin Centre, and get a free gin and tonic!

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I also wanted to get a quote from my boss, the Director of Public Engagement, Sharon Ament, about what After Hours: Science Uncovered means to her. As things have been so madly busy here with the event, I ended up having to trail her with a notebook down in the lift as she left for the day. Here's what she said:

 

‘It’s fun, it’s insightful, it’s never been done before. Science is international, and this shows the effort that goes into high quality science in the European Union. After Hours: Science Uncovered will be exciting for everyone taking part in it, our scientists and our visitors. There is nothing like getting up close with science, and this is a brilliant opportunity to do just that.  It is great that we are participating in a Europe-wide event.  Imagine how across Europe, scientists will be engaging with over half a million people on the same night – it has been a fantastic opportunity for us to take part in this’.


It really has been a fantastic opportunity working on this After Hours, and we are looking forward to a feast of science and great craic with our visitors, as the Irish say.


I went to a seminar today when one of our research scientists, Dr Greg Edgecombe, talked with us about his field work in Greenland on Micrognathozoa. I am no scientist, and this was an area of science utterly unknown to me. But it was truly fascinating to learn something perfectly new – and I hope that those of you who come to After Hours: Science Uncovered, will experience something similar.

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Join our NaturePlus Science Uncovered community to follow more of the hot science discussions and read the latest blogs.

 

Find out more about the night's activities and scientists in our What's on blog