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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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Summer is drawing to an end and it is with a tinge of sadness that our two amazing special exhibitions, Animal Inside Out and Scott’s Last Expedition, make their last appearance at Lates this Friday. They’ve both had an amazing run and taught us all so much about exploration, endurance and anatomy.

 

If you haven’t yet seen what the insides of a giraffe look like or read Captain Scott’s inspiring and tragic diaries, I’d definitely recommend you make the trip this Friday for the last late opening of the season.

 

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And to celebrate what’s been a spectacular summer of Lates, we’ll of course be bringing back our open-mic night in the glorious Central Hall. We’ve had even more submissions than for previous months and have chair-danced our way through almost 300 youtube videos to pick an outstanding line-up for August.

 

A Girl Called Ruth

 

We’ve got live performances by Sebastian Blake, Hannah Scott, Laura Koonjean, Claudia Heidegger, Resonance, Lili Burr, Mitch Daniels and A Girl Called Ruth. To give you a taste of what to expect, there are some of their videos below to get you in the mood!

 

Laura Koonjean, said, “It’s such a gorgeous, historic venue to play. I am excited to be part of the prestigious Lates with MasterCard. Can’t wait to share some Friday fun and songs with everyone.”

 

We’re also happy to say that our friendly, yet eccentric, Crazy Artistes are back for another spin at speed-sketching in the galleries. Find them in the corridors, quickly draw the specimen they’ve brought out of the collections and you could win a prize from their stash of Museum goodies.

 

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After this month Lates will be taking a break until 26 October when we’ll return with the first late night opening of the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

 

Andy Glynn

Visitor Events Manager


 

Find out more about Lates with MasterCard

 

 

Sebastian Blake

 

 

Hannah Scott

 

 

Claudia Heidegger

 

 

Mitch Daniels
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This month's Lates blog is from guest Andy Glynn, our Visitor Events Manager:

 

'Summer is almost upon us – hopefully! To celebrate the season, we’ve got some really special activity lined up for this month’s Lates with MasterCard on 29 June.

 

Perhaps the most exciting new element of Lates is our entertainment. We’ve got hilarious free stand-up with award-winning comedian Tom Allen in our new Darwin Centre Café. He’ll be starting at 19.00 and splitting sides until 19.40.

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June Lates specials: Comedian Tom Allen in our Darwin Centre Cafe; Open-mic sessions in the Central Hall will come from Sid Batham, Meg Cavanaugh, Felix Fables members Mike and James, and another 7 artists (left to right). Select images to enlarge

And there’s more. This month we’re hosting our first Open-mic acoustic sessions in the Central Hall. We asked singer-songwriters from all over the UK to send us links to their YouTube videos and Facebook profiles and the competition was tough. Over 100 musicians submitted their tracks and we watched and listened to them all. With everything from experimental soundscaping to heavy rock, there was a broad selection.

 

After much deliberation (and more time on YouTube than is healthy) we narrowed it down to our favourite ten for this month. They are: Sid Batham, Meg Cavanaugh, Felix Fables, Ciah, The Folk, Kitty Ward, Sherika Sherard, Jake Manning, Dayle Clarke and Treana Morris. Here's a taste of what to expect from Meg and we'll be posting a few more samples from other artists next week:

 

 

But Open-mic isn’t our only new addition to Lates this month. In the Central Hall we’ve revamped our menu to offer some of the best of British food and drink. While listening to our awesome music line-up you’ll be able to tuck into a platter of fine British cheese and sample some independent label British sparkling wine, Kentish cider and Camden lager from the bar.

 

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We’re still hoping that the sunshine’s just around the corner so we’ll also be opening our beautiful Darwin Centre Courtyard for the occasion, giving you the opportunity to relax in style and enjoy Pimms on the lawn.

 

And if all that wasn’t enough, you’ll definitely want to pop in and see our incredible special exhibitions, both open for the evening.

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Animal Inside Out (pictured above) is proving to be one of our most popular exhibitions ever and it’s easy to see why. With 90 plastinated animals, it’s an anatomical safari that’s definitely not to be missed. You can buy tickets on the night but you might want to book in advance to secure your spot.

 

And if inside out animals aren’t your cup of tea, you could visit our Scott’s Last Expedition exhibition, (above right) which charts the incredible journey of Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. Tickets for both exhibitions are available here.

 

So, a hundred YouTube videos later, I’m hoping you’ll find this month’s Lates to be a totally unique experience. After all, where else in London can you see an inside out elephant, Captain Scott’s diaries, free stand-up comedy and incredible live music, all in one night?

 

Singer Meg summed it up nicely for us, saying ‘There’s no better place to rock with the dinosaurs!’

 

Find out more about our Friday Lates

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‘Hot time, summer in the city…’ It certainly is getting hotter than a match-head, which is fantastic news for our last summer late opening this season.

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Cool and hot stuff at After Hours tonight, 30 September. Pimms and Sexual Nature exhibition's Isabella Rossellin'e Green Porno films - it's the last chance to enjoy Sexual Nature before it closes this weekend.

Our Sexual Nature exhibition closes on 2 October, so try and catch it at September's After Hours.

 

I thought I’d pay the exhibition a farewell visit myself today. On the way I bumped into Dave Nevin, our Visitor Experience Manager, and two of our Visit Planners.

 

The Visit Planners, resplendent in black and red Sexual Nature t-shirts, told me that some of our overseas visitors. unfamiliar with the euphemism ‘Ask me about the birds and the bees’ emblazoned on the back of the t-shirts, ask them to tell them about birds and bees in the zoological rather than metaphorical sense. They also said that visitors often ask them exactly what it is the female orang-utan does with the piece of bark. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to get the Visit Planners to tell me what their response was. They did tell me that visitors really enjoy the exhibition and will come out wowed at the new things they’ve just seen. Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno videos (above) are particularly popular.

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Dave told me that some of our visitors have been picking up some useful chat-up lines from the interactive writing wall at the end of the exhibition, and he took me down to have a look at it.  The wall has a fascinating array of visitor messages: touching, humorous and graphic, and ranging from the American mother who wrote how happy she was she’d given birth, to the prosaic but very funny ‘Your ass is like a basketball ...’ comment.  I probably won’t be using that line myself.

 

Perhaps that came from someone who should aim to sign off summer in style with our Ultimate Attraction Masterclass, where you can learn to recognise signals and scents in the romancing game. We have a social anthropologist/flirting expert and a perfume expert on hand to guide you through flirting signals and how to use perfume to lure in a mate.

 

I also popped over to the Darwin Centre Atrium and Courtyard Terrace (right), which will of course be open for Friday’s After Hours. The Courtyard was bathed in brilliant sunshine, birds were singing in the trees, the sky was azure, and the Wildlife Garden formed a pretty glade behind.  It has a very relaxed vibe to it and if I didn’t have to do some work I’d be out there still, building up my tan. Come tonight though, it will be a great place to enjoy some late summer food, a Pimms or a cold beer from our Darwin Centre bar.

 

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Right beside the Darwin Centre bar you will find a beautiful installation that came here as part of the London Design Festival – the Unnatural Selection by Raw Edges and Oscar Narud (left, image by Susan Smart) .This intriguing and engaging animation on used computer monitors mixes up species and specimens in an 'unnatural' way. It is inspired by the Natural History Museum's collections and is presented in Museum-style cabinets (sponsored by Bloomberg). When it gets dark, the illumination becomes especially vivid.

 

Tonight is also the start of something very special for After Hours, for we are very pleased to announce the beginning of a three year partnership with MasterCard who will be sponsoring the Museum’s evening events: After Hours with MasterCard and MasterCard Night Safari.

 

MasterCard will be working with the museum to create a range of exciting offers and events for all MasterCard cardholders as part of their Priceless London programme - check the website for more information.

 

Also look out for the @NHM_London Twitter feed and the Museum’s Facebook page and keep an eye out for our After Hours with MasterCard web page for updates on October's late night highlights.

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‘It’ll probably be summer at Christmas,’ the cashier in my bank told me earlier this week as we bonded over the unseasonable weather beleaguering us and the rainstorm breaking over South Kensington. Let's hope it changes for our next After Hours evening on Friday 29 July.

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It was pretty unseasonable at June’s After Hours, although it must be said that suited me pretty well as it avoided After Hours visitors dining out on the Darwin Centre Courtyard terrace amongst swathes of  Heras fencing. The fencing was there to protect the building site where  the new Tsunami Memorial was due to be erected that weekend.

 

If it is fine, do take a look at the Memorial, which opened to the public on 6 July following a special commemorative service. It has a powerful presence on the far side of the Courtyard Terrace, and if you go near, you will be able to read the names of those it commemorates.

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The Memorial (left) offers a stark reminder of the powerful forces of nature by which all our lives are governed, even if we normally live in an urban environment such as London, generally protected from the elements. The Museum itself lost some local staff in Thailand, who were working at a scientific research station when the tsunami hit.

 

On to happier subjects. Like the lady who rode a white horse to Banbury Cross, After Hours visitors will have music wherever they go on Friday, for we have jazz in the Darwin Centre atrium (pictured right), Latin-American music courtesy of Columbian master Ricardo Curbelo (pictured below left) in the Central Hall and classic love songs care of our roving rock troubadour, Sebastian Darcy-Heathcliff, who will be loitering with intent outside the Sexual Nature exhibition again, ready to serenade our visitors.

 

ricardo_image-590.jpgI am humming to very little musical effect Bryan Adam’s (Everything I Do) I Do It for You as I type this, which I realise might be a hangover from June After Hours, where I caught Mr Darcy-Heathcliff giving a very impressive rendition of this to a group of young Japanese ladies, who ran away giggling down Dinosaur Way when Mr Darcy-H came close, smouldering like Lord Byron on Bonfire Night. Why not treat yourself to a personal serenade before you visit the Sexual Nature exhibition?

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Incidentally, actress and film director Isabella Rossellini (right) was in the Sexual Nature exhibition last week. But dressed as herself not as an animal making love as she appears in her Green Porno films, which are one of the highlights in the exhibition.

 

If dinosaurs are more your thing, then our Age of the Dinosaur exhibition is open late once more. You are also free to wander up to our fascinating Minerals gallery and view the dazzling Vault where some of the world’s most iconic gems are on display; stroll around the Cocoon prior to relaxing over a glass of wine or champagne, a beer or a Pimms at the bar down in the Darwin Centre atrium (or outside on the Courtyard Terrace, if fingers crossed, it is sunny).

 

Don’t forget to pre-order your Mini picnic if you’d like to eat as well. We also have the Big Nature Quiz in the Restaurant where there are some great prizes on offer for the winning team.

 

‘Late night is the great night’ as one of our After Hours visitors so kindly and poetically put it recently, and we would be very happy if you could join us!

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Today, instead of ‘Summertime’ playing in my head as it was at May's After Hours, Victoria Wood’s ‘Let’s Do It' is ringing out loud and clear. Why? Because we hope you will enthusiastically embrace the late-night opening of our Sexual Nature summer exhibition.

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I asked Mike Sarna, our cheerful American head of exhibition planning, to tell me how After Hours visitors might consider Sexual Nature. Mike told me that the exhibition is about animals and us – as we are human animals - and seeing the Sexual Nature exhibition (pictured above) is a good way to learn about ourselves and our loved ones.

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‘People can take a very active approach to the exhibition or a passive approach, they can leave comments, discuss it with their friends, anonymously vote if they believe in true love or not. The range in the sexual spectrum mirrors itself in the animal kingdom.’

 

To get you even more in the mood for Sexual Nature, tonight we also have our smoky-eyed roving troubadour Sebastian Darcy-Heathcliff (right), aka Jack Merivale, who will be smoulderig near the exhibition gallery with his guitar. Sebastian will be reciting some of your favourite lurve songs with more than a glint of humour in his roving troubadour eye. And if you are lucky, he may even compose a new one just for you

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Left: Fingerprinting kit for tonight's Crime Scene NHM special event at After Hours

Switching seamlessly from sex to death, we have a really fascinating event, Crime Scene: NHM, at this Friday's After Hours. At this you’ll get the chance to learn some of our world class forensic experts’ tricks of the trade as you take part in a ‘forensic investigation’ here at the Museum. The event culminates in a ‘trial’ where real barristers, police officers and a judge will demonstrate just how important forensic evidence is to a verdict. But there are only a few tickets left so hurry to get in on the crime scene.

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Switching less seamlessly to dinosaurs, don’t forget that our equally immersive dinosaur experience, the Age of the Dinosaur exhibition, is also available for you to experience after hours.

 

With apologies, our Darwin Centre Courtyard terrace will only have limited access this Friday due to construction work, but you can still enjoy your Pimms out there. Mini picnics should be picked up from the Darwin Centre atrium as usual.

 

Right: Pick up your Mini picnic in the Darwin Centre atrium, where you can also sip Pimms from the bar.

 

Find out more about After Hours

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Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrragh!  That’s my very accurate impersonation of the Tarbosaurus (pictured below) in our fabulous Age of the Dinosaur exhibition, now open late at After Hours for the very first time.

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The Age of the Dinosaur exhibition is proving extremely popular during the daytime, so for a chance to visit it without fighting for elbow room with our younger visitors, why not book yourself a ticket now? There are some great specimens, such as the beautiful multi-million year old piece of conifer that has turned to opal, and some very impressive animatronic dinosaurs. If nothing else, you can test out how long you last before jumping out of your skin when a dinosaur makes a lunge at you. I’ve just taken the throbbing path around the exhibition again, and the Jurassic forest and Cretaceous desert dinosaur experiences are really immersive. And sometimes pretty scary!  The Camarasaurus in the forest is particularly realistic.

 

You can of course still catch our Sexual Nature exhibition at After Hours, and we have another of our sell-out discussion events in the restaurant, this time all about how to live happily ever after in long-term relationships.

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This Friday kicks off the first of our summer season of After Hours.  Those of you who came to last year’s summer season will remember that we like to give you an al fresco eating and drinking experience out on our Darwin Centre Courtyard terrace (above). We’ve been holding intense discussions over the past weeks about the new menu for summer After Hours, and we have come up with some great new mini picnics for you to pre-order. There’ll be picnic rugs for you to borrow as well.

 

You can go for three tasty menus, including the super healthy option of superfood and fruit salad, or the ‘who cares, it's Friday' option of hot salmon salad and double chocolate cheesecake, and as I am in a long-standing relationship with chocolate cheesecake I think I know which one I will be having. Don’t forget to get your picnic order in by 13.00 on 26 May.

 

iStock_000003907376XSmall.jpgWe’ll have a bar out on the Courtyard terrace, where you can soak up the Mediterranean-style sunshine to go with your Mediterranean chicken (we can guarantee the chicken if not the sunshine – my galoshes are on order just in case) and enjoy a glass of wine or champagne or a chilled beer.

 

We’ll have Pimms by the glass and the jug, and ice cream as an extra indulgence.

 

So with ‘summer time and the living is easy’ playing in our heads (and indeed, in the Central Hall), we look forward to welcoming you this Friday to summer time After Hours.

 

Find out about After Hours

Book your Minic picninc online

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With a fabulous long weekend ahead of us of pure hedonism, romance and barbeque weather (hope springs eternal) what better way to round off Royal Wedding Day this Friday, 29 April, than by joining us at After Hours?

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Left: Central Hall, the place to be on Royal Wedding night. Right, Dinosaurs gallery - specially open for After Hours. Select images to enlarge them

We have our amazing Sexual Nature exhibition open late for you to explore and a fascinating romance-themed event in our restaurant, where you can hear all about the many strategies humans, and other animals, have to bring us closer to the object of our desires in the Laws of Attraction special talk.

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What attracts animals and humans to each other? Find out in the weird and wonderful displays at the Sexual Nature exhibition

We’ll also have our bars open late, live music in the Central Hall and the beautiful Cora Sun-drop diamond on show in the Vault.

 

There is also a very special opportunity to visit our Dinosaurs gallery, pictured above, open late for only the second time ever at After Hours. If you haven’t seen our dinosaurs since you were young, why not catch up with some old friends this Friday?!

 

Achocolate-hearts.jpgnd as well as our usual delicious food and drink, to mark the great day, we will have sparkling Kir Royale cocktails available at the Blue and Red Bars at the effervescent price of £7.00.

 

There’ll also be some free chocolate hearts scattered around our bars for you to nibble on. You’ll have to be quick to enjoy those though, as I intend to polish off quite a few myself.

 

We shot some vox pops of people who’d visited our Sexual Nature exhibition at last month’s After Hours. You can see the footage here to hear what people say about the Sexual Nature exhibition and After Hours. I loved the 'even though hedgehogs are having sex on my night out' comment.


It’s great that people are enjoying the exhibition and making the Museum part of their Friday night going out.


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Spring is almost here, judging by the sudden sallying of daffodils in southern gardens and last week’s rattle of hooves from far-off Cheltenham, but Spring means we have said a sad farewell to Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year for this season.

 

However, that is absolutely no reason not to join us on Friday night for After Hours, when we are opening up the highly engaging Sexual Nature exhibition until 22.30.

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Feel the buzz of the Sexual Nature exhibition (above) and the Central Hall (below right) at our After Hours on Friday 25 March. Select images to enlarge them.

central-hall-after-hours.jpgWe’ll have our usual bars and jazz in the Central Hall for you to enjoy a wind-down at the end of the week, and Sexual Nature is the perfect exhibition to visit at night.

 

There’s also an opportunity to view our new Images of Nature gallery and the stunning Cora Sun-drop diamond, on display for a limited time in the Vault. And you can take part in an intriguing discussion in the restaurant – ‘The Science of the Sexual Spectrum’ At the discussion you can enjoy a drink and join speakers Peter Tatchell, Jeffrey Weeks and Qazi Rahman to try to unravel some of the science behind our sexuality and the social implications and history of its study. I've just heard this event is now sold out, so put the next After Hours Discussing Nature event in your diary, The Laws of Attraction on 29 April.

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At February's After Hours, I tripped around (OK, stalked) some groups of late night visitors to our Sexual Nature exhibition, to see how they were finding it. I was thrilled to see just how much they were enjoying the exhibits, particularly one fascinated group stood around the mounted foxes (left), trying to work out (with air diagrams) how the two foxes had got themselves physically into their position. ‘I think he mounts her doggy style and then turns around to secure his place as primary mate’ was the confident if baffling view of one young gentleman.

 

I spotted another couple standing arm-in-arm contemplatively and romantically in front of the female spotted hyaena, who is certainly geared up to be primary mate in her own love life as well as in her pack. Other people were thinking very deeply about animals’ sexual behaviour in a way they hadn’t before. ‘It’s just the more you know, the more your childhood thoughts of animals change,’ end-display.jpgwas the view from a group of young women who were having an animated discussion in front of one display, possibly now conscious that the prototypes for Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and indeed Eeyore, amongst others, all had potential love lives of which their readers were previously unaware.

 

So why not come along for yourself this Friday evening and get yourself up to speed on such matters as well!

 

Sexual Nature exhibition images: Mating foxes taxidermy display (above left) and the human sexuality display at the end of the gallery (right). Select images to enlarge them

 

Take a peek at some of the displays in our Sexual Nature highlights slideshow

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If you were fast enough off the mark to have got a Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition ticket at this Friday’s After Hours on 28 January (tickets have now all gone), you will have the opportunity to see some spectacular wildlife photography.

 

But there are more ways than one to capture images of the natural world – and people have tried to represent the natural world for thousands of years, going all the way back to early cave paintings. The Museum holds the finest natural history art collection in the world,  more than 500,000 pieces. Now for the first time, we are putting some  of our collection on permanent public display, in our brand new Images of Nature gallery which opened to the public on 21 January, and you can experience some of these unique images in this gallery at After Hours. Entry is free.

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Located near the entrance to the Darwin Centre, past our Dinosaurs galleries, Images of Nature is sited in what used to be the Spencer Gallery, now beautifully refurbished and back as a public space for the first time in some 20 years. You can cut through it to access the Darwin Centre by the Attenborough Studio and Interactive wall, although I am sure you will want to linger in the space.

 

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I asked Peronel Craddock, the Senior Interpretation Developer responsible for the Images of Nature interpretation to tell us more about what you will find in the gallery.

 

‘Images of Nature is a beautiful, visual exploration of how artists and scientists see the natural world. We're displaying highlights from our world-famous natural history art collection, from 17th century oil paintings, to exquisite watercolours, to contemporary illustration - many of which have never been on display before. Alongside these are images from modern science, showing the enormous range of tools and techniques scientists now have to observe and capture nature.’

 

Peronel says that one of her favourite stories in the gallery features the dodo - two paintings side-by-side, one 17th century, one 21st century that challenges our preconceptions of the dodo as a clumsy, slow-moving bird..The 21st century dodo painting by Museum scientist and artist Dr Julian Hume is shown here.

 

‘Many staff from the Museum have been involved in this project - from renovating the gallery space to planning and building the exhibition, so it's fantastic to see the doors now open and visitors enjoying the gallery. I hope that it will open people's eyes to the diversity of the collections held here, and the fascinating scientific stories behind the art.’

 

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We have the first in our rolling temporary displays within the gallery – some of the beautiful illustrations from the collection of John Reeves, the East India Company’s China based tea inspector and amateur naturalist who commissioned Chinese artists to paint the natural history around them.There are many botanical illustrations included such as this Camellia japonica, 1812-1831, pictured left.

 

Unlike the always charmingly calm and collected Peronel, the Images of Nature launch and the upcoming launch of our new bonkbuster exhibition Sexual Nature (catch it at After Hours from February) have left me with the same ‘in the headlights’ expression sported by the ruffled lemur in the Reeves collection (main image, above). I am looking forward to restoring myself this Friday with one of our new green apple, passion fruit or banana bellinis, available at all of our bars at After Hours. Do join us if you can.

 

Find out what's on at After Hours

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Besides Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Images of Nature, we are running two showings of our very new and very special interactive film, Who do you think you really are? in the Attenborough Studio. And the gloves are off at Science Fight Club, the last in our fascinating Discussing Nature events as our scientists do battle on some important topics. Who will you back to win?

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Our November After Hours is here already and we are looking forward to a great night out (or in for us).

 

Tickets have been selling like hot cakes (useful in this cold snap) for Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year at After Hours.

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We’ve got great food and drink on the menu at our bars; live jazz, the opportunity for a look around our amazing Cocoon, and the second in our Discussing Nature series of events in our restaurant. This Discussing Nature event, ‘Exploring the Final Frontiers’ will be a fascinating ‘balloon debate’, with 3 of our top scientists putting forward their case for a fictional funding pot to explore the unchartered areas of the world or solar system, and the audience voting to find the winner.

 

It’s great to see that Veolia Wildlife Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year is so popular. Behind this year's exhibition, as behind all our exhibitions, there is a hard-working project team that puts together the design, production, interpretation, marketing, press, interactive and online elements of that exhibition.

 

Inside-VEWPY-gallery.jpgGrant Reid is the exhibition’s project director and Paul Gallagher is the project manager. I managed to extract Grant from the avalanche of tender applications he is currently working his way through for other exhibitions for 2011, so he could tell me a bit more about this year’s exhibition and how we are working to make Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer environmentally sustainable. Here's what he has to say:


‘The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is one of the Museum’s most popular events, and it’s definitely the longest running exhibition at the Museum. It attracted over 130,000 visitors last year, and people have been returning for over 20 years to see it.

 

'Last year, the exhibition moved from the Jerwood gallery into the Waterhouse gallery. We re-designed the exhibition for this and built it with the latest technology, sustainability and flexibility in mind. This year, we've used the same 2009 gallery framework with some improvements and a different fabric.

 

‘This large structural framework guides the visitor through the central space of the exhibition, opening up individual, gallery-like rooms and culminating in a striking black monolith which dramatically displays the winning photographs (shown above) from the 2010 competition.’

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The exhibition's support framework is made from aluminium - shown right, before the fabric was applied. This metal is lightweight, reusable, strong and hard-wearing. At the end of its intended 5-6 year life, the aluminium structure will be recycled into new aluminium stock.

 

Sustainability has become an important aspect in planning our exhibitions, Grant explains:

 

‘Historically before 2009 the exhibition photographs were shown on fluorescence tube light boxes. These have now been recycled, and the images hang this year on slim, almost invisible LED light panels, which provide a 40 per cent reduction in power consumption. These LED strips have life-cycles of approximately 100,000 hours.

 

'We've applied the same philosophy of sustainability to other elements of the exhibition such as the furniture and the photographic film and cinematic equipment – we reused all equipment where possible. A specialist print company was selected for their extremely high quality of reproduction. The film transparencies will be recycled and the chemicals embodied in the film will be extracted and recycled by a specialist company.

 

'For the first time in the exhibition's history, we are planning to measure all the power consumption and benchmark the 2010 exhibition to measure it against future ones. We hope to continue to present a high quality photographic exhibition with the same sustainable materials, while subtly renovating the overall aesthetic each year.’

 

The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 exhibition closes earlier than usual this year on 11 March. So be sure to catch while you can. Enjoy it next year at 2 more After Hours on 28 January and 25 February.

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Baby it’s cold outside, but there is a warm glow in my heart because I’ve just been around the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. 

The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opened to the public last Friday, 22 October. And the exhibition is certainly looking grand from the entrance this year. The arrival area has been opened up and there is a clear view to a vista of photographs, glowing like jewels in the gallery. 

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Andrew Parkinson's 'The drop', Animals in their Environment - highly commended

There are beautiful, memorable and skilfully-executed photographs in the exhibition, but for my money none so memorable as the One Earth category award winner, taken by Spanish photographer Jordi Chias Pujol, entitled ‘Turtle in Trouble’. 

Sailing between Barcelona and the Balearics, Mr Pujol was hoping to photograph dolphins, but instead, spotting an abandoned net drifting along, he dived down, and found a loggerhead sea turtle trapped in the net.  Mr Pujol notes ‘the poor creature must have been trapped for some days so knotted up was it…I felt as though it were looking at me for help as it tried to bite through the netting’.

The photograph shows the turtle, head on to the camera, flippers outstretched through the tangled blue shroud of fishing net.  And there is something about the way it is loosely holding a small length of the net in its mouth, fathomless dark eyes looking at the photographer that is really quite upsetting. It is only when I went down to the exhibition and read the commentary that I found the story had a happy ending.  I will leave to you to find out what that was.

I could only approach that stretch of the exhibition, the One Earth Award category tentatively. You will see some extraordinary photographs there. And in the new Wildlife Photojournalist category.

But I also laughed at the photographs of bird bottoms – the bottom of a fulmar launching off high sea cliffs in the Shetlands; the bottom of a mute swan on the Rhine seen from beneath; the bottom of an Arctic tern flying in to feed its chicks in Iceland.

 

There is something about these bottoms that warmed the cockles of my heart!
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Johan Gehrisch's 'Chick delight', 15-17 years Young award, highly commended

Anyway, After Hours kicks off again this Friday night, and you can experience all this and more for yourself. There is also the opportunity to take part in an exciting new series of biodiversity-focused discussion events in our Restaurant, ‘Biodiversity: the Next Step’ is the first one of these Discussing Nature events, with some great guest speakers. 

We will be rolling out a new ‘dining around Dippy’ experience, in addition to the normal set up in the Central Hall Blue Bar. So do come and join us for a meal, a drink, an exploration of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer or the Darwin Centre. Or to take part in a vital discussion on the future of global diversity.

And take away a new view on the world. From the bottom up.

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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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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