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This week we heard the exciting news that last year's summer exhibition, Sexual Nature, has won the Museum + Heritage 2012 Award for best Temporary or Touring Exhibition. The team who conceived, produced and curated the exhibition were at the Awards Ceremony to celebrate. Among them was Mike Sarna, the Museum's Head of Exhibition Interpretation:

 

'Like everything the Natural History Museum does, the Sexual Nature exhibition helped to enthuse more people about the natural world. We are thrilled that the exhibition has been recognised for its excellence and we hope to build on that in the future with more eye-opening, thought-provoking exhibitions.

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Museum staff celebrate Sexual Nature's award for best Temporary Exhibition at the prestigious Museums + Heritage 2012 Awards ceremony at Earls Court on Wednesday 16 May.

'Over 100 specimens from the Museum’s scientific research collections provided the main basis for the displays. Cases were filled with colourful birds for attracting, antlers for battling and my favourite "love darts” that certain snails shoot at each other as a sort of foreplay. Film was also key to bringing these specimens to life and demonstrating their sexual behaviours. Watching the many birds of paradise dance and manipulate their feathers for females was so fascinating to watch.

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'We also included Isabella Rossellini’s humorous short Green Porno films. Of course museums are known for interactivity and I was delighted to see how many visitors smelt Jaguar spray, though those visitors might not be delighted with me.

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'But the exhibition was also about us - very special sexual animals. The exhibition concluded with a reflective interactive section about human sexual diversity. These displays were in effect curated by you through our Facebook page where we asked people provocative questions about what true love and sex meant to them.

 

'Sexual Nature’s prime objective was to attract new audiences to the Museum. With the exhibition we asked visitors to leave their pre-conceptions at the door and aimed to shift perceptions by delivering engaging science on a core Natural History Museum subject, evolution. We tackled evolution through one of its most important drivers, sexual selection, in a way that was fun, humorous and informative. The Museum is all about transformation and the exhibition was a wonderful catalyst for wider discussion, including our public programmes. The topic was one of our most retweeted topics, so we know you loved talking about it too.

 

'The Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence celebrate best practice within museums, galleries and heritage visitor attractions and attract hundreds of entries from across the sector. Categories range from best permanent exhibition to innovation. The judges cited our amazing interpretation, our reaching out to new audiences and the bravery of the Museum to tackle a challenging topic. We are thrilled at its success and look forward to it's tour around the globe. If you missed the exhibition you might want to go to Paris in October for the opening of its international tour.'

 

The Temporary or Touring Exhibition Award category was hotly contended and we were up against strong competition including Derby Museums & Art Gallery's Down the Back of the Sofa, the Museum of London's Dickens and London and the National Army Museum's War Horse.

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Read the news story about Sexual Nature opening in February 2011

 

Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence 2012

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Its seems only yesterday that I was thinking ‘summer is icumen in, loud sing cuccu’. That was back in April and I’m not sure that summer ever did turn up. Anyway, we still have our two hot summer exhibitions on at this Friday’s After Hours, so why not join us for some pre-bank-holiday-weekend downtime?
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Sex, shopping and dinosaurs at After Hours on Friday 26 August. Select images to enlarge them.

One of those exhibitions, Sexual Nature is with us until 2 October, but Age of the Dinosaur bows out on 4 September, so this is your last chance to catch it on Friday evening.

I recently read an article that said women think about shopping as much as men think about sex. Men allegedly think about sex every 52 seconds, whilst 74% of the women in the survey thought about shopping once a minute. Well, our enticing Sexual Nature exhibition offers an excellent opportunity for you to do both things at the same time.

clap.jpgThe Sexual Nature shop is at the exit of the exhibition and stocks an interesting array of items, including some very unusual soft  tocuddly-chlamydia.jpgys. When I was there recently, one young couple were ferreting amongst the cuddly sex diseases, as I had been.

‘It’s the clap, ha ha,' said the male half of the couple, holding up a soft blue toy. ‘I like that one, I think I might get it,’ said his girlfriend innocently. Cue immoderate laughter all round. (Cuddly clap and chlamydia toys shown left and right for clarification.)  I suspect the retail assistants have heard plenty like that during their stint in the shop.

You can also buy a Kama Sutra getaway travel kit or pop up book, a mini Kama Sutra weekender kit, Belgian chocolates, books on the erotic art of Japan and body language, lots of feathers and copies of famous sexually based literature.

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Talking of chocolates, if you fancy something a little more exotic than a Belgian truffle, come and see if a chocolate-dipped ant wafer takes your fancy at Edible Insects: Food for the Future, our special event on Friday.

 

There is certainly much innocent and enjoyable fun to be had at our Sexual Nature exhibition and some terrific animatronic dinosaurs in Age of the Dinosaur, so we hope you will come by this bank holiday Friday. Kick off your shoes on the grass on the Darwin Centre Courtyard Terrace and unwind with us over a late summer glass of Pimms and one of our tasty pre-orderable picnics or even a tasty edible insect!

Our romantic roving troubadour, Sebastian D’arcy Heathcliff is back once more, serenading you with his renditions of classic love songs to spice up your evening. 

And although our summer exhibitions will soon be leaving us, it is only so that we can bring in some really fabulous new exhibitions. Watch this space for more information of the late night openings of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opening in October.

Browse the Sexual Nature exhibition gift range online

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Our Sexual Nature exhibition peeps out of its gallery shell and darts onto the streets in August, with the help of the Q20 Theatre group's musical Snail Courtship Show on the South Bank.

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The Snail Courtship Show rehearsing here on the Darwin Centre Coutyard before moving to the South Bank. Select images to enlarge them

Snail courtship is one of the many weird and wonderful examples of animal mating rituals that are currently on display in our Sexual Nature exhibition.

 

'The courtship ritual of the snail can be an unusual affair,' explains the exhibition's Interpretation Developer Tate Greenhalgh. ‘Roman snails shoot darts at one another in s&m-style foreplay. These darts stimulate the partners and aid fertilisation.’

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Incidentally, Roman snails (right) - so called because it is believed that they were introduced into the UK by the Romans - are now an endangered species and have legal protection from collection, killing and trade here.

 

The live snail show performance at South Bank combines music, theatre and science to tell its sticky love story, and is an example of how the Museum is bringing the science of its exhibitions to life. Each performance runs for about 20 minutes.

 

At the show, lucky onlookers will get the chance to grab an exclusive 2-for-1 deal on tickets to the Sexual Nature exhibition.

 

You can catch the gastropod peep show on the South Bank by the Q20 Theatre group on:

 

  • Friday 12 August, from 15.00 - 22.00
  • Sunday 21 August, from 12.00 - 17.00
  • Monday 29 August, from 12.00 - 17.00

 

As well as the Roman snail, visitors to our Sexual Nature exhibition here can learn about a cacophony of other animal mating habits and discover the surprising scientific truth behind sex in the natural world .The exhibition contains frank information and imagery about sex.

 

The 2-for-1 ticket offer will be available to Snail Courtship Show audiences until the close of the exhibition on 2 October 2011. The tickets are only usuable on weekdays.

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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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It's Father's Day this Sunday, and so time to salute the male of the species who go the extra mile in parenthood and childcare.

 

Top of the list must be the Pregnant male seahorse, Hippocampus angustus. This new-age man goes further than any other to get involved with parenting. The female seahorse impregnates the male, pumping him full of her eggs, which he fertilises and nurtures, giving birth to 100s of fully formed tiny babies. His reward is guaranteed paternity.

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Homemakers and hunters: Adelie penguins (left) and Swedish wolves (right) set great examples as dedicated dads.

Other dedicated dads are the Adelie penguins, Pygoscelis adeliae, (above left) who are house-proud homemakers. The males arrive at breeding grounds early and build nests from stones, often stealing from each other. When females arrive, the males invite them in and present them with pebbles to demonstrate their position on the propery ladder.

 

There was even a pair of male penguins at New York Central Zoo that hatched an egg and raised the chick together.

 

Then there's the super-heroes like the Midwife toad, Ayltes obstetricans, who keeps his kids tied to his apron strings by wrapping the eggs round his legs until he can take them safely to the water, when the tadpoles are ready to hatch. Or the Swedish wolf, Canis lupus (pictured above right from Sexual Nature exhibition) whose tireless hunting skills are crucial in the rearing of his wolf pups. The pups are born blind and deaf and utterly dependent on dad and mum.

 

For more insights into the world of parenting in the animal kingdom, visit the Sexual Nature exhibition showing now at the Museum.

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Been wondering why there are seahorses adorning the entrance to our Sexual Nature exhibition? Maybe it's because the males are so unique,

In the meantime, Happy Father's Day, human dads!


Find out about the Sexual Nature exhibition on our websiteor

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As I write this blog, I see visions of kids everywhere in schools and nurseries sticking bits of glitter and paper flowers to collage cards, while many of us try to remember not to forget to send a card to our mums everwhere. Yes, it's Mother's Day on Sunday, but spare a thought for the other mothers in Nature.

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Elephas maximus to Elephas maximus minor, 'Where's my card? I told you an elephant never forgets'

Both the Indian elephant (above) and African elephant mums' pregnancies last about 22 months and a calf weighs around 120 kg at birth - twins are also common. Then there's the calf rearing and suckling, which is long and slow for 2 to 3 years - a task that falls entirely to the females. But all the females in a group are involved in a calf's upbringing and protection. Elephant mums are definitely worth making cards for.

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Sexual Nature exhibition's prolific ocean sunfish mum (left) and the oldest pregnant female on display: 375-million-year-old placoderm fish fossil (right). Select images to enlarge them

Orang-utan mothers spend 4 years caring for each offspring. Sperm whale mothers and their calves live together in groups called nursery pods. In striped hyena families, the females raise their offspring alone and definitely don't encourage long-term support from the males. And ocean sunfish (above) produce 300 million eggs each time they spawn.

 

if you're interested in knowing more of this mumsy stuff and how the female of the species end up becoming mums in the first place, then come along to our Sexual Nature exhibition.You'll also encounter the oldest internally fertilised mother. The pregnant placoderm fish fossil (above) on display in the exhibition gallery is 375 million years old!

 

See the Sexual Nature exhibition video trailer for more highlights

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And on Sunday if you're out enjoying the spring flowers, see if the bluebells are out near you and tell us in our just-launched bluebell survey

 

Read the latest news story about the bluebell survey

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Says Isabella Rossellini - in her video 'Seduce me', showing at our Sexual Nature exhibition.

 

This Friday we say goodbye to this season’s run of late nights for Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year and an enthusiastic ‘helloooo’ to our Sexual Nature exhibition, being unveiled late for the first time at After Hours.

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Tickets for Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year at After Hours have now all gone, but do grab a ticket for Sexual Nature if you are planning to visit us on Friday night. You’ll have topics of conversation for days to come afterwards. As the glowing entrance panel to the exhibition has it – ‘sex has been around for a billion years. Now most animals and plants are at it’. How comprehensively they are at it you will find out on your trip around the gallery.

 

I would say that, for a Friday night dating experience, it would be difficult to beat Sexual Nature. It is entertaining, highly amusing, temperature raising, and you will see things in it that you are not going to see anywhere else on a Friday or indeed, any other night.

Whether it is to find out such interesting nuggets as that the paper nautilus’s arm breaks off during sex and swims to the female; or that orchids got their name from the Greek for testes; to laugh out loud at Isabella Rossellini’s magnificently hilarious filmed interpretations of animal reproduction; to be stopped dead in your tracks by the video of bonobos; to contribute to the amusing chat up lines that our visitors are leaving on the rear wall of the exhibition or to indulge in the eye-popping retail experience where you can pick up a copy of the Kama Sutra, Delta of Venus, some chocolate body paint and some of the most unusual cuddly toys I’ve ever seen – why not give Sexual Nature a whirl at this After Hours? You’ll see some specimens that have never been on display before, and you’ll be taking more than one amazed look at some of them, if my recent trip around the exhibition is anything to go by.

 

SN-exhibition.jpgThis Friday, we’ve also got ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’, the first in our sexually-related Discussing Nature debates, taking place in the restaurant at 7pm. We’ll have a panel of experts ready to address some of your probing questions about sex. There’s also the opportunity at the event to have your questions answered in our anonymous ‘sex surgery’, which could be an opportunity if you are a paper nautilus to find out why your arm breaks off when you are having sex.

 

Thank you to everyone who came along to see Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year at this season’s run.

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Just one week to go 'till our Sexual Nature exhibitions opens on 11 February. I popped in to the gallery this week to see how it's going and, despite many exhibits still waiting to be installed, the space looks incredible. I can see already that this exhibition has the wow factor.

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Of course, I can't give away much more yet, but the examples of dominant males, Guy the gorilla (below) and the beautiful Red deer stag (above), have definitely taken their pride of place. The three specially commissioned taxidermy mating displays of rabbits, hedgehogs and foxes were just arriving when I peeped in, and these are also bound to attract attention when it opens.

 

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You'll be hearing more about the exhibition in the press and media and on our website next week.

 

Watch this space for more images and behind the scenes.

 

Find out about the Sexual Nature exhibition

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

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This orang-utan has a smirk on her face, don't you think? You can find out why on our fabulous Sexual Nature website which we've just launched for the new exhibition.

 

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In fact, you'll be seeing quite a lot of this foxy-looking orang-utan over the coming weeks as she's one of the stars in the exhibition's publicity posters.

 

Our Sexual Nature exhibition is guaranteed to be a real eye-opener, so make sure you make a note in your diary that it opens on 11 February, just in time for Valentine's Day.

 

We'd also like to say a special thanks to those of you who helped us with the final display of the exhibition. In an earlier blog, and on Facebook and Twitter, we asked you to suggest an object that signified what you considered to be the most sexually attractive trait.

 

You sent in many entertaining suggestions and here are the 3 traits that will feature with their related objects in the conclusion area of the exhibition.casablanca.jpg

 

No 1. Sexual chemistry -  represented by chemistry glassware

No. 2.  A good sense of humour - represented by the Donna Summer 7-inch record, 'Never Lose Your Sense of Humor'

No. 3. Smelling good - represented by a bottle of perfume

 

I can't wait to get a glimpse of the exhibition. I know that production has started in the gallery space and the preparation of some of the rare Museum specimens is well underway.

'Never Lose Your Sense of Humor' - a duet between Paul  Jabara and Donna Summer was released as a single in late 1979
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Last week we announced our big attractions for 2011 to the press.


It's going to be an exciting and busy year for us all - we'll have a new permanent gallery in January, our Sexual Nature exhibition opening in February, and the Age of the Dinosaur family blockbuster knocking us jurassic-wards from April.

 

The new permanent Images of Nature gallery will showcase over 110 images of, strangely enough, nature. Among the diverse paintings, illustrations, photographs and modern scientific images, will be 2 very different dodo paintings.

 

 

Watch this video and discover how Dr Julian Pender Hume's newly-commissioned painting of the dodo, Raphus cucullatus, differs from Roelandt Savery's 17-century masterpiece.

 

Both paintings feature together in the new gallery. You can see this dodo video and explore more fascinating dodo details at one of the interactive kiosks in the gallery.

 

hu-yun-500.jpgImages of Nature will also include a temporary exhibition of Chinese watercolours from the Reeves collection and some beautiful contemporary drawings, shown right, from our Shanghai-based artist-in-residence (inspired by the Chinese collection).

 

Discover more about Images of Nature

 

Moving on from the lovely to the lascivious, Sexual Nature opens just in time for Valentine's Day, on 11 February. As you can imagine we're all getting very steamed up about this one. And very happy to welcome Guy the gorilla to the centre stage of the exhibition - as a 'superb symbol of male masculinity' says the press release.

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Guy was last seen at the Museum on public display in 1982, having been donated to us in 1978, following his death earlier that year. Guy was a hugely popular character at London Zoo for over 30 years.

 

Find out about Sexual Nature and book tickets

 

Read the news story to learn more about Guy the gorilla and the Sexual Nature exhibition

 

We've only just announced Age of the Dinosaur - it doesn't open until the spring - but this is going to be BIG and much more of a themed adventure than some of our usual exhibitons. So watch out for more details.

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In the meantime, catch the current exhibitions before they close. Amazonia finishes next week on 12 December and Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year in early March next year.

Above: Guy the gorilla takes pride of place at our forthcoming Sexual Nature exhibition
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Sexual Nature is a forthcoming exhibition about sex in the natural world that's opening at the Museum in Spring.

 

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We’d like to ask your help with the final section which is about human sexuality.

 

For example, we’d like to know which objects you think signify a sexually attractive trait.

 

Now, I'd probably say he's got to be cool and so suggest a pair of sunglasses to symbolise this. Others might opt for a finely-honed torso and suggest some dumbells, or the lads among us might go for... well who knows, you tell us!

 

If you want to take part in the survey, you have to be over 16. It’s completely anonymous. And bear in mind this is a Natural History Museum exhibition.

 

Take part in the online Sexual Nature survey

 

At the end of the week that Wills and Kate announced their wedding plans, what better time to be thinking about your perfect mate.

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