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April fools and Easter treats

Posted by Rose Mar 31, 2010

As far as we’re aware there weren't any April Fool’s Day pranks at the Museum today, but we are holding a fun Nature Live event at 14.30 about Fossils, Freaks or Frauds? Come along and join our Museum experts and try being a scientist yourself. You can help identify fossils and decide if they’re real or frauds.

 

Actually it’s not always easy for even the best palaeontologists to spot hoaxes, as history proves. Remember the Piltdown Man? This great story of the fake skull that fooled scientists as the 'missing link' between apes and early humans, was told in last week’s episode of the BBC documentary Museum of Life. If you want to know more, have a look at our Piltddown Man website.

 

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The 1st of April is also worth celebrating because if marks the opening of our Wildlife Garden, shown left, which has been closed over winter.

 

Recent news from our wildlife gardeners is that although the garden’s rabbit has not been seen lately, there have been sightings of fresh droppings on the newly-laid meadow turf, so maybe there’ll be a special appearance for Easter. While the garden’s daffodils are fading, primroses, cowslips, violets and bluebells (just) can now be seen. Long tailed tits, a heron, jay, and nesting blue tits have been spotted alongside our usual feathery friends. The frogs and toads exhausted themselves with a frantic 3 days of mating in the sunshine last week. And there's still frog and toad spawn visible. Oh and the fox is about.

 

There are events coming up in the next 2 weeks in the Wildlife Garden including our first lunchtime recording plants session on 7 April, and Yellow Book Day on 11 April with a felt bird sculpture installation by Anne Belgrave. Browse our Wildlife Garden website for details.

 

Easter events at the Museum

Over the Easter weekend we have some special free talks in our Attenborough Studio which run at 12.30 and 14.30 each day.

 

On Good Friday, find out about the original Easter islands and their famous giant statues, the Moai, pictured below.easter-island.jpg

 

On Easter Saturday, we've got the Egg-stinct: Fossilised Eggs From Prehistoric Times talk where you'll discover about the eggs from dinosaurs and other extraordinary creatures.

 

And in our Easter Sunday special, we take a closer look at the biology of the egg in The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe talk.

 

When you're in the Museum, remember to catch our amazing egg display in the Bird gallery.

 

Arrive early if you are planning a trip here, as we do anticipate queues over the Easter school holidays.

 

Have an eggs-cellent Easter.

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Hooray, the first live butterflies are now fluttering around the butterfly house on the Museum's front lawn in readiness for our Butterfly Explorers exhibition opening on 8 April. As I write this, a little girl has at least one tropical beauty perched gracefully on her nose (here she is below), surrounded by photographers at today’s photo preview.

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Luke Brown, the butterfly manager, told me that the first few hundred butterflies were released in the butterfly house last week, and by the time the exhibition opens next Thursday they are likely to have nearly doubled in numbers.

 

This year’s exhibition has a different themed butterfly house and outdoor garden to last year. It recreates habitats from the steamy tropics of Asia, Africa, South and Central America to the expansive prairie grasslands of North America and even our own parks and  gardens here in the UK. Every child gets given a passport on entry which they can stamp at each border and record important butterfly species spotted along the way. Find out more on our Butterfly Explorers website.

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Above: Inside the butterfly house at Butterfly Explorers. Below: the blue morpho butterfly, Morpho achilles

'From next week we'll see 100s of big blue morphos (below) and owl butterflies in the butterfly house. These two fruit feeders are favourites with our visitors,' says Luke. Some pupae of moon moths are already in the hatchery and I personally can't wait to see these gorgeous creatures when they emerge.

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More and more butterfly species will appear through the coming months, and about 400 to 500 pupae arrive each week.

 

The fun, outdoor British garden area of the exhibition is designed to attract butterflies, and children. If you look carefully you may see some of the 58 species living in the UK and familiar to this region. Sniff out scents and herbs here and get great gardening tips. Kids will enjoy climbing up into the tree house and getting a better view of the garden.

 

Find out about the exhibition highlights on our Butterfly Explorers website when the exhibition opens next week.

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We can’t reveal much about what’s featured in tonight’s episode of the Museum of Life documentary on BBC Two. But 'Digging up the Past' is a real bone-crunching, skull-duggering instalment. It’s on at 8pm. So don’t miss it

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Get behind the scenes of our famous Dinosaurs gallery in tonight's episode of the Museum of Life

Having just seen a sneak preview of tonight's episode, I can’t wait to see it properly on the telly tonight and imagine the faces of young and old when the king of monsters, Tyrannosaurus rex, makes more than one appearance.

 

Presenter, Jimmy Doherty and the team explore the discovery of a new dinosaur, the latest thinking on the personality of T. Rex, and what scientists are learning from a human skull over a hundred thousand years old.

 

Once again, during the episode tonight we will be tweeting and to get the latest information live, make sure you are following us on Twitter at Natural History Museum on twitter. Watch out for our Museum of Life competition, some of the questions are being previewed tonight on Twitter.

 

Tell us what you think of tonight’s episode, or last week's, on our online Museum of Life discussion forum. You can also post questions here for some of the scientists taking part.

 

From tomorrow you can find out lots more about episode 2 on our Museum of Life website.

 

If you're enjoying the series, why not come to the Museum and actually meet some of the Museum scientists in the flesh at our free talks. Watch the last episode on the big screen in our Attenborough Studio, or see some of the iconic specimens featured in the galleries. There are details on our Museum of Life for visitors webpage.

 

Have a look at our Dinosaurs slideshow on our website for some of the highlights to enjoy in the gallery.

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The amazing Wild Planet outdoor exhibition is unveiled officially today, 16 March, on Brighton seafront.

 

This exhibition presents a selection of the world's best wildlife photographs in a unique way. It lets them loose outside in the open air. Wild Planet will tour cities across the UK, outdoors, and Brighton is the first stop.

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Rajan snorkelling, from the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007 competition, is one of the most popular commended images and is on show in Wild Planet

Instead of the confines of art galleries, at this exhibition it's the sea and beach behind you and the historic Brighton promenade stretching out in front. And Wild Planet is free to enjoy.

 

There are 80 large-scale images featured on the promenade installation. They celebrate some of the most memorable images from past Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions. You can get up close to a dazzling array of elephants and eagles, apes and ants, meerkats and misty beech trees, starlings and snakes, coconut crabs and crocodiles and not forgetting foxes and foxgloves. Each panel features a caption about the image and photographer. BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham helped choose the images.

 

Have a look at our Wild Planet website to get a glimpse of some of the stunning photographs on display and find out more details. You can also read the news story about the launch of Wild Planet.

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The first night of Wild Planet with the installation complete. The exhibition is illuminated until 23:00 daily 

Wild Planet is on Brighton seafront until September. Don't miss it if you're in the area or planning a trip to Brighton. After Brighton, the exhibition will travel around the UK, including Bath in summer 2011.

 

Next to the installation is the Wild Planet Store, selling some really nicely-designed gifts inspired by the exhibition.

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'We are hoping to inspire new audiences in Brighton and around the UK,' says Jess Harris, the Museum's organiser and Head of our Touring Exhibitions. The exhibition is in partnership with Brighton and Hove council.

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We've had BBC TV crews here for over a year now, filming behind the scenes and interviewing our scientists and curators. Finally, the wonderful Museum of Life series will start next week on Thursday 18 March at 8pm on BBC Two.

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Museum of Life presenters in the Museum's Central Hall, left to right: Kate Bellingham, Chris van Tulleken, Jimmy Doherty, Mark Carwardine and Liz Bonnin

The BBC's website describes the Museum of Life documentary as 'a story of mysteries, dinosaurs, diamonds and audacious attempts to hold back extinction'. Viewers will get a real insight into some of the work our scientists do at this much-loved institution, as well as hear the stories of our most amazing natural history specimens.

 

Jimmy Doherty, from BBC's Jimmy's Farm, hosts the new series. In his youth, Jimmy was a volunteer here at the Museum and he is obviously thrilled to be involved in it. On Saturday Kitchen last weekend, he revealed what 'a corker' the new series is going to be and described it as 'full of jaw-dropping moments'.

 

We've just posted a video trailer on the Museum of Life website where you'll find lots more information about the series.

 

After each episode we'll also be running an online discussion forum here on NaturePlus for viewers to post questions to some of the Museum scientists featured in each episode. So watch this space for details.

 

Also during each episode we will be tweeting and to get the latest information live, make sure you are following us on Twitter at Natural History Museum on twitter.

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As an aside, a great news story has just come out today about how the filming of the Museum of Life series helped to solve the 120-year-old mystery of a gunned-down African goliath beetle specimen in our collection...

 

Read the news article about Who shot Goliath? Natural history mysteries revealed in new TV series.

 

Click to enlarge this x-ray image of the bird-sized goliath beetle, Goliathus goliatus, showing shotgun wounds.

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girl-silhouette.jpgWe are delighted that the Darwin Centre has been chosen for The Art Fund Prize 2010 long list.

 

There are countless reasons to vote the Darwin Centre your favourite for this prestigious art prize.

 

And if you vote for us to win the Art Fund Prize 2010 for museums and galleries you may also get to win a limited Jonathan Yeo art print. British artist, Jonathan Yeo is one of this year's judges.

 

It's the UK's largest single art prize. Last year's winner of the £100,000 prize was The Wedgewood Museum.

 

Voting and comments for the long list of 11 museums and galleries closes on 7 May. The short list voting opens on 17 May, so we'll keep you posted on our progress.

 

The first time I visited the Darwin Centre and cocoon building (seen left) last summer before it opened, it genuinely took my breath away. Aside from the sheer drama of the architecture and beauty of the wall projections, exhibits and interactives, there's so much to learn about what really goes on behind the science of nature.

 

The Darwin Centre really is a place you need to go back to again and again.

 

Since it's grand opening last September and the royal extravanganza attended by Prince William, the Darwin Centre and its spectacular cocoon building now welcomes about 2,500 visitors every day. Read the news story about the Art Fund Prize long list announcement.

 

If you haven't already visited, find out the many things that may inspire you by browsing our Visiting the Darwin Centre website. Or have a look at some of the recent photos in our Darwin Centre photo album on the Natural History Museum Facebook page.

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The salsify canopy. Ana Retamero's close-up of salsify seed-heads won the In Praise of Plants category in 2009.

There are 2 weeks left for photographers to enter the world's most prestigious wildlife photography competition, as the closing date is Monday 8 March 2010, 9.00am GMT. You can enter the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition online.

 

The competition attracts more and more worldwide interest and submissions. There were over 43,000 entries for the 2009 competition. Compare this to the very first 1964 competition with its 600 entries and 3 categories, and you'll realise just how phenomenal it's become.

 

The competition now has 18 categories. For photographers still wanting to enter, it's worth noting there is the new Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year award this year, which allows you to enter a sequence of pictures that tells a memorable story.

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There may also be less competition for categories like Urban Wildlife, which can include wild plants or animals in an urban or suburban environment, or In Praise of Plants, which can feature wild flowering and non-flowering plants or fungi. One of the most magical photographs from 2009 is the In Praise of Plants category winner. The salsify canopy, shown above, is an exquisite close-up image of a meadow of salsify seed-heads and a real stunner in the current exhibition. Read the news story about the last call for best wildlife photos 2010 and find out more about the competition.

Last chance to visit the 2009 exhibition

You've got until 11 April to visit the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 exhibition in the Museum's Waterhouse Gallery. And one more chance to see the exhibition at our After Hours night on Friday 26 March. Last month's late-night exhibition, pictured above, was very popular, so make sure you book your tickets in advance. Click to enlarge image.