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203 Posts authored by: Rose
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They're all at it in this exhibition. But that's to be expected as Sexual Nature is a candid exploration of sex in the natural world.

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From bonobos to bunnies, guppies to gorillas, hedgehogs to hyenas and pheasants to penis bones, there is virtually no animal sexual practice, appendage or orientation that doesn't get a look in at this extraordinary science show. Plants and humans feature too, although the emphasis is on the animal kingdom. And the amusing antics of Isabella Rossellini impersonating animals having sex in her Green Porno film series are a real treat.

 

Today, 11 February, the exhibition opened its doors to the public after a hectic week of VIP events, media previews and press coverage and as I write our first visitors are now getting a taste of this sensuous and beautifully designed gallery experience. The heady mix of specimens, exhibits, films and facts is guartanteed to leave them buzzing by the end of their visit. I feel sure many will be coming back for more.

 

Before you visit, get a taste of the exhibition in our highlights slideshow on the website.

 

Glimpse Sexual Nature's highlights in our slideshow

 

Find out about Sexual Nature and how to book tickets

 

The exhibition contains frank information and imagery about sex, so it's best to look at the Parents sample content guide on the website first if you're considering bringing kids. A similar brochure is also available in the gallery.

 

You can visit Sexual  Nature in the evening at our After  Hours monthly events and if you want to take things further, there are sex talks and sexuality debates coming up too at After  Hours.

 

Read the news story about the Sexual Nature VIP event

 

Think you know a bit about animal sex lives? Test your knowledge on the BBC Surprises of animal sex quiz

 

In the meantime, enjoy the exhibition's launch week in pictures. Select the photos to enlarge them.

VIP event images

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Ronnie Wood capturing a moment of sex at the exhbiition entrance

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Gavin and Stacey's Matthew Horne with his back to the beetles...

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Newsreader Emily Maitlis, the lady in red

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Jameela Jamil in front of the descriptive panels that adorn the exhibition gallery walls

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Mr and Mrs Martin Clunes in front of the Red deer stag

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Museum director Mike Dixon gives his opening speech at the Sexual Nature VIP event

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Gavin and Claudine (our press officer) on the phones - you can listen to lonely heart ads and choose the one for you

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Ronnie Wood on his way out through the Sexual Nature shop with a copy of the pop-up Kama Sutra
Media preview

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Admiring the majestic Red deer stag specimen, a centrepiece of the exhibition

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Inside the gallery, on the right is the great Argus pheasant specimen

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Meeting Guy the gorilla

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Watching buffalos compete on one of the large video projections

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Inside the gallery, with the foxes mating display to the right

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At the final display area, listening to lonely hearts messages on the phones

 


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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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Five years ago a female bottlenose whale found her way into the River Thames. At 6 metres long, the whale was unmissable and her every move was followed by the public and the media.  Sadly, despite human efforts, she died towards the end of a rescue attempt, under the gaze of the world’s media.

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Last weekend, the whale's skeleton went on display at our Tring Museum in a new free exhibition, The Thames Whale Story.

 

I asked Alice Dowsell, the exhibition's interpretation manager, to tell us about the final installation:

 

'It’s been an exciting week at Tring since the enormous Thames whale skeleton was installed on 18 January. After a lot of hard work and planning in transporting the whale and its custom-built case out to Tring and into the only gallery large enough to hold it, we’ve been enjoying everyone’s reaction to the display. It seems lots of you out there have fond memories of the whale and its journey in the Thames back in January 2006 – hard to believe that was five years ago. Alongside the whale skeleton we also have other specimens carefully chosen from our 3,000-strong research collection.

 

'There's been fun for the younger visitors too this week who have enjoyed dressing up in lab coats to play our Prepare Yourself game. They’ve been working out just how scientists go about turning a big dead whale into a nice skeleton for our collections. We’ve also had young and old trying their hand at Body Detectives, learning that there’s a lot about an animal’s life that you can find out after it’s dead.'

 

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Richard Sabin, the Museum's Senior Curator of Mammals, seen here preparing the skeleton, adds:


'It’s great to get the Thames Whale out on display in the Natural History Museum at Tring. The setting in gallery 5 is superb. There is still so much public and media interest in this story after five years, and the exhibition will really give us a chance to put the use of Museum research collections into context.'

 

Find out about visiting the Natural History Museum at Tring


Read the news story about the Thames Whale Story exhibition

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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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We have just announced the call for entries for our prestigious wildlife photography competition.

 

It’s the 47th competition and the third time Veolia Environnement are sponsoring it. The competition is open to professional and amateur photographers and searches for the most inspirational and evocative images of nature.

 

This time round we have a new set of digital guidelines for entrants (to help with the technicalities of producing and submitting images.) It’s essential anyone entering has a good look at these as well as the all-important competition rules.

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Golden moment: this shot of a bearded tit was captured by a young Dane, Malte Parmo, one of 2010's highly commended 10 years and under award winners

There are more specific rules for the young photographers' competition this year. As Mark Carwardine, the chair of the judging panel, says in his foreword: ‘one of the most rewarding aspects of the competition is the number of youngsters proving themselves to be every bit as capable as their older peers.'

 

Over the last two years, my favourite winning images have been by the young photographers. I love the spontaneity and joyful character that often shines through their pictures. It always amazes me how difficult it is to tell the age of the photographer who took an image. Our young competition entrants are certainly giving the pros a run for their money.

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It's just an animal by Mark Leong, the 2010 Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year. His extraordinary sequence of 6 images follows episodes in the illegal trade of animal parts

 

Although there are no new categories to highlight for 2011, it is only the second year the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year award has run, so the competition team are encouraging more photographers to consider entering a broad range of portfolios for this award.

 

In 2010 there was no winner in the Urban Wildlife category, and that is something for people to aim for in this year’s round.

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For the special awards, the competition team are keen to attract more positive imagery in the One Earth Award, such as the story connected to this year’s winner, Turtle in trouble by Jordi Chias (above), which saw him release the animal from the net he found it trapped in. They are also hoping for a greater variety of the eligible species on the IUCN Red List in the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife.

 

New judges are joining the 2011 competition panel. Keep up to date with the Judges on the website as we’ll be adding their biographies shortly.

 

Find out how to enter the competition. You've got 2 months to get those images submitted, the closing date is 18 March 2011.

 

See last year's competition winners in the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 exhibition which is open until 11 March

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New year, new gallery

Posted by Rose Jan 7, 2011

What nicer way to start the new year than with the unveiling of a lovely new permanent gallery at the Museum.

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Images of Nature opens in 2 weeks time on 21 January and I've just had a sneak peek at the elegantly refurbished gallery, pictured here.

 

Many of the displays and paintings are now in place, the lighting is getting its final adjustments and, although the John Reeves Collection of Chinese watercolours is yet to be installed in its impressive cabinets, the gallery space is looking beautfully grand and nearly complete.

 

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'We're just finishing the installation of the touch objects which have to be anchored to the gallery surfaces, and testing is underway for the interactive kiosks' says Peronel Craddock, Interpretation Manager for the gallery, explaining that 'because the John Reeves Collection paintings are so sensitive to light, these will only be added at the last minute.'

 

As I wander the length of the gallery, I pass by themed areas on either side, such as Inspiring, Recording, Observing, Mapping, Draw it, Modelling, and the majestic cabinets that will house the Reeves Collection.

 

One amazing oil canvas stands out, the huge Great Bustards, Little Bustards (left) by the prolific bird illustrator John Gerrard Keulemans. It literally reaches up from the bottom to the top of the gallery wall.

 

Here are a few more installation snaps of the work in progress in the gallery. Select them to enlarge.
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Happy festive season to you all

Posted by Rose Dec 22, 2010

'And so this is Christmas, and what have we done?...'

 

Well tons this year, at the Museum.

 

We had the launch of a great many new events like Dino Snores, Night Safari, Summer After Hours, the Big Nature Debate and Science Uncovered night, and our year-long celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity and the illuminating online Species of the day series, along with the public opening of the Museum's most recent interactive film, Who do you think you really are?

 

And of course there have been three special and successful exhibitions, The Deep Sea, Butterfly Explorers and Amazonia, alongside the usual gallery activities, lectures, talks and shows that kept us buzzing throughout the year.

 

It was exciting too to be on the TV in the Museum of Life BBC series back in March, and we were regularly cheered up by the Wildlife Garden comings and goings in the summer, which included the popular foxcam and bee colony updates.

 

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Now there's snow on the ground, the Ice Rink (seen above from the cafe bar gallery) beckons outside for frosty fun and ice skating, and inside the Museum, the fabulous Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 exhibition is on show as well as the dinosaurs, and lots, lots more.

 

Do come and visit over the festive season and remember we're closed from Christmas Eve until and including Boxing Day, 24 - 26 December.

 

Find out what's on over the festive season

 

Look out for the festive Species of the day on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and a very special last species on 31 December.

 

Happy holidays!

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Here is one of my favourite images from the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition this year, from the Ten Years and Under category. 'Bringing back breakfast' by Lucas Marsalle. Beautiful and somehow makes me feel Christmassy.
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Although the gates of the Wildlife Garden are now closed to regular visitors, winter is a busy time for the garden's team. Caroline, the garden's manager, gives us some festive news as the snow was falling in the recent cold spell.

 

'By mid-winter, when all fruits and nuts have been removed by birds and squirrels or fallen and collected by smaller animals, it is time to prune and lay hedges and to coppice small trees and shrubs such as hazel, and willow.

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The view of the Museum's Waterhouse building from the Wildlife Garden's frozen pond

'The cut wood is used for making woven fences around the meadow. We will also be planting small hawthorn and blackthorn shrubs (whips), to thicken up our new hedges.

 

'When the ground is freezing we retreat indoors (to our shed-come-office below) to input data of species recorded during the previous year.

 

'Observations last summer included this colourful longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata (below left) photographed by one of our visitors, Mark Mansfield, in the garden’s meadow, during Open Garden Squares Weekend in June.

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'Other new insect sightings in the Wildlife Garden last year included the small copper butterfly Lycaena phlaeas and 5 moth species, including Elachista obliquella which hasn't been previously recorded elsewhere in Middlesex.

 

'In November, the Wildlife Garden was awarded the Princess Alice Countess of Athlone Award for the Environment by the Brighter Kensington and Chelsea Scheme.

 

'The gates to the garden will open again in April. In the meantime, the garden is open by arrangement, and if you would like a winter visit please enquire at the Information desk inside the Museum. As you can see from the footprints in the snow pictured above, there is still wildlife activity even on the most wintry days!'

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The Wildlife Garden 'office' - a warm retreat when it's freezing outside

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We've been winning awards again!

Posted by Rose Dec 13, 2010

Last week, we joined the likes of Mica Paris and Twiggy at a glitzy awards ceremony to receive 2 top tourism awards for the Best London for Free Experience and the Best Family Fun. We won both these prestigious Evening Standard People's Choice awards, which form part of the BT Visit London Awards, for the second year in a row.

 

The ceremony took place at the theatrical Bloomsbury Big Top (shown below) on 8 December to celebrate the best of tourism in the capital. The event was hosted by TV presenter Neil Fox. Olympic gold-winner Dame Kelly Holmes presented the Outstanding Achievement Award to winner, Twiggy.

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Our head of Visitor Services Sandy Clark and Head of the Formal Learning team Aby Tinkler - pictured here with Mica Paris who performed on the night - were there to accept the awards.

 

Sandy told me: "To be voted by our visitors as the best in these two categories is a fantastic achievement and a great honour. And a huge thank-you should go to all those visitors who voted for the Museum in these awards

 

"For me the People's Choice awards gives approval from our visitors to what we do and how we do it, and that is something that all of us in our industry aim for.

 

"Winning these awards was made all the more rewarding and humbling because we up against such a high calibre of attractions.

 

"The whole of the Natural History Museum team should be congratulated for all their hard work in making the Museum such a popular and exciting place to both work and visit."

 

It's been a great year for the Museum's visitors with a record number of more than 4.5 million people enjoying our galleries so we must be doing something right.

 

Read the news story to find out more the Museum's visitor attractions and the Visit London Awards

 

The week before, the Museum hosted this year's Green Awards ceremony where it was announced that the UN's 2010 International Year of Biodiversity campaign had won the Best Green International Campaign Award. Over 450 organisations including the Natural History Museum are part of the IYB-UK partnership, so this was another honour for us.

 

Read the news story about the Best Green International Campaign Award

 


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Next year's star attractions

Posted by Rose Dec 3, 2010

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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Today, we unveiled our innovative new interactive film to the public. And if you haven't heard of augmented reality before, you will now.

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A Coelophysis dinosaur roams the Attenborough Studio in Who do you think you really are?

Who do you think you really are? tells the story of our evolutionary past and uses advanced technology to blend CGI graphics and a live video stream, to literally bring prehistoric creatures to life in the film's studio. It is narrated by Sir David Attenborough and projected on 3 large screens in the Attenborough Studio.

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From your seat in the studio, and using the attached unique handset (shown right), you'll interact with the film and witness creatures and objects from the film appear and move right in front of you.

 

A Coelophysis dinosaur (above) and Homo erectus will strut around you and an intricate tree of life stretch upwards majestically. It's the first time that augmented reality has been used in a public, learning space like this.

 

'We wanted to use a whole arsenal of media and technologies,' says Alisa Barry, our Interactive Department's director and executive producer of the film. 'We have peppered the studio with infra-red. This allows the camera in the handheld computers to track movements and position the animation correctly.'

 

In addition to the wow factor of the film, you'll learn a lot about exactly how we are related to prehistoric creatures and even bananas.

 

The film is showing daily in the Attenborough Studio and is free.

 

Find out about the interactive film, Who do you think you really are?

 

Read the news story about the interactive film

 

After you've been to the film, you can visit our NaturePlus community and sign in to explore more augmented reality on your home webcam and continue the film's evolutionary journey further.

 

Visit NaturePlus

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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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It was a star-studded week for the Museum's Ice Rink which opened to the public last Friday.

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Singer Leona Lewis performed on the stage overlooking the rink, along with popular boy band The Wanted (above), while skaters spun gracefully on the ice.

 

The stars were here to launch the exciting Kinect for Xbox 360. The new Kinect motion-sensor gaming system uses revolutionary technology to make it a controller-free gaming experience - you become the controller with a wave of your hand or the sound of your voice.

 

Among the other stars who tried out Kinect on the night, was TV presenter Kate Thornton (pictured below).

 

And the great news is that you can try out Kinect in the Ice Rink's Café Bar - there are 2 consoles and helpers to hand.

 

During the event The Wanted boys also took to the ice for a photo shoot (shown below).

 

Alex Lawson, our Development manager who helped organise the launch describes the event:

 

"It was possibly the busiest run-up to an event I've ever seen. The logistics of building stages and platforms on ice in a matter of days were mind-boggling. But it was a great success. Although I think I should have had a pedometer on the night - would love to know how much I walked - at least  miles?!

 

"The stars even got to enjoy a brief glimpse behind the scenes at the Museum as we walked them round to the Ice Rink site past possibly the oldest object on the planet in our collection - the 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite in the Mineralogy collection."

 

Read the news story about the Stars on ice Kinect launch

 

Find out about the Ice Rink

 

Enjoy these pictures from the night. Select the photos to enlarge them.

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Leona Lewis and her band performing at the Kinect launch at the Museum's Ice Rink

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Leona Lewis performs

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Boy band The Wanted on stage

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Need a penguin helper Wanted boys? And skates might help.

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The Museum stunningly lit up for the occasion

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TV presenter Kate Thornton has a go on Kinect

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Hollyoaks actors Matt Liddler (Max) and Darren Jeffries (OB) posing.

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Our flaptastic Ice Rink opens

Posted by Rose Nov 4, 2010

It's the 6th year running that we welcome the Ice Rink to the Museum's lawns. Since launching in 2005, it has become a much-loved part of London's winter scene and a magical event that attracts many visitors, old and young, from near, far and wide. It opens to the public on Bonfire Night.

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The flaptastic news this year is the arrival of 50 penguins who join us as skating aids (shown above). Of course, these aren't real penguins, but stabilisers for kids on the ice and available for up to 8 years (£4 to hire). No excuses this year then, kids. For adults there are friendly and unflappable ice marshals.

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Once again this year, the vintage carousel beams out to all children 'hop on a horse for a fun ride'. (Select the images to enlarge them.)

 

Later tonight I hope to be enjoying mulled wine (supposedly the best there is) at the launch preview in the Café Bar overlooking the winter wonderland. The Great British Barbershop Boys will be there to serenade guests and maybe my colleagues and I will even attempt a tentative skate on that virginal ice! Along with rumoured celebs like comic Bobby Davro and TV presenter Miquita Oliver..?

 

Get skating or spectating out there when it opens, we love seeing you practising your synchronised moves on our way in and out of work. And remember if you're a student, take advantage of the Special ticket price + free drink offer on Mondays and Tuesday until 7 December 2010.

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Deadly delights at Halloween

Posted by Rose Oct 28, 2010

Ever heard the squeal of the Death's-head hawkmoth? As a Halloween treat, you can now.

 

Acherontia atropos, Death's-head hawkmoth in action

The Death's-head hawkmoth has one of the most devilish reputations of any insect, says moth expert Ian Kitching in this short video. One of the  reasons why we feature it as our special Species of the day on Halloween. Another reason, of course - aside from being large - is the moth's skull-like marking on its thorax which has contributed to its mythical status.

Get a sneak peak at Sunday's Death's-head hawkmoth, our Species of the day.

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Another frightening creature you can get to know better this Halloween is Teraphosa blondi, the Goliath bird-eating spider (pictured above), and the world’s heaviest spider. It usually feeds on insects such as crickets and beetles, but also eats small mammals, frogs and reptiles, injecting venom into its prey with its 20mm fangs. Nice.

 

Despite its formidable appearance, a bite from this tarantula species is apparently no worse than a wasp sting. Goliath tarantulas are often kept as pets.

 

Both these critters will get you in the Halloween mood, so browse our Species of the day at the weekend for more deadly details. The Goliath spider features on Saturday and the Death's-head hawkmoth on Sunday.
Explore Species of the day online

Halloween at the Museum

If you're looking for an excuse to avoid the local trick or treat brigade, then come to the Museum on Halloween and join our free Myths and Monsters of the Mediterannean event. You'll see the fossil that may have inspired the legend of the one-eyed Cyclops, and discover why the devil has horns. There are 2 events at 12.30 and 14.30 on the Sunday, 31 October.

 

Over the weekend, bring the kids and explore our Creepy Crawlies gallery and visit the Wildlife Garden. It's the last weekend the garden is open and there are bound to be some spiders about.

 

For adults there is Night Safari on Monday evening, 1 November, although I think it's now sold out. The lucky safari visitors with tickets will be treated to a night of wondrous spookification including albino bat specimen, cursed gems, scarab beetles and demonish cocktails at the bar.

 

Slime on.

 

Spider photo courtesy G. Beccaloni

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