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What's new at the Museum

203 Posts authored by: Rose
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Farewell to William Blake's God, Atlas, Cyclops, Medusa, Spaceman and Scientist.

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The faces of the Earth Hall: Atlas, Scientist, Spaceman, Medusa, William Blake's God, and Cyclops (left to right, top to bottom). They're leaving the galleries on 9 March after 18 years at the Museum.

 

On Sunday 9 March, we say a final goodbye to our avenue of statues that welcomes all visitors into the Earth Hall at the Museum's Exhibition Road entrance.

 

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Our avenue of statues in the Earth Hall is soon to pass into Museum mythology.

 

These six statues, representing visions of Earth's past, present and future, have dominated the Earth Hall's atrium since it opened in 1996. They have been photographed countless times as guardians of the dramatic Earth globe escalator which takes visitors and staff on a cosmic journey to the upper floor galleries, including the newly-opened Volcanoes and Earthquakes.

 

It's the end of an era for Earth as we know it at the Museum. But, don't worry, the statues are making way for an exciting new display to be announced later in the year... watch this space.

 

'They are made of fibre glass with interior metal frameworks,' says Trista Quenzer, the Museum's Display and Conservation Manager. 'And I remember they were designed by Neil Potter, an external architect. Like all good architectural concepts, the design started as a sketch on the back of an envelope.'

 

An auction of the statues has just taken place for Museum staff, who will no doubt be making plans for their removal and new homes over the next few days. Front porch? Back garden? Spare bedroom? Gigantic hallway?

 

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Ground control recalls Major Tom. Bye, bye Spaceman.

 

There has also been another significant recent change to the Earth Hall experience ('scuse the pun). No longer will we be lured up the Earth globe escalator to the riffs and spacey vibes of Jimi Hendrix's Third Stone From the Sun track off the classic album, Are You Experienced.

 

It has echoed out into the hall from the globe since the time the statues first arrived. And now it has been replaced with an ambient composition to complement the new light shows emanating from the globe. These were introduced for the opening of the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery.

 

The instrumental soundtrack created by the Museum's media technician, Lee Quinn, has been warmly welcomed by visitors and staff who had outgrown the retro rockout. For those of us who might want to re-live those fond memories, there's always a download of Jimi's original.

 

Visions of Earth closes from 10 March to 2 April for the final statue removal.

 

Check our website for news of this and other gallery updates.

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There are just hours to go to submit your most spectacular and creative visions of wildlife caught on camera to the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. It closes at 12.00 GMT on Thursday 27 February. So enter now.

 

This year's competition saw a simpler set of subject and photographic categories introduced as well as new awards. So far there have been tens of thousands of entries from around the world, with a lot of interest in the new TIMElapse and portfolio adult categories as well as the WILD-I category for young smartphone photographers.

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Magic mushrooms by Agorastos Papatsanis. Agorastos spotted these two parasol mushrooms growing in woodland in Greece's Grevena region. 'Nature is the true designer,' he says of his fairytale shot, taken with double exposure, in-camera.

 

Here are some words of advice from the WPY team for last-minute entrants:

 

'We want to see outstanding shots of any species, like these three 2013 award winning images pictured here. Photographs that depict the familiar to the less well known, the widespread to the endangered, the charismatic to the overlooked, and the urban to the wild.

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Grand raven by Chris Aydlett. This is a perfect example of a familiar subject presented in an original, dramatic way. Using the strong midday light, Chris created the shot in black and white, to give the scene impact and boost the metallic gloss of the raven's plumage.

'Our competition judges, as ever, are looking for fresh, creative images that reveal the diversity, majesty and beauty of life on Earth. As well as those that highlight the fragility of the natural world.

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Feast of the ancient mariner by Brian Skerry. Brian's vivid underwater shot shows the elusive leatherback turtle feasting on a free-floating colony of  tiny tunicates (sea squirts). It's a rare portrait of an incredible surivor.

'It doesn't matter where you take your shot. It could be in a garden or car park, underwater or in a remote corner of our planet. Just take a closer look and share your vision with us, wherever you are. There's still time. And good luck!'

 

The first round of the judging for the 50th competition entries starts on 10 March.

 

Find out about the competition's adult categories and young categories before you enter the competition.

 

Visit the WPY 2013 exhibition

 

Follow the WPY blog to get behind the scenes with winning photographers and judges

 

Stay connected with WPY on Facebook and Twitter

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Our ancient Britons are all yours

Posted by Rose Feb 18, 2014

After a week of full-on media attention and VIP events, our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition is open to the public. Its first few days of opening for the February school holidays has seen it bustling with visitors.

 

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Comedian Bill Bailey and the Museum's Emily Smith celebrate the opening of our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition at the VIP event last week. Bailey is one of six well-known figures to have their genetic ancestry traced for a film that features in the last part of the exhibition.

 

The exhibition is full of amazing archaeological finds, all beautifully displayed against spectacular backdrops, and here are a few pictured below you shouldn't miss.

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Seeing is believing: they may not look like much but these cones of pine and spruce date back to more than 800,000 years ago. They're from Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast and would have greeted the first human pioneers to Britain.

 

Standing in the presence of some of Britain's earliest human remains and artefacts in our dramatic story of evolution, surrounded by the animals these early ancestors pursued for survival and the tools they used to eek out their existence, it's hard to not be awestruck.

 

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The Swanscombe skull. This skull belongs to an early Neanderthal woman and is about 400,000 years old. She could have been the earliest Neanderthal in Britain.

 

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Trafalgar Square jaw-droppers: a hippopotamus canine from 125,000 years ago that was uncovered in 1960. This remarkable find is displayed next to other animal fossils and specimens against a stunning backdrop of a modern-day Trafalgar Square.

 

But it's not only the ancient treasures that grab your attention. Some of the show stoppers are in fact the products of very modern humans, such as the specially commissioned models of a Neanderthal and Homo sapiens made by twin Dutch artists, the Kennis brothers, along with several ground-breaking short films made by our excellent Museum film unit. Featured footage includes the big discovery of ancient human footprints on the Norfolk coast - the oldest to have been discovered outside of Africa - and the exhibition's final film tracing the genetic ancestry of famous names like Bill Bailey and Dr Alice Roberts.

 

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The exhibition's public face: Ned the Neanderthal, so named by you in an Evening Standard competition, is undeniably an attention-grabber in the exhibition's central room. Ned stands near to the other life-size model of a Homo sapiens. Both are incredibly life-like and offer visitors the chance to compare and contrast the two species.

 

Also look out for and take hold of the touch objects in the gallery, including flints, human skull casts and more.

 

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Touch obects: compare the head casts of the four human species thought to have lived in Britain in the past million years and featured at the start of your exhibition journey.

 

We will be adding more films and a great prize draw to the exhibition website soon, so check back in the next few weeks.

 

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Neanderthal woman in pieces

Posted by Rose Feb 11, 2014

She's 400,000 years old and her faceless skull is now mounted in an elegant display case in readiness for the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition opening at the Museum on 13 February.

 

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Could this 400,000-year-old skull, belonging to an early Neanderthal woman, be one of the first Neanderthals in Britain? The skull is one of more than 120 specimens and objects on show in the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition.

 

The early Neanderthal woman's skull was found in Swanscombe, Kent and, despite its age, it reveals a great deal. Her brain left its mark on the surrounding bone. Faint impressions of folds and blood vessels show it was a similar size as a human's brain today.

 

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The back of the Swanscombe skull has characteristic Neanderthal features, including a small pit where the neck muscles attached to the skull.

 

You'll see this striking specimen assembled as one exhibit in the exhibition, but look closely and you'll discover it actually comprises three parts.

 

Observing Museum curator, Rob Kruszynski, steadily hold the three skull pieces together at a recent photo shoot we attended, I listened intently as he recounted how remarkably well they fit together. Especially when you consider that they were found at different times in Swanscombe.

 

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The central skull section (occipital) was found in June 1935 in Swanscombe, Kent, by a local dentist A. T. Marston. The left part (parietal) was found at Swanscombe in March 1936 also by Marston. And the right parietal was found years later in 1955, by archaeologists J. Wymer and A. Gibson. Select images to enlarge.

 

Being so close to this ancient woman's skull and watching Rob handle it so carefully, I found myself wondering who she was and what her life must have been like? Did she die alone or with her family around her? We don't know as much as we would like about Neanderthal lifestyles because nothing was written down, but we do know that they sometimes buried their dead, that it's likely they did have some form of communication and that they lived together in family groups.

 

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This graphic reconstruction of a Neanderthal woman model appears in the exhibition. © PS Plailly/E Daynes/Science Photo Library

 

'There is analysis going on now on a large family group of possibly 12 Neanderthal individuals discovered in a cave site near to El Sidrón in Spain's Asturias,' Rob tells me. 'All had been cannibalised. And evidence suggests there were six adults (three males and one female), three adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age, two juveniles between five and nine years of age, and one infant, and that they were related.

 

'As of 2012, over 1,800 Neanderthal fossil remains and 400 tools have been recovered at El Sidrón, making it one of the largest collections of Neanderthal fossils in Europe to date.'

 

These El Sidrón finds are nowhere near as old as our Swanscombe skull, as they only date back to about 42,000 to 50,000 years, but they have been invaluable in revealing the Neanderthal's own story.

 

Our scientists and archaeologists continue to unravel more about our prehistoric ancestors with such amazing discoveries about the men, women, children, animals and objects they uncover and analyse.

 

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Volcanoes and Earthquakes has...

Posted by Rose Jan 31, 2014

... blasted open at long last!

 

When alighting at the top of our globe escalator in the Red Zone's Earth hall, from now on visitors will be greeted by an explosion of colour and dramatic installations as they enter the new Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery.

 

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Volcanoes and Earthquakes, our new permanent gallery, blasts open today, 31 January.

 

Alex Fairhead, interpretation manager for the new gallery, gives us an introduction:

 

''The earthquakes are back. Eleven months after our older The Power Within gallery was closed for refurbishment and, after two years in the planning, today sees the opening of Volcanoes and Earthquakes - a new, free permanent gallery in the Museum. In the exhibition we showcase about 120 specimens and objects. With these we explore the origins, geology, scientific understanding and human impact of our planet's most powerful natural forces.

 

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The new gallery has three themed zones: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes.

 

'For the gallery's design, we took inspiration from the structure of rock strata and continental plates and you can see that in the jutting, layered walls. The exhibition leads visitors through three themed areas: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes. The final encounter is inside the Museum’s renowned earthquake simulator, a re-creation of the supermarket scene during Japan's 1996 Kobe earthquake.

 

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A heat suit worn by volcanologists towers tall in the centre of the gallery. It can withstand temperatures of up to to 1,000˚C.

 

'There are a few surprises for visitors as they make their way through the gallery. The pink flamingo's feathers hide a volcanic secret, a 4,000 year old copper dagger holds the key to Cyprus’ underwater origins, and a giant catfish that was once thought to be the cause of earthquakes looms large.

 

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In Japanese mythology, the giant catfish was considered to be the cause of earthquakes.

 

'It's a gallery that was always popular with families and schools and we've really enhanced the content for this audience in the transformation. There are interactive quizzes and games, CGI films, touch objects includng a meteorite and lava bomb, and an in-depth explanation of the science behind these epic natural phenomena that have literally rocked our world.'

 

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A shaky final encounter in the gallery's Kobe supermarket earthquake simulator.

 

The Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery is a free permanent gallery. To visit, the nearest Museum entrance is our Exhibition Road entrance.

 

Come and be blown away.

 

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Homo arrivus

Posted by Rose Jan 13, 2014

The arrival of two naked male models at the Museum just before Christmas, unsurprisingly, caused a stir among staff. Cameras to hand, a few in the know caught some early glimpses as our unclad guests were bustled in at dusk. Now we release official photographs of them and a film about their brief yet prehistoric beginnings as the publicity revs up for the show they will appear in.

 

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Meet the Neanderthal (1m 55cm, in his 20s, European origin) and Homo sapiens (1m 75cm, in his 50s, European origin) stars of Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story. These life-size models were created by Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis. Homo sapiens stands taller, the darker-skinned male who chews a tool used to adorn his body with ink. Select images to enlarge.

 

The models were made by the Dutch duo, Alfons and Adrie Kennis, in their studio in the Netherlands for our next major exhibition, Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story, opening here on 13 February.

 

The Kennis brothers specialise in creating scientifically accurate sculptures of ancient humans and animals. The specially commissioned models blend scientific and aesthetic interpretation uniquely. They pose proudly, faces full of character - and some speculation as to which famous personalities might have been the inspiration - and are sure to attract attention when they take pride of place in the exhibition gallery.

 

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Adrie (left) and Alfons (right) Kennis in their studio, creating our two ancient men of silicon. Watch the short film of their work in progress below.

 

 

 

Our male models will share the limelight in the exhibition with striking graphic recreations of Neanderthal women and children and Homo sapiens family members, amidst more than 200 rare and intriguing archaeological specimens and objects. The story of our beginnings and how we have become what we are today, is one that touches us all.

 

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Graphic of a Neanderthal child reconstruction. Few Neanderthals lived beyond their late 20s. © PS Plailly/E Daynes/Science Photo Library

 

Elin Simonsson, the exhibition's interpretation manager, gives us the latest on its progress:

 

'Opening is only a month away and the exhibition build is now nearly complete. Walls are up and painted, cases and graphics are in place and our two life-size models are now in the gallery, wrapped up and waiting to be revealed. This week we will start the installation of specimens and objects in their display cases, which will really bring the whole exhibition together.'

 

For one lucky person, there's a chance to win a pair of free exhibition tickets and an exhibition book by entering our free prize draw online.

 

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We have announced the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition official call for entries. To mark the occasion we also unveiled a grand new website, sure to wow all WPY fans and the nature photography community around the world.

 

Take a look at the website's lightbox for the full-screen experience of each award winning image from this year's collection. You can view your favourite images in the gallery and find out about the people and stories behind them and much more. We want your comments and votes on this year's winners and we want you to be part of our WPY community.

 

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Visit www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy to explore our beautiful new website celebrating Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Select images to enlarge

 

Most importantly, though, we want your most outstanding wildlife photographs enterered in the 50th competition. WPY chair of the jury, Jim Brandenburg, introduces this special competition year:

 

'For almost 50 years, Wildlife Photographer of the Year has pushed boundaries. In the 60s we raised wildlife and nature photography from a simple scientific record into an art form... Now, as we launch our 50th competition, we are setting the stage for the future. We’ve been listening to our community, reflecting on what we do well and perhaps what we could do better to herald our new dawn.'

 

Gemma Ward, WPY competition manager, highlights some of the changes to the competition this year:

 

'The new adult categories have been simplified and their subject matter is now broader and all-encompassing rather than specific to behaviour or portraits, for example. We've made sure that all species are covered and the introduction of a category for Invertebrates should please the insect and arachnid lovers amongst you. We're really hoping this approach will encourage the full range of photographic styles and disciplines. And to increase the creative quota even further, we've introduced a new special award for moving images, TIMElapse. I really can't wait to see what entries we get this year - it's exciting.

 

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Sticky situation by Isak Pretorius. Behaviour: Birds winner. There's an amazing story behind Isak's masterful shot of a seafaring lesser noddie trapped in the web of red-legged golden orb-web spiders, taken on a tiny island in the Seychelles.

 

'Creativity is the key as always. Looking at a familiar subject or a scene, that's known to you, and capturing it in a original way. From this year's competition, images like Isak Pretorius' Sticky situation and Agorastos Papatsanis' Magic mushrooms really stood out to me in the judging sessions for their almost choreographed composition and aesthetic vision.

 

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Magic mushrooms by Agorastos Papatsanis. Creative Visions, commended. Agorastos captures two parasol muchrooms in a woodland of Greece's Grevena region, against the tree trunks behind, to fairytale effect. The slight optical illusion is the result of a double exposure, in-camera.

 

'We’re also looking for a wider range of subject matter from our younger entrants of 17 or under. To encourage new creative styles and ways of reporting on the world, we’ve introduced a new category called WILD-I, specifically for images taken on a mobile device, which together tell a news story. So, documentary photojournalism is an important part of the competition for both adult and younger photographers now.'

 

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The juggling jacamar by Sander Broström. 15-17Years, specially commended. Top of Sander's Trinidad and Tobago holiday wish-list was to photograph a rufous-tailed jacamar. He found a pair nesting not far from his hotel and caught this luminous shot in a split second.

 

'Going back to previous years, I loved these two images (below) for their originality. It's always refreshing to see the more commonly photographed wild places and species taken from a different viewpoint. And I look forward to seeing more of nature's diversity represented over the coming weeks of the 50th competition entry period.'

 

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Paradise performance by Tim Laman. Creative Visions, specially commended, 2010. Tim shows the brilliant colours of the king bird of paradise observing the Arfak Mountain forest from a unique perspective.

 

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Out of the ashes by Britta Jaschinski. Nature in Black and White, highly commended, 2010. Britta's ghostly shot used a long exposure to catch the mood of the moment when a cheetah melted into the background of this blackened scene in Ndutu, Tanzania, after a huge bushfire.

 

So photographers everywhere, amateur and established, you now have until 27 February 2014 to submit your images into WPY 2014's 18 award categories.

 

Entrants compete for one of two coveted grand titles, plus a share of a prize pot worth £50,000, and the chance to be showcased in the annual exhibition that debuts at the Natural History Museum in London before touring six continents. The entries will be reviewed by an internationally renowned jury, shortly to be announced.

 

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There's something about these two very different beasts: The enigmatic elephant with its swaying trunk and flapping ears atop those giant lumbering legs. And the endangered gharial with its cracked skin, eyes popping as it floats in the murky waters with its brood. Both fitting subjects, captured beautifully in unique portraits by this year's two grand title winning Wildlife Photographers of the Year. These images will take pride of place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition opening here at the Museum this Friday, 18 October.

 

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Essence of elephants portraying a herd gathered at a waterhole in Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve, has made Greg du Toit the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. To depict these gentle giants in this ghostly way, Greg used a slow shutter speed and wide-angle lens tilted up.

 

The two coveted prizes for the 2013 competition were awarded to Greg du Toit and 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar earlier this evening, 15 October, at the glittering awards ceremony held here at the Natural History Museum. The two winning images swayed the judges and beat nearly 43,000 other entries from 96 countries.

 

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Mother's little headful snapped by 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar depicts a mother gharial crocodilian crowned by her babies in the waters of India's threatened Chambal River. Competition judge Tui De Roy described the image as wonderfully playful and thought-provoking and the deserving 2013 Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

 

Both winning photographers are pictured below. They were among several other photographers and competition judges who gathered last night in readiness for the awards ceremony where the winners were announced.

 

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On location: Greg du Toit and Udayan Rao Pawar - this year's grand title winners.

 

'It was amazing and almost emotional to see young Udayan meet his hero, acclaimed wildlife photographer and competition judge Steve Winter,' says Gemma Ward, competition manager.

 

'I'm staggered by the standard of photography from the youngsters and how seriously they take their interest and how much nature and the camera means to them.

 

'And I'm also really impressed by the winner of the Eric Hosking Portfolio Award this year. This award highlights a sequence of images from a budding photographer between the ages of 18 and 26 years. It's an exceptionally strong portfolio of pictures and subjects from Canada's Connor Stefanison, with each one a stand-out.'

 

Enjoy all 100 prize-winning photographs from the 18 award categories in the 2013 competition and find out more about the stories and people behind them in the 2013 gallery.

 

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Book tickets for the exhibition opening on 18 October

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Science Uncovered's show stoppers

Posted by Rose Sep 27, 2013

The hour is fast approaching when we open our doors to the Museum's greatest show of the year on Friday, 27 September to mark the Europe-wide event of the year, European Resarchers' Night. Of course, Science Uncovered is much more than just a show, it gives visitors exclusive and extensive access to hundreds of scientists and our collections and research. But this year, in particular. there are some unmissable star attractions. A few are hot off the press.

 

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Must-sees at Science Uncovered on 27 September include a beautifully-presented Archaeopteryx fossil and hologram on show at the Extinction Science Station from 16.00-22.00 in Fossil Way. Image courtesy of The Munich Show.

 

Following its sensation at the Munich Mineral Show - and thanks to a private collector - we are showcasing a rare Archaeopteryx fossil (thought to be the 11th known example of Archaeopteryx) at the Extinction Science Station throughout the evening. In addition to getting a glimpse of the fossil up close, a hologram brings the Archaeopteryx to life. Alan Hart, Museum Collection Manager, hails it as 'an amazing specimen, especially in the way it is presented. And the hologram reconstruction is a really innovative way of examining it.'

 

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Watch the video of Archaeopteryx and its hologram unveiled at the Munich Mineral Show

 

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Satisfy your app-etite for dinosaurs at Science Uncovered. Catch T. rex on the prowl in the Darwin Centre, using an iOS or Android device. A massive Stegasaurus can be stalked in the Central Hall.

 

Excitingly, we will also be joined by digital dinosaurs roaming the Museum around the Central Hall and Darwin Centre atrium. But to see the 3D animated dinosaurs, you'll need to download the free Aurasma app on an iOS or Android device. Then watch and listen as a realistic-looking dinosaur strides into view, using augmented reality. Museum volunteers will be on hand to help out if needed. Once you've found a dinosaur, you can take a photo of your friends with it and tweet it using the hashtag #SU2013.

 

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We've just had news that the incredibly rare T. rex fossil (pictured above being unpacked in readiness), featuring in Dr Paul Barret's Dinosaur Extinction studio event at 17.00, will now make an appearance at the Extinction Science Station from 20.30-22.00. Remember, you'll need tickets for the free Attenborough Studio events, but they are on a first-come, first-served basis, so this is another way for you to see this incredible specimen if you don't make it to the talk.

 

Along with these big blasts from the past and other amazing highlights on the night, make sure you soak up some of the really cool and quirky stuff too.

 

Get more out of gin than you can imagine over at the Darwin Centre's Food station, use a seismometer to create your own earthquake at the Natural Environment station, examine sticky crime scene evidence (and we're not just talking blood samples) at the Forensics station, or peel away layers to see the intricate insides of specimens using the Insider Explorer Table and 3D Imaging unit in the Earth Hall. And much, much more all over the Museum.

 

Family-oriented activities kick off earlier in the day, so check the website for details.

 

food-soapbox-art.jpgThe ‘beautiful’ future of food: Soapbox Art speakers from the Royal College of Art divulge their creative culinary tactics.

 

Don't forget to stop a while in the Lasting Impressions gallery (near the Birds gallery) to hear what Soapbox Art speakers have to say about their creative tactics for the future of food and where babies will come from.

 

Download a map online, or grab one when you arrive, to plan your exploration and entertainment for the evening. Keep an eye out for the scientists wearing 'talk to me' badges on your travels.

 

Download the Science Uncovered map listing all activities and locations [PDF]

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered

 

Countdown to Science Uncovered blogs

 

Read the recent news story about what scientists will be confronting at Science Uncovered

 

Can't make it to the event? Keep in touch with what happens on Twitter via @NHM_Live and #SU2013

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Eight days to go and the Museum is starting to buzz with excitement about the biggest event of the year in our busy calendar. Stephen Roberts, lead co-ordinator, gives us a warm welcome and introduction to this year's fabulous Science Uncovered. Put 27 September 2013 in your diaries now.

 

'Every single day that the Museum is open there are usually scientists and researchers on hand to talk with our visitors and friends. But Science Uncovered will see an amazing 400 scientists joining in a Friday night opening with a difference.

 

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Above: Last year's Oceans Science Station was a jaw-dropping experience for many and beetlemania was rife at the Entomology Station. Both return for this year's Science Uncovered night on 27 September.  (With the beetles at the Forests Station this time.)

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'Our event is one of hundreds taking place in more than 35 countries on European Researchers' Night, all made free by the EU, and we are pulling out all the stops for this celebration of science.

 

As well as meeting the people behind ground-breaking discoveries at this unique event, you'll see masses of amazing specimens from our collections, normally carefully stored behind the scenes. Some live creatures too.

 

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The lower jaw of the first-ever T. rex skull discovered makes a rare appearance at Paul Barrett's Dinosaur Extinction talk at 17.00 (this talk is also BSL-interpreted.)

 

'Highlights not to be missed include the Dinosaur Extinction studio event revealng extremely rare T. rex remains that have never been on display anywhere in Europe before, and a piece of Mars from our collections that you can explore its insides at the Space Station, just as our researchers do.

 

These are two among hundreds of other amazing objects that could help answer big questions about life and indeed the solar system.

 

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Cave art and live creatures: among the many tactile experiences coming your way on the night.

 

'From creating your own cave art to linking-live with NASA scientists, or presenting your own weather forecast, touring our rare books library or trying our science-inspired cocktail - check out what's on at Science Uncovered on or website and download the map showing you where everything is happening.

 

'Or just come along and see what takes your fancy on the night. Have a think about the questions or puzzles you've always wanted to quizz a scientist about. There are even Science Fess Up tell-all sessions going on in the Central Hall if you're game enough. And you can tweet your photos and comments using #SU2013.

 

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Cool vibes and candid confessions at the Science Bar and Science Fess Up sessions...

 

'This exclusive interaction with our science and scientists is at the heart of Science Uncovered, but we also want you to have a great evening out in one of the most famous and historic venues in London.

 

'We've got a choice of 6 bars and the Restaurant open across the Museum's galleries offering delicious food and drink. As activities wind down from 22.00 you can chill out in the Science Bar which stays open with a DJ until midnight.

 

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Nocturnal Creatures at the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire will be part of their festivities

 

'Our sister Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire is also joining in the Science Uncovered festivities and will showcase its latest bird research, with a chance to catch the Nocturnal Creatures exhibition open after hours too (above).

 

'About 1,000,000 people across Europe are expected to join in on the night. We'd be delighted if for you to come and be one of those million yourself!'

 

Keep up to date with Science Uncovered on the website

Download the map and activity details

Read blogs by our scientists

Find out about booking for BSL activities

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Stepping into our outdoor butterfly house has been one of the most popular summer sensations at the Museum. The hot, sunny days have helped to keep our tropical high-fliers active and abundant.

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The Sensational Butterflies exhibition closes this Sunday, 15 September. It's been a family favourite for visitors during the summer months.

 

Last weekend I visited the Sensational Butterflies exhibition once again and was lucky to catch a silk moth in all its splendour, newly emerged inside the hatchery, surrounded by bewitched youngsters. Among the luxurious undergrowth, hanging precariously from banana leaves, were little furry owl butterfly caterpillars and the zebra butterflies were everywhere.

 

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Leaving soon - the Sensational Butterflies house

 

Just today, Luke Brown, our butterfly house manager, told me that a new type of owl butterfly has appeared recently in the house for the first time. Look out for Caligo atreus (below left) on your visit. You can tell it from other owl butterflies by its vibrant colours.

 

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Highlghts of the exhibition in the heat of the summer included the monster Atlas moths and other almost-as-large moth pupae (below).

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You have until 17.30 on Sunday 15 September to get to Sensational Butterflies here at the Museum. After Sunday evening, all the butterflies will be going to another butterfly house (probably Longleat) and the house will be kept in storage for another year…

 

Until then, there's still time to enter our free prize draw to win a sleepover at the Museum and tweet your own butterfly and moth photos to @NHM_London to be pinned on our Sensational Butterflies Pinterest board.

 

Thanks to last month's Pinterest winner, Martin, whose fab photo was drawn from the Jul-Aug entries.

 

Once the butterflies leave, more wildlife will be coming soon to the Museum in the shape of the eagerly-anticipated Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition, which opens on 18 October.

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Polar circles, tropical rainforests, wide savannahs, scorching deserts, glacier-covered mountains and solitary islands. Taking a last spin around Sebastião Salgado's Genesis exhibition in our Waterhouse Gallery I realised that were still so many images that I missed on my other visits. And just how amazing it is that this man has actually been to all these incredible places.

 

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It must have been awesome to witness one of the Yali people perched on this bending tree in West Papua's misty mountains. Or be entertained at the Papua New Guinea Singing Festival by this intense-looking performer (below). Just imagine the thrill of coming across the cathedral-like iceberg in the Antarctic Peninsula, and being splashed by the southern right whale in Argentina's Valdes Peninsula. Unforgettable experiences mastered into unforgettable pictures.

 

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It took Salgado eight years to produce his ambitious 'visual tribute to our fragile planet'. The exhibition gallery bustles with the life and landscapes that he has captured so passionately and powerfully through the medium of black and white photography. There are over two hundred photographs - in all shapes and sizes - to ponder over and just tomorrow and Sunday 8 September left to do it here at the Museum!

 

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If you miss the exhibition at the Museum you can take solace through buying the book online. Or check Salgado's own Facebook Page for news of where the exhibition is travelling on to - more international venues are rumoured.

 

But in another eight years will some of the landscapes and communities he captures still be the same? If you want to know more about endangered species and their habitats in our world it's also the last weekend to see our Extinction exhibition. You can get a friend into Extinction for free when you buy a ticket for the Salgado exhibition with our 2 for 1 offer.

 

Hopefully there won't be much of a wait for more wildlife photography at the Museum because Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 opens to the public on Friday 18 October.

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Big Nature Day was a scorcher

Posted by Rose Jul 23, 2013

The weather was glorious for our annual Big Nature Day on Saturday 13 July. Over 4,000 visitors joined us to explore the best of British wildlife in and around the Museum, and soaking up the best of the British heatwave too.

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Examining insects and pond life at the outdoor displays in the sunny Wildlife Garden - among the most popular activites at this year's Big Nature Day. Select all images to enlarge them.
11 child-snake-close-up.jpgTiny hands get a close encounter with the smooth snake which was brought along by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group.

Lucy Robinson, the Museum's citizen science manager and worm charming aficionado, reports back with the day's highlights:

 

'The marquees and Wildlife Garden were packed with over 30 stands showcasing wildlife as diverse as dragonflies, ferns, snakes and insect-eating plants. The Spotty Dotty puppet show attracted lots of the younger visitors with ladybirds and insect friends.

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Left: The Spotty Dotty puppet show entertained the young ones and taught them about ladybirds and more. Right: Lucy reading out the worm charming rules before the teams got stuck in.

'Our worm-charming competition on the front lawn featured some fierce rivalry, but sadly no worms (who were sheltering deep underground from this hot weather!). Neither fork-twanging, stamping or even music could bring the worms to the surface. However, people could see and hold live worms at the Earthworm Society of Britain's stand in the marquee, so they didn't go away too disappointed.

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Worm charming competitions on the front lawn in full sway - participants could twang forks, stamp and make music.

 

'Some unusual and intriguing things the visiting nature groups brought included carnivorous plants from the South London Botanical Institute, a large metal hedgehog sculpture from the People's Trust for Endangered Species, and some live reptiles courtesy of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation trust.

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The People's Trust for Endangered Species stand showed off a fabulous hedgehog sculpture and invited hedgehog mask-making.

'One of the challenges of organising the event was how to keep the reptiles cool on such a hot day – we had to freeze lots of ice packs and wrap them in fabric in their tanks to give the reptiles a cold area where they could cool off when not entertaining our visitors.

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Left: Discovering unexpected animals on the ladybird hunt. Right: Spider expert Tom Thomas from the British Naturalists Association leading the spider safari in the Wildlife Garden.

'Making pipe cleaner dragonflies with our dragonfly curator Ben was also really popular (they made over 400 dragonflies before they ran out of materials!). And the spider safari through the Wildlife Garden led by expert Tom Thomas from the British Naturalists Association, along with some fabulous face and body painting.attracted many fans.

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Fantastic and original face painting was a hit with families as was zooming in on invertebrates.

'Visitors told us the best parts of the day were seeing the wildlife specimens and meeting all the different nature societies. Kids raved about being able to look through the microcopes, touch the snakes and make lots of things.'

 

Thanks Lucy. We were also told by our Wildlife Garden team that over 60 insect hotels were made by enthusiastic young visitors, using recycled plastic bottles which they filled with reeds from the Wildlife Garden pond.

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Other kids' favourites included the Amateur Enomologists' Society's New Guinea spiny stick insect, the chance to become the Museum's latest specimens on display (right), and dissecting owl pellets (below) with the London Natural History Society.

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And the Species Recovery Trust shone the spotlight on some of the UK's rarest species... starved wood sedge, pictured below.

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Roll on the next Big Nature Day in 2014.

 

Get more involved in the UK's nature activities and local wildlife that matters to you

 

Explore the Wildlife Garden this summer and go pond dipping

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Talking of butterflies

Posted by Rose Jun 7, 2013

Outside the Museum there are now about 700 free-flying tropical butterflies enjoying the exotic undergrowth of our Sensational Butterflies house. 'In 6 weeks there may be more than 1,000,' our butterfly house manager Luke Brown tells me excitedly, with news of the first zebra butterfly larvae appearing. These should metamorphose into 100s of adult butterflies over the next few weeks.

 

The enchanting yet fleeting stars of our butterfly show never cease to captivate us and this Sunday, Luke will be giving visitors to the Museum an extra flutter in his free talk in the Attenborough Studio. The half-hour talk, A House of Butterflies, runs at 12.30 and again at 14.30 on 9 June.

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Meet Heliconius charitonia commonly known as the zebra butterfly, and Luke Brown (below) commonly known as our butterfly house manager, in our butterfly house and find out more about both at our free talk this weekend. Close up zebra courtesy of Inzilbeth.

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Accompanied by colleague Kerry, Luke's talk will explore some of our most-loved species including his own personal favourite, the zebra butterfly, Heliconius charitonia (pictured above). He hopes to bring along some caterpillars, eggs and specimens (but no live butterflies as they might not like the lights in the studio) and talk a little about the history of the butterfly house and the exhbition itself.

 

The first butterfly house arrived here in 2008 and has become a regular spring-summer annual attraction at the Museum, following a brief absence last year. This year's exhibition which opened at the end of March has been the most successful to date.

 

A butterfly fan since he was a little boy, Luke asked for a greenhouse for his sixth Christmas and ended up running his own company, The Butterfly Gardener Ltd and putting on butterfly shows all over the world. He looks forward to the continued success of Sensational Butterflies and taking his passion further afield to places like the Middle East and Brazil, with a personal project planned for the south coast.

 

Drop into the talk if you can and especially if you're visiting the Sensational Butterflies exhibition. Go on your own butterfly trail through the Museum taking in the Cocoon building and the Wildlife Garden nearby.

 

Don't forget to send in any great photos of butterflies wherever you may snap them and from inside Sensational Butterflies to our Pinterest board for a chance to win some butterfly goodies.  My recent favourites are of the glasswing and butterfly shoes, and congratulations to last month's competition winner.

 

Find out about visiting Sensational Butterflies and tickets and other butterfly events

A House of Butterflies is on 9 June and Butterflies in Disguise is on 15 June

Check out The Butterfly Gardener website

 

Get help with identifiying butterflies and caterpillars

 

If you can't make it to the Museum for our free events, we also webcast some live. Look out for these talks next week: The World I Want and Extinct Ice Age Giants

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This week we're celebrating our wonderful volunteers - about 450 of them at the Museum - as we join in the nationwide Volunteers' Week activities taking place from 1-7 June. As we usually do each year, we're holding a big party just for them in our Earth galleries and adjoining Deli Cafe, with lots of food, drink and entertainment planned, to say a huge thankyou and also to thank our volunteer managers.

 

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Last year's party celebrations for our volunteers and volunteer managers, held in the Museum's dramatic Earth galleries.

 

Ali Thomas, our Volunteers Project Manager, reminds us:

 

'Our brilliant volunteers are among the many treasures we hold at the Museum. They are not just a fluffy aside to what we do but are so integral to our work behind the scenes and to our future.

 

'Thank you to all our volunteers, who despite mostly being hidden away from public view, take part with such vibrancy, enthusiasm and dedication. This week's celebrations are in your honour.'

 

If you've visited the outdoor butterfly house this spring, you will have encountered several of the 45-strong group of friendly, informed volunteer staff who help guide the young and old alike through the colourful high-fliers of the Sensational Butterflies exhibition. They do such an amazing job, they've already received 100s of enthusiastic compliments (on feedback forms) since the exhibition opened in April.

butterfly-volunteers-atlas-moth.jpgOne of our much-appreciated Sensational Butterflies volunteers, Rosemary, making friends with a giant atlas moth in the butterfly house.

 

In the public galleries, our Learning volunteers continue to engage with visitors daily, and over the last 12 months have interacted with 119,825 people. Our Learning volunteer programme is now in its 9th successful year and you will see and talk with them throughout the Museum.

 

You can look in on another group of volunteers at work every Thursday in the Darwin Centre Cocoon's Specimen Prepartion Area. These volunteers are currently helping on the V Factor scientific project to collate and digitise our diatom collection. There is a new display of Indonesian coral fossils on show in the Museum's Dinosaur Way, which puts the spotlight on the previous V Factor project and volunteer input.

 

'We so enjoyed V Factor and are so thankful to the Museum for setting up this initiative and making it availalbe to young people such as Hannah, who has a very different style and needs more support than the average young person,' enthused one of the previous participant's mums.

 

fossil-coral-pics.jpgIndonesian coral fossils which V Factor volunteers helped to prepare for research. Some are on show in the Museum's Dinosaur Way.

 

We have 12 Museum volunteers nominated for the Kensington and Chelsea Volunteer Awards this year, so fingers crossed. We will report back on the Volunteers' Week celebrations and activities in our next volunteers' newsletter.

museum-volunteers-kc-awards.jpgMuseum volunteers with their awards at last year's Kensington and Chelsea Volunteer Awards ceremony.

 

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