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What's new at the Museum

192 Posts authored by: Rose
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We have a family of foxes living in the Wildlife Garden. They've set up a breeding den, called an earth, tucked away under the garden shed in the private part of the Wildlife Garden.

And now, we've got our first foxcam set up to follow our foxy lodgers scampering around. There are about 3 to 4 little cubs that have been spotted so far. They come out to feed on earthworms, beetles and other tasty snacks.

As I write this blog in the afternoon, one cheeky cub comes out to pose as if to say 'hello, watch me, I'm on camera'. What a show-off!

You can use the foxcam day by day and get a glimpse of the fox cubs growing up. The Wildlife Garden staff tell me that they are most active early in the morning and early evening about 6ish. So we recommend catching up with the foxcam at these times to get a good glimpse, but then I just saw my cub in the middle of the afternoon. Also on camera, you may spot pigeons, squirrels and the legs of humans too.

Our Wildlife Garden fox cubs were probably born in late March. Over the summer months they will play, explore and gradually begin to fend for themselves by joining their parents on night-time hunts. By September the cubs should be fully grown.

For a sneak peak of a fox cub appearance on our foxcam, have a look at our YouTube foxcam clip from 26 April.



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We have the next Night Safari event coming up on Monday night, 10 May, starting at 6.30pm.

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Paul Barrett, our dinosaur specialist, leading the first Night Safari visitors through the torchlit Dinosaurs gallery

At our first Night Safari event in March, the feedback was fantastic. Everyone raved about it, describing it as a 'magical' night, 'one in a million' and 'you guys and girls rock!'

 

What most people loved was the chance to enjoy a more exclusive experience of the Museum in small groups, and with a relaxed and personal touch.

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Monday's rare treats include getting up close to meteorites, spiders, a mummified cat and two-headed sheep skull (!) and of course, the dinosaurs by torchlight. The torchlit Dinosaurs gallery tour was a late addition to the March event, and is back again.

 

Visitors will meet some of the scientists from the recent BBC Two Museum of Life documentary and hear about their favourite specimens, including admiring the Central Hall's magnicient ceiling decorations with botanist, Sandy Knapp.

 

As before, the tours starts around 7ish and groups are taken around the Central Hall to hotspots where they'll meet scientists, specimens and exhibits, and shadowy dinosaurs. With a 30-minute break in between to enjoy the bar... and bellinis.

 

There's also time after the tour to chat with the scientists at the bar before the doors close at 10.30pm.

Book tickets online.

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elephant-mosaic-800-tall.jpgTwo magnificently decorated elephant sculptures appeared on our West lawn after the Bank Holiday weekend. You can't miss Seymour and Phoolan if you head towards our Wildlife Garden, facing the main Museum entrance.


Phoolan (right) created by Carrie von Reichardt and Nick Reynolds, is covered in 1000s of mosaic tiles, with gaps revealing bones damaged by human actions. Seymour, the white elephant below, was hand painted by artist Emma Elizabeth Kemp. They will be joined by a third elephant for International Day for Biological Diversity which we're celebrating on 22 May.

 

The three life-size baby elephants grace us with their colourful presence until the end of June..

 

Our hand-decorated elephants are part of The Elephant Parade in London, the Capital's big public art event led by the Elephant Family charity, to help raise awareness for endangered Asian elephants. This unique urban savannah will feature 250 baby elephants displayed across London landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, the South Bank and our own Museum. Look out for them.

 

A host of celebrities and artists from the art and design world have been involved in painting and decorating the elephants. Well-known names include Marc Quinn, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lulu Guinness, Julien Macdonald, Issa, John Rocha, Jonathan Yeo, Jack Vettriano, Nina Campbell and Nicky Haslam.

 

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In early July, the herd of elephants will get together for one big exhibition and then be auctioned for charity at Sotheby's.

 

Read about The Elephant Parade on our International Year of Biodiversity in the UK (IYB-UK) website.

 

Find out more about the endangered Asian elephant on our Species of the Day website.

 

Browse more elephant pictures on The Elephant Parade website.

 

The Elephant Family charity is a partner organisation of IYB-UK.

 



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They say the weather’s going to be unpredictable over the weekend, so here are some ideas for indoor and outdoor ventures.

 

  1. zebra-butterfly.jpgButterflies in the house. Wing your way to our Butterfly Explorers exhibition. Just this week some beautiful new species have arrived. The vibrant zebra butterflies are already making their presence felt in the butterfly house and the shy glasswings are still hiding out, but in about 9 weeks these will be much more noticeable. Did you know the zebra butterfly (right) was declared the Florida State Butterfly? And that if you ever decided to eat a glasswing it would have a nasty taste (due to the poisonous sap it sucks on heliotrope leaves). Inside the butterfly house, the vegetation is thriving with bright bromelias and milkweed. Also look out for the peanut plants, a hit with the blue morpho caterpillars. Outside in the British garden, all the border seedlings and nasturtiums are really starting to show. Kids are loving the outdoor treehouse, log pile house and maze in the garden area. So let’s hope the sun shines for some of the weekend.
  2. Butterflies in the cocoon. Continuing on the butterfly theme, and to check that you’ve actually learned something at Butterfly Explorers, head into the magnificent Darwin Centre Cocoon and spend some time at the ‘Organising nature’ butterfly interactive display. Have fun using the touch screen to play at identifying butterfly species. There are lots of fun interactive games and displays in the Darwin Centre. At the Darwin Centre you can also catch a family show or talk in the Attenborough Studio, so check what's on. Browse the Darwin Centre Cocoon highlights on our website.
  3. Wildlife in the garden. This is one of the best times to explore the Museum's Wildlife Garden and after the last 2 weeks of sunshine and recent rain, it's really a pretty sight with the apple blossom and bluebells. The latest excitement in the garden is that a family of foxes and little cubs have been spotted recently, but we can't say where as we wouldn't want them disturbed.fossil-festival-beach.jpg
  4. Life's a beach for a fossil fan. Discover the Jurassic Coast at the free Lyme Regis Fossil Festival (above). Over 20 of our Museum scientists will be there identifying fossils, and leading talks and walks. This popular family event mixes science with music and the arts, on the beach. 'Dead...And Alive!' is the theme of this year's festival, which celebrates the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Find fossils in fossil digs, go on 'fossilteering' walks and learn about the seashore. We celebrate some extraordinary fossils in our Species of the Day this weekend.
  5. Walk on the wild side of Brighton. Head down to Brighton seafront and experience our free Wild Planet outdoor exhibition featuring some of the best wildlife images in the world. 80 panels make up this stunning promenade display of winning photographs from past Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions.
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Aliens in the Attenborough Studio

Posted by Rose Apr 27, 2010

ufo-landing-red.jpgHelp us decide if we should be preparing to meet ET and aliens now, rather than later, at our Nature Live Night on Thursday 29 April

 

Is There Anybody Out There? is the subject of our Nature Live Night evening debate this week on 29 April and is a must for anyone interested in other planets and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Expect otherworldy topics on the agenda like the evidence (or not) for life on Martian meteorites, what will aliens look like, are aliens already here in a shadowy biosphere, Earth-like planets, and planetary protection.

 

We'll bring you together with astrobiologists and meteorite researchers to catch up with the latest news on the search for alien worlds. And we'll be debating how our actions in other worlds could affect life as yet undiscovered, as we ask the question 'should we actually be trying to find aliens'? Some, like Stephen Hawking, caution against this. See the recent BBC coverage of Stephen Hawking's warning of making contact with aliens.

 

The debate rockets off at 7pm in the Darwin Centre Attenborough Studio, and arrive at 6.30ish for a drink beforehand. The bar is open during the event. Book tickets (£6) online.


What would you tell an ET if you met one tomorrow? Come to the event and share your thoughts with other Earthlings.

 

Prepare to get spaced....

 

 

Grainy black and white image of supposed UFO, Passoria, New Jersey, right

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It's time to say a fond farewell to Jimmy Doherty, his co-presenters, and the Natural History Museum on TV. The last programme of the Museum of Life BBC documentary is tonight, 22 April. But you can catch the series for 1 more week on BBC iPlayer. And our last episode talk and screening is next Wednesday on 28 April.

 

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Tonight's final episode 6, 'A Collection for the Future', delves deep into the world of meteorites and minerals. In one of the highlights, presenter Liz Bonnin talks to our Museum mineralogist Alan Hart about the casting of the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond, once the world's largest diamond and the size of a hen's egg. Here in our Vault gallery, visitors can actually view 2 replicas of the cut and recut Koh-i-Noor diamond (right).


Other tasty titbits in tonight's programme include looking inside a shark specimen without damaging it, some cutting-edge techniques that scientists are developing to investigate the Museum's collections in future, and Sir David Attenborough on the Museum's future role.

 

To find out more about tonight's episode and the whole series, visit our Museum of Life website.

Museum of Life competition

Tonight we are also revealing all the questions to the Museum of Life competition which Twitter fans have been following. Join our live tweets tonight on @NHM_MOL Twitter stream for a chance to win. You don't have to be a Twitter fan to enter, but it'll certainly help with the answers. Enter on the Museum of Life competition webpage.

Bye bye Liz, Kate, Jimmy, Mark and Chris. It's been great going behind the scenes of the Museum with you all
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If you want to see more amazing meteorites and diamonds, visit our Minerals gallery and The Vault gallery . Some stunning minerals, including a piece of moon rock, and semi-precious stones also line our Red Zone ground floor by the Earth galleries escalator. Discover all about meteorites on our website.


To join the last Nature Live episode 6 session on 28 April or browse our interactive Museum of Life, go to our Museum of LIfe page for visitors.

 

For those who need more, there is a book of the series available from our Museum shops and a DVD on the way.

 

Happy Earth Day.

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Today, 16 April, we celebrated the 350th anniversary of the birth of Sir Hans Sloane, and the start of our Sloane 350 season.

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You can find out all about this great 18th century naturalist and physician, who brought chocolate to the UK, on our Sloane 350 website.

 

Sir Hans Sloane collected over 400,000 objects in his long lifetime including plants, animals, manuscripts and all manner of antiquities. We have many of his specimens in the Museum and he is effectively the founding father of this Museum.

 

When Sloane first tasted the chocolate drink in Jamaica, where he worked as a young physician early in his career, he described it as 'nauseous'. But the story goes that after trying it mixed with milk, and not water as it was drunk by the Jamaicans then, he found it much more appealing and 'healthy'. He brought his recipe back to London and later, Cadbury's started making chocolate (pictured below) as we know it from his original recipe. The rest is history.


One of our celebrity specimens in the Museum is the cocoa Sir Hans Sloane actually collected.

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jamaican-moth.jpgYou can explore some of Sloane's amazing collections on the Sloane Herbarium tours. Have a look at our Sloane 350 events web page for details.

 

Today we also featured one of the most beautiful moths in the world, Urania sloanus, as our Species of the Day.This gorgeous Jamaican creature (right), now extinct sadly, was named in honour of Sir Hans Sloane. He was probably responsible for the first illustration of the moth. Find out more on our Urania sloanus Species of the Day page.

 

And we ate some fair trade chocolate in the office to celebrate...

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Our lovely Wildlife Garden has opened for spring and welcomes visitors on Sunday 11 April to its Yellow Book Day event.

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Yellow Book Day is part of the National Gardens' Scheme to open gardens for charity.

 

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At the daytime event, explore a bird hide installation by pastoral feltmaker Anne Belgrave, where you can try and spot some of her felt bird sculptures dotted around the garden. (With the help of some bird ID charts to hand.) One of her pretty creations is shown here on the left.

 

Become a bird detective and see if you can identify real species in the garden too. Recently a jay, heron and a pair of nesting blue-tits have joined our familiar moorhens, blackbirds and robins.

 

As well as identifying birds, enjoy spotting some incredible pond life through a microscope and find out about the garden's frogs, toads and newts.

 

Walk through the meadows and enjoy the spring plants and flowers as you browse stalls selling wild flowers, homemade tea and cakes. It's a perfect spring day out and a breath of fresh air if you've been inside the Museum's galleries for too long! Have a look at our Wildlife Garden highlights slideshow for more of a glimpse.

 

There is a bird talk in the afternoon in the Attenborough Studio about the felt bird installation by the artist Anne Belgrave, and Katrina van Grouw from the Birds Section at our Tring Museum will talk about British birds and how to identify and encourage them at home.

 

Our species of the day celebrates the jay. Unearth lots of fascinating facts about this shy yet striking, acorn-eating bird you'll find near oak trees.

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The sun shone gloriously yesterday in London to mark the opening of our Butterfly Explorers exhibition outside on the east lawn.

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Lots of visitors flocked in to the butterfly house, through the giant globe entrance, and the exhibition looks set to be a popular place over the rest of the school holidays and the coming summer months.

 

Have a look at the new Butterfly Explorers highlights slideshow on our website to see what exhibition treats await this year's butterfly adventurers, young and old. Get ready for a world expedition that's full of wonder, learning and fun, not forgetting 100s of dazzling live butterflies, a delectable feeding table (below), tall tree house and gigantic garden gnome.

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As the spring turns to summer, there’ll be more and more butterflies arriving and plants and flowers maturing. Already some of the first magical moon moths have emerged from their chrysalises and more rare species will make the butterfly house their home over the coming months.

 

This year's butterfly exhibition is part of the UK International Year of Biodiversity 2010 and highlights the variety of butterfly species around the world, their  conservation and theats to their survival.

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Go on a journey from the exotic to the familiar...
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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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