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What's new at the Museum

192 Posts authored by: Rose
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Find the famous Archaeopteryx dino-bird fossil in Trafalgar Square, a 200-million-year-old ammonite on Albert Bridge, Hans Sloane's beautiful carved shell in Sloane Square, or Iguanodon's tooth among Crystal Palace's dinosaur sculptures...

 

From east to west, inner to outer, there are 12 natural history treasures hiding in 12 London locations and it's your challenge to find and collect them this weekend, 24 and 25 November. Our Treasures: The Hunt game celebrates the Museum's new Treasures gallery, which opens next week and anyone in London can play. There's a great prize up for grabs too.

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Discover London's links to the Museum and some of its natural history hotspots this weekend on The Hunt trail. From the Tower of London to Crystal Palace, at 12 locations - some well-known, others less so - you can collect a Museum treasure, revealed in raised drawings on display stands with the Museum's Treasures logo. The Hunt celebrates the opening of our new Treasures gallery on 30 November where 22 of our most valuable and historic objects will go on show. Select the images to enlarge them.

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Of course, it's not the real specimens that you'll come across but drawings of them on display stands like the one pictured here (right). At each display you can take a rubbing of the drawing and send this in to us for a chance to win an exclusive party in our new Treasures gallery for you and 25 guests (worth £8,000 I'm told).

 

All you need to do is download The Hunt map and collection sheet and follow the instructions of how to enter. Or visit one (or as many as you can) of 12 locations in London between 10.00 and 16.00 this weekend, where there are also collection sheets and instructions at the display plinth.

 

These are the 12 London locations featured on The Hunt trail:

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  • Trafalgar Square (NB only opens at 12.00 noon on Sunday)
  • Tower of London
  • Sloane Square
  • SouthBank Centre (Riverside)
  • Linnean Society, Piccadilly
  • Soho Square
  • Grant Museum of Zoology (UCL, University Street)
  • Kensington Gardens, (Palace Gate)
  • Kennington Road (Mead Row/Cosser Street)
  • Battersea Park (Albert Bridge)
  • Cyrstal Palace Park (Lower lake)
  • National Maritime Museum (Greenwich)

 

You could just visit the nearest place to where you are on the day and submit your collection sheet with just the one rubbing completed or you could become a really dedicated collector and try for all 12; it's possible as one of us did a trial run and visited all the locations in a day! Obviously the more you collect and send in to us, the more chance you'll have of winning the prize.

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How to enter The Hunt's free prize draw: At each of the 12 locations you visit, fill the empty jar on the printed collection sheet by doing a rubbing with a crayon or pencil of the drawing on the plinth. Each rubbing proves you have been to that location and each filled jar you send us gives you a chance to enter The Hunt prize draw and win the prize.

London is one of the most intensively investigated areas for archaeology, but it still throws up some surprises. Crocodiles have been found in Islington, a giant ox in Knightsbridge and a rhinoceros under Battersea Power Station. During the building of Trafalgar Square bits of bison were brought up, a spotted hyena, tiny fragments of brown bear and the remains of at least two woolly mammoths.

 

On The Hunt trail, you'll be surprised by some of London's stories of our early natural history collectors, and find out what the most valuable objects in the Museum's collection are - which will soon be revealed in the Treasures gallery.

 

Treasures: The Hunt was designed by the social games studio Hide&Seek. Its director Alex Fleetwood, says: ‘There are so many sites across London that have amazing natural history stories attached – weird things that happened there, unlikely animals, hidden rivers. We're sending people out on a treasure hunt with a difference to explore these sites – and the more of them they visit, the greater their chances of winning the great prize.'

 

Find out about Treasures: The Hunt and download the map and instructions

 

Get a glimpse of the Treasures gallery opening to the public on 30 November

 

Read the news story to find out more about The Hunt this weekend

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The Earth Hall on Science Uncovered night last month. Bustling with cosmic and creative activity, cutting edge technology and prehistoric wonders. More pictures below.

 

Tonight, Friday 26 October, is a very special night for 10 lucky science and natural history fans, as they will be spending an exclusive evening sleeping over at the Museum.

 

At 28 September's Science Uncovered evening we ran a discovery trail called Stamped on Science and 5 attendees who completed the trail were drawn from almost 200 entries and won themselves, and a guest, an amazing overnight experience in our hallowed Central Hall, and tonight is the big night.

 

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One of the many Stamped on Science-ers collecting a stamp on the night.

After they've enjoyed all we have on offer as part of our monthly Friday Lates with MasterCard, the 10 attendees will begin their unforgettable experience.

 

Museum scientists Dr Adrian Glover and Dr Victoria Herridge will guide them on exclusive behind-the-scenes tours and bring out specimens not normally on display to the public while they talk about their research.

 

After a night's sleep alongside the giant sequoia, in the upper Central Hall gallery, the lucky 10 will enjoy a continental breakfast under our iconic Diplodocus skeleton, Dippy. They'll then be taken on a tour of our Zoology Spirit Building and get early access to our ever-popular Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 exhibition.

 

Sounds like a lot of fun for those lucky 5 winners and their guests, who were just a fraction of the 9,077 visitors we had through the South Kensington doors (another 554 attended Tring) for our third annual Science Uncovered festival last month.

 

More than 500 scientists, staff, volunteers and visiting experts helped make the event possible and we're sure everyone who attended will agree it was a wonderful evening.

 

Have a look at some of our favourite pictures and see for yourself. Select the images to enlarge them.

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At the Space Station comets were re-created using (mostly) household ingredients: dry ice, gravel (for the carbonaceous materials), worcester sauce (for the organic materials) and Mr Muscle (for the ammonia).

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The skulls and other remains of our ancient ancestors at the Human Origins Station were a talking point for lots of visitors who chatted to Museum experts on the subject of where we came from.

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Making your own cave art was a popular activity and resulted in a colourful display of familiar images and more contemporary hands-on contributions.

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A state-of-the-art digital specimen table uncovered layers of a mummified cat (pictured) and Martian meteorites with the swipe of a finger.

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Discovering the magic of minerals and their structures

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The incredible palaeontological specimens at the Extinction Station station were a hit.

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Scientists enjoyed the chance to chat about their research and show off their specimens, including here at the Ocean Stations (above and below).

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Sea silk, one of the strange underwater specimens on show at the Oceans Station.

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The Antarctica Science Station gave people a taste of the cold conditions scientists, researchers and explorers experience at the South Pole.

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Many of the younger visitors could be found experimenting at being a vet and treating some very cuddly (toy) creatures at the Vets Station.

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Behind-the-scenes tours gave visitors the chance to step into the role of scientist in our labs.

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The tour of the Museum's library proved popular for its special access to historic artwork and texts.

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Our roaming animal handlers let those brave enough hold real live animals.

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The Food Station was as colourful and tasty as we would expect.

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The Sopabox Art sessions attracted curious listeners, especially the discussion about breeding a mouse with the DNA of Elvis.

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Science Fight Club in full sway.

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The night was made all the merrier by the specially-concocted Science Uncovered cocktail, the Pollinator.

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And who found out what this hairy brain-like mystery speciman was?
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On the evening of Friday 26 October, our first-ever, pop-up festival is setting up camp here for the week. Visitors arriving over the coming October half-term holiday period, 27 October to 2 November, will certainly be surprised when they come across some unusual displays and theatrical shows around the Museum...

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Campsite characters will arrive at the Museum on Friday evening in Joni the campervan.

Sarah Punshon, our Darwin Centre Arts Events Programme curator, who's been planning this special event for over 3 months, tells us about the final preparations underway for The Campsite:

 

'I'm very excited about the unique performances and activities we've got in store for families this half-term – I can't wait to see visitors' faces when they come across The Campsite at the Museum!

 

'Vintage campervans, caravans and tents, each home to a playful performance or interactive installation inspired by Museum science, will be pitching up in and around the Darwin Centre this Friday evening, ready for Saturday's official opening. The Campsite is a unique mobile venue of theatre, art, music and film, created by young theatre company Field Trip, in collaboration with the Museum.

 

'The shows and activities are going to be a lot of fun and a welcome alternative for families if the usual popular places like the Dinosaurs gallery and the Central Hall get really busy.

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Spot the roaming Lost Camper and point her or him in the right direction...

'We will have a few pop-up tents and attractions in unexpected places of the Museum - look out for our roaming Lost Campers, two "research scientists" who might need help finding their base camp - but most of the the action takes place in the Orange Zone around the Darwin Centre atrium area and outside on the Courtyard.

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Become human specimen displays at The Campsite! Left, exhibition technician Ryan poses in one of the large specimen cases specially created; right, Museum joinery workshop manager Paul demonstrates the use of the giant pin, which incidentally should go through the thorax, Paul. Select images to enlarge them.

'As I write, the Museum joinery workshop team are putting the finishing touches to three human-sized display cases. These have been created specially for the Specimen Preparation Area activity in the Darwin Centre atrium, where visitors can be prepared for display by our energetic 'preparators' and dressed up as specimens to pose in the cases. So if you want to find out what it's like to be a Mammal or a Bird exhibit, now's your chance! But if you'd rather be an Insect, then there's always the option of being pinned into a giant drawer.

 

'Also in the atrium, there's an Audio Adventure to go on in a real polar tent. Two at a time, visitors can enter the tent, put on the headphones and follow the instructions they hear. You might find yourselves pretending to be a scientist visiting the Antarctic or diving under thick ice to collect samples, recording data, and meeting a penguin!

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Children demonstrate two of the retro activities at The Campsite, Left: The Catalogue, where you can archive your own stories on vintage equipment; right, trying out the Audio Adventure.

'Outside on the Darwin Centre Courtyard, I'd recommend taking a seat in Lionel, the cinema in a campervan. Here you can choose from a menu of short science-inspired films. Or nearby, there's The Catalogue activity where our Archivist will be collecting stories about nature. Record your own story on cassette, type it up on a vintage typewriter, or draw a picture of it. The Archivist will carefully file it away – and perhaps later, someone else may need to use it, for research purposes...

 

'In the middle of the Courtyard there will be camping games to enjoy. And in a tent underneath the trees you can watch performances of an award-winning musical comedy about Charles Darwin, and listen to specially-commissioned songs about the weird and wonderful world of insects.

 

'For the last few weeks, a lot of my time has been spent match-making: putting artists and scientists together for interesting conversations, in the hope that something special will result. I feel confident we've succeeded.'

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Inside every tent, caravan and campervan there'll be something special to discover. This tiny caravan above, currently being made by designer James Lewis, will hold a giant story about a blue whale.

The Campsite is the second in this year's programme of Darwin Centre art-and-play events. Whilst planning this one, Sarah and her team are already starting conversations with exciting artists about the third event – watch this space for more information.

 

The Campsite event is free to attend and runs from 27 October to 2 November.

 

Find out more about The Campsite online

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Just a short while ago, at the awards ceremony held here at the Museum, the grand title winners of the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were announced by hosts Philippa Forrester and Yann Arthus-Bertrand at a gathering of 280 guests. As acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Yann describes, the annual awards ceremony has become 'rather like the Oscars of the world of photography... an event that puts the spotlight on wildlife, showing us how beautiful and strong it can be, but also how fragile.' Both grand title winners won their individual category awards, of which there are 18 varying from single images to stories and portfolios.

nicklen-image.jpgBubble-jetting emperors (above) has made Canada’s Paul Nicklen the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Frozen-fingered, Paul took his shot of frenzied, surging Emperor penguins while immersed in Antarctica’s remote Ross Sea. The image won the Underwater Worlds category award. Select images to enlarge them.

 

The shimmering blues and bubbles framing the chaotic upward surge of a mass of Emperor penguins in Paul Nicklen’s astonishing underwater shot captivated the judges completely. The sheer energy and life force of Bubble-jetting emperors made Paul the deserving overall 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He waited submerged in the icy waters of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, to capture this scene on camera, climbing into the only likely exit hole to catch the blast of birds whooshing up to the surface to feed their chicks. No stranger to photographing polar regions, Paul is passionate about the creatures that inhabit such isolated and endangered environments.

 

Competition judge and acclaimed underwater photographer David Doubilet, said: ‘I love this image because it shows perfectly organised, infinite chaos. My eyes linger over it trying to absorb everything that’s going on here.’

hearn-kite-1000.jpgFlight paths by British teenager Owen Hearn earned him the title of 2012 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Owen’s topical and symbolic image of a perfectly poised red kite and ghostly airplane was taken in Bedfordshire. It captures two very different subjects at the right moment in exactly the right place. The image won the 11-14 Years category award.

 

In contrast, the airborne stillness of British teenager Owen Hearn’s Flight paths shows a poised and resplendent red kite mirroring a distant plane in the skies near his grandparents' farm in Bedfordshire. The judges loved the mastery and metaphor in the image and Owen has become the 2012 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Owen’s grandparents’ farm is on the site that was nearly chosen as London’s third airport back in the late 1960s. Opposition to the runway was fierce but successful and as a result wildlife is now thriving in this region. The red kite is a particular success story: at one point facing extinction, their numbers have now increased dramatically. Owen says: ‘I sent in this image as I think it’s unique.’


These 2 exceptional images and the other 98 winners taken by the 77 winning photographers can now be viewed in the online gallery on our website. And from this Friday, 19 October, you can see them all close-up as large back-lit installations in the spectacular exhibition here at the Museum.

liina-1000.jpgAnother young talent, Finnish 9-year-old Liina Heikkinen hard at work on her bird photographs - one of which, Squabbling jays, is runner-up in the 10 Years and Under category award this year.

 

And for those of you who, like me, often want to know more about the people behind the pictures, here is a great shot (above) of young Finnish photographer, Liina Heikkinen, on the job. Look out for her brilliant image of Squabbling jays which is runner-up in the 10 Years and Under category award, and one of my favourites of all the winners so far.

 

View all the winning images in the online gallery on our Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website

 

Book tickets for the exhibition opening on Friday, 19 October


Read the news story about the winners' announcement

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cocktail-long-1000.jpgAs our mighty Visitor Services team, caterers and planners swing into action for the Museum's biggest event of the year later today, and our Museum scientists make final preparations on their choice specimens, exhibits, equipment and talks for the show, I'm thinking of the things I will definitely be doing in a few hours time when I leave the office myself and visit Science Uncovered. It opens to the public at 16.00 and goes on until 23.00.

 

High on my list is, naturally, sipping The Pollinator cocktail (left) created exclusively for tonight's occasion. Its ingredients can't be revealed, but I've heard it is infused with vanilla and smells delicious, and is inspired by the pollination process... mmm nice! This concoction is available at the Cocktail bar in the Darwin Centre, and right next to the Food Station, which was a really cool place to hang out last year and have some really fruitful conversations.

 

Before heading over to the Darwin Centre, I hope to witness the volcano erupting at the Earth Station in the Earth Hall. And on my way from Earth to the Green Bar, I'll stop to listen to the Soapbox Art speakers in the Lasting Impressions gallery. I'm really intrigued about the possibility of a genetically-cloned Elvis mouse (below left) and perplexed by the prospect of women giving birth to endangered dolphins if the future need arose...

 

Both these somewhat surreal subjects and the speculative uses of scientific advancement, as seen through the eyes of budding Royal College of Art design graduates, are sure to give great food for thought. Soapbox Art is a new addition this year.

 

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'Tails' of mice at Science Uncovered tonight. Left a mouse that could be genetically-cloned from Elvis hair samples... featured in a Soabpox Art session; right a locust devouring a mouse at the Parasites/Pests Station.

On the subject of mice and pests, there will be more to explore at the Darwin Centre science stations. I definitely need to see the locust caught in the act of devouring a mouse at the Parasites/Pests Station, where I heard a rumour there might also be edible chocolate parasites. And I must remember to get some inside information at the Vets Station for a little person I know who wants to become a vetinary surgeon.

 

Another must is the roaming digital specimen table (below) where I'll have a go - if I can get a look in - at unwrapping a mummified cat and examining the core of the rare Tissint Martian meteorite. The table will be in the Earth Hall (where you can also see the Imaging Station) from 16.00 - 20.00, moving to the Earth globe just outside the Earth Hall from 20.00 - 22.00.


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And of course, I'll be drawn to weird fish, ancient skull cups, gorgeous butterflies, giant bugs, native gold, glowing minerals, amazing CT scans and much, much more along the way.

 

For anyone interested in science and in our planet's history, its solar system and its future, this is the place to be in London tonight.

 

Find out about the Science Stations and everything that's on tonight at Science Uncovered

 

Read the news story about the digital specimen table

 

Download the Science Uncovered map [PDF]

 

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Of course, if you're in Hertfordshire and close to our Museum at Tring, you can join in their amazing Science Uncovered at Tring night there too. The Edge of Extinction display and talk about birds, which is Tring's special area of research, promises to be fascinating as do some of their special bird art presentations. Pictured above is the forest owlet that has recently been making a recovery and actually 'returning from the dead'.

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Rosie Waldron, one of our Nature Live team who will be working at Science Uncovered - our fantastic night of events to celebrate science at the Museum - tells us about one of the things you shouldn't miss when you attend:

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'If you've ever dreamed of spending a night at the Museum and are coming to Scibutterfly-stamp-22.jpgence Uncovered this Friday 28 September, one of the things you must do is the Stamped on Science trail. The prize for 5 lucky people is a pair of tickets to an exclusive sleepover here.

 

'To enter all you need to do is pick up a Science Uncovered map at the Central Hall Welcome Desk when you arrive at the event, and look for the Stamped on Science trail printed on it. There are six stamps you need to collect (you can crab-200.jpgalso download a PDF of the map at the bottom of this blog post.)

 

'As you enjoy the Science Uncovered activities around the Museum, look out for Stamped on Science staff who will be handing out the stamps at six different locations acorss the Museum building as indicated on the map.

 

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'Once you have collected all six stamps you should take your completed map to

the Stamped on Science desk in the Central Hall and you will be entered into the prize draw.

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'The draw takes place at 22.00 on the evening. But in case you've left by then, once you've provided your name and phone number on the completed trail, we'll be in touch (if you win!).skull-200.jpg

 

'The five lucky people who are randomly drawn win an exclusive sleepover at the Museum for themselves and a friend which will be on 26 October 2012.

 

'The stree-200.jpgleepover event is called Science Under the Covers and includes behind-the-scenes tours with Museum scientists, a field camp experience overlooking the Central Hall and breakfast in the morning under our Diplodocus skeleton's tail...'

 

 

Science Uncovered starts at 16.00 and goes on until 23.00 - find all the details on the website

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Where can you: create your own comet with a space expert or examine a large land snail back from extinction? Get close to rare cave art statuettes and Martian meteorites outside of their glass display cases? Look a fearsome Dracula fish in the face or marvel at a giant clam? Witness a blood spatter analysis by the police? Let a scorpion sit in the palm of your hand? Examine the insides of a mummified cat on a virtual autopsy table? Get inside the colon of a cow as a virtual vet? Take a tour of the largest natural history art library in the world? Or challenge a leading scientist on the latest discoveries about climate change as you sip on a cocktail? And all during a single night.

 

At our brilliant Science Uncovered festival from 16.00 to 23.00 on Friday 28 September, you can do every one of these things and more ... and also try to win your very own private sleepover here at the Museum.

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The Space Station where vistors can make comets and see the Tissint meteorite from Mars, and the Forests Station with its butterflies, beetles and moth displays are sure to attract the crowds at Science Uncovered. Select images to enlarge.

Stephen Roberts, Science Uncovered's co-ordinator, gives us a hint of this year's highlights:

 

'We have a little under two weeks to go until the biggest evening event in the Museum's fantastic yearly calendar - Science Uncovered. This year, in keeping with the summer theme of pushing limits and new records, we will see new science, new ways to take part and new specimens coming out – all for one night only in this unique festival of science, made free thanks to the EU.

 

'On the evening of Friday 28 September, more than 350 researchers will be in our galleries as part of European Researchers’ Night that takes place across 32 countries and gives us unprecedented access to world class research and the people who make it happen.

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Meeting a Dracula fish face to face - it may be tiny but it's huge for taxonomists - at the Evolution Station, and witnessing the police analyse a blood splatter at the Forensics Station will be other popular highlights.

'In a year that has seen science stories making such a splash it is terrific to have the chance to actually meet the people involved and get your hands on some of their work. From mini-mammoth remains discoverd in underground Cretan caves to amazing Martian meteorites and a live link to CERN's Large Hadron Collider control room or the chance to live-chat with researchers in Antarctica, there has never been a better time to meet the people at the cutting edge of discovery.

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At the Antarctica Station you can step inside a real polar tent and try out expedition equipment, and in the Attenborough Studio we video-link live to the control room of CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

'As well as the science and scientists, some of the most precious specimens from our collections will be brought out for this rare occasion, and there's the opportunity to delve behind the scenes into our collections on exclusive tours.

 

'And, of course, if you would rather get your hands dirty you could help build a comet, recreate cave art or extract your own DNA, to name but a few of the more practical aspects. Not least of which for a Friday night, we have a record breaking 7 bars and, by popular demand, our delicious Restaurant will be open till late.

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Homo sapiens and Neanderthal skulls alongside cave art figurines, rarely shown to the public, will be at the Human Origins Station, along with the researchers who more than anyone can answer the questions as to who we really are...

'Our Museum at Tring is also taking part with a fantastic Science Uncovered night in Hertfordshire, with the promise of curators giving us insights into how to prepare bird skins and skeleton specimens, shows of feather painting and natural history art illustration, and the chance to meet live creatures with keepers from Amey Zoo. Local beer and barbecue-style food are on the menu too. Check our Science Uncovered at Tring pages for more information.

 

'If you have ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington or at Tring this is the night to come along and see for yourself.'

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered in London

 

Download the Science Uncovered map to see where things are and to plan your evening in London

 

See what's on at Tring's Science Uncovered

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We recently staged the first of our new art-and-play events in the Museum's Darwin Centre. This series of free public events is being held over peak holiday periods and invites visitors to explore nature and Museum science in unusual, playful ways. The events are designed especially for these times when the Museum's central areas can get crowded, and they offer families something fun and active to get involved in.

 

For those of you who missed out on the first event, or who wondered what it was all about, here's a round-up from Sarah Punshon, the curator of the Darwin Centre Arts programme.

 

'Over the August Bank holiday weekend, the Darwin Centre was taken over by children in colourful head-dresses; puppet birds, moths and caterpillars; competitive nut-hunting, nest-building and jigsaw-racing; crafting and art for our topically-themed Nature Games Weekend.

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A family joins in the nest-building activity. Artists and scientists all helped to create about 16 different activities for our Nature Games Weekend.

'Each day more than 6,000 visitors found their way into the Darwin Centre, led through other parts of the Museum, and 100s of them joined in the games and actvities. It was a wonderful event to be involved in, free to all, and we're already planning our next extravaganza for the October half-term holidays.

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Out-flapping a beetle was one of the many challenges in the weekend's Insect Sports Day.

'The nature games were specially created for us by artists and scientists. There were games which involved making things, drawing things, identifying things, or pretending to be things – plus a challenge trail linking various natural history tasks from pond-dipping to beetle-classifying.

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Joining the giant caterpillars as they travel through galleries towards the Darwin Centre.

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The massive moth flies around the Darwin Centre after hatching at the end of the Pests game.

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A crafty young man creates his own unique beetle as part of The Ersatz Entomologist activity.

'The Orange Zone's Darwin Centre showcases the Museum’s cutting-edge science, and gives families a chance to see behind the scenes. The centre's airy atrium space, its lofty Cocoon building and outdoor Courtyard make it a perfect space to host such events. We wanted to get families interacting together and it really succeeded in doing this.

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Trying your hand at identifying species: A family takes part in the Quest challenge. 112 teams completed this task over the weekend.

'It wasn't just the children who took part either, there was lots of fantastic interaction between parents and their kids. Seeing mums and dads dressed up as termites, identifying bugs and making nests, really encouraged the youngsters to get involved. It created a friendly and supportive learning atmosphere, which is what we were hoping for.

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Outside in the Darwin Centre Courtyard competitors hunt down different 'samples', using their giant magnifying glasses.

'The Nature Games Weekend was the result of a creative collaboration with award-winning games design studio, Hide&Seek. Games designers were matched with scientists to help them develop their work. For example, lichenologist Holger Thues kindly spent time explaining the ways scientists use UV light to distinguish between different species of lichen – leading to an exciting game outside in the Courtyard called UV Detectives.

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Energetic young players go for it in the Ants vs Termites game.

'I'd like to thank all the Museum staff and volunteers who worked so hard at making the event brilliant fun for visitors, and also our artists and games designers, Andy Field, Josh Hadley, Kai-Oi Jay Yung, Simon Watt, Caroline Gardiner, Matthew Robins, and all at Hide&Seek.

 

'We all learned masses from this first event, hopefully our second one will be even better!  So look out for The Campsite, which will be happening over October half-term. Watch this space for more details...'

Enjoy a few more Nature Games Weekend pictures. Select images to enlarge them

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A young player racing to piece together The Puzzle of the Mysterious Creature

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Mum and son take part in the blindfold In Spirit challenge.

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Hunting for nuts in the Squirrels game

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Actor John Hinton calls on visitors to join the Quest for the Curious

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This family 'donated' themselves to our collection... and learned about the importance of labelling specimens correctly!


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It's a week since we revealed most of the commended and specially commended photographs that will be among the 100 winning images in the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opening here at the Museum on 19 October.

 

I thought I'd share with you my pick of some of the amazing media coverage we've been getting for these incredible images, including the ones that show off the photographs - and the stories behind them - the most beautifully online:

 

BBC News online 5-minute interview with 2012 competition judge Roz Kidman-Cox with accompanying slideshow

 

Mail Online gallery of selected images

 

Guardian online preview in pictures

 

Stylist magazine online gallery

 

BBC World Service Mundo gallery

(If you speak Spanish, you'll enjoy this review even more.)

 

Two more of the 52 commended and specially commended images were released yesterday for exclusive features in the Times newspaper's Eureka magazine, one of which is this photograph of an awesome-looking green volcano.

volcano-1000-2.jpgThe great Maelifell by Hans Strand (Sweden), commended in the 2012 competition's Wildscapes category, captures the extinct Maelifell volcano that towers over Iceland's massive Myrdalsjökull Glacier. To get this aerial shot, the pilot flew much lower and closer than usual. The plane went so fast, says Hans, 'I managed only one single frame. It was like trying to shoot clay pigeons.' Select the images to enlarge them.

All the 52 commended and specially commended photographs can be viewed in our Commended slideshow preview on the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website.

 

One of my favourites already is Evening rays by Swiss photographer Claudio Gazzaroli. It makes me feel happy and I want to be wading in that glorious shallow sea under the dramatic evening sky alongside the charismatic friendly-looking stingrays.

ray-1500.jpgEvening rays by Swiss photographer Claudio Gazzaroli is one of the commended images in the competition's Underwater Worlds category. 'There were about 75 of them [southern stingrays] undulating through the shallows,' says Claudio when he got this shot. 'Balancing the light was a problem... but keeping people out of the picture proved to be more of a challenge' he recalls. Snorkellers gather regularly in the waist-deep water of North Sound off the Grand Cayman island to meet these welcoming creatures.

Visit the website to find out more about the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and the judges who selected the 100 winners from the 48,000 entries submitted this year.

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It was auspicious to read in the recent news, during the last weeks of our Scott exhibition here at the Museum, that the wreck of the SS Terra Nova ship, which transported Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team on his last Antarctic expedition, has been found off Greenland. Terra Nova was the ship that lent its name to one of the most famous of all polar expeditions and it had been lost since 1943.

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Stills of the Terra Nova on its voyage to Antarctica, taken from Herbert Ponting's astonishing film of the journey, The Great White Silence.

Captain Scott and his polar party set off from Cardiff aboard the Terra Nova in 1910 on one of the most important Antarctic science missions in history. The legendary ship brought the survivors of the expedition back in 1913 and went on to be used by Antarctic coastal traders until it sank in 1943. It was found this month off the coast of Greenland, buried under 1,000 feet of icy water on the seabed.

 

One of our exhibition videos describes the background to the Terra Nova expedition:

 

 

Making my own personal last journey into Scott’s Last Expedition in the gallery today, it was especially poignant to watch the iconic footage of the ship’s outward journey taken by the expedition’s photographer, Herbert Ponting, in the Great White Silence film clip we show at the start of the exhibition.

 

It’s quite sad to think that the 100s of exhibits, unforgettable images and films that tell the unique stories of Scott and his team in the re-created Cape Evans base camp will be sailing off finally to New Zealand after the exhibition closes this Sunday, 2 September. They have really brought this incredible exhibition to life.

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This photo by Ponting captured a rare warm moment as Captain Scott (right) and other members of the Northern party, Evans, Bowers, and Wilson supped food from mugs in a tent around a stove, before their final journey to the South Pole. (c) Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

Our exhibition here and the international 100th anniversary commemorations of Scott's Last Expedition over the last year have really made their emotive mark on many of us. I genuinely feel like Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers, Evans and the rest of the expedition team, including Ponting, have been man-hauling bravely among us over the past months.

 

I have often imagined them out in the treacherous blizzards, their meals together of seal soup and tinned asparagus, starting the day with enamel bowlfuls of hot Hunter's oatmeal (shown below), poring over penguin eggs, writing diaries and scientific notes… until the bitter end.

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If you haven’t experienced Scott’s Last Expedition, I urge you to visit before 17.00 this Sunday, 2 September. If you can't make it during the day, there may still be tickets available for tomorrow when it's open for our Friday Lates night.

 

After closing here, the exhibition goes on to open at the Canterbury Museum, New Zealand on 23 November 2012, and you can keep in touch with the work being performed by conservators on the real Cape Evans hut, which still stands today.

 

Book tickets online for Scott's Last Expedition

 

Browse the Scott's Last Expedition exhibition website

 

See the exhbibition gift range

 

Follow the work of the Antarctic Conservators in their blog

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The ruffled raven in John Mariott's Fluff-up and Steven Kovacs' freaky-faced jawfish, aptly entitled Father’s little mouthful, are two of the photographic stars that will appear in the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which opens to the public here at the Museum on 19 October.

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Today we announced tickets going on sale and now wait eagerly for September when all the commended images will be unveiled on our website. As the weeks go by, you'll see more of Mariott's portrait (left) which has been selected to be the publicity image for the exhibition.

 

Since the 2012 competition closed in February this year, the judges have spent many days and nights whittling over 48,000 international entries down to 100 winning pictures. There were photographs from 98 countries and new entries this year from Mozambique, Kazakstan, Svalbad and French Guayana.

 

As usual, the winners and runners-up from the competition are strictly embargoed until the award-winning ceremony in October, but I'm told that - unlike some previous years - all 18 categories have winners this year.

 

Father's little mouthful (below) is the only official preview image revealed now in all its gorgeous glory.

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Steven Kovacs' Father's little mouthful, one of 100 images entered into the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition which will light up the new exhbition. It shows the strange phenomenon of the male jawfish protecting its offspring in its mouth until they are ready to hatch. Select the image to enlarge it.

To get his technically challenging shot of the diligent dad jawfish, which was taken off the coast of Florida, Canadian photographer Steven Kovacs used three strobes and home-made snoots - tubes that control the direction and radius of light. He recalls:

 

'What struck me about this particular jawfish when I first encountered it was how docile and unafraid it was of my presence. Most jawfish will retreat into their burrows when approached closely, but this particular fish did not seem concerned and did not move at all even when I came very close.

 

'I had been recently experimenting with snoots placed over my strobes to create different lighting effects on my subjects so when I realized how cooperative this subject was I immediately knew it had potential...This jawfish allowed for ample time to work with different strobe positions at very close quarters.

 

'It always provides a great sense of satisfaction when all the elements come together in a technically difficult photograph. To create something different and beautiful is why I photograph. It has been a dream of mine for years to win a place in this competition.'


As judge Soichi Hayashi says of Kovacs' portrait: 'This image has a strong sense of mystery. Epecially impressive is the delicate and elaborate lighting, which gives it a ghastly power.'

 

We look forward to many more weird and wonderful wildlife apparitions when the exhibition opens on 19 October.

 

Visit the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition website

 

Book tickets for the 2012 exhibition

 

Join the wildlife photography community online

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Our Wildlife Garden is the beesness

Posted by Rose Jul 26, 2012

'What bees hate is the three Ws,' says Luke Dixon, our garden's beehive manager. 'That's the Wet, Wind and Wintry weather!' ... 'Oh dear', I think to myself as I catch up with him on a recent visit to the Museum's Wildlife Garden.

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There are about 40,000 bees living in each of the Museum's Wildlife Garden hives. Select photos to enlarge.

'It's been a poor year across Britain for the bee populations because of the summer rains,' Luke continues, 'but, our bees in the Wildlife Garden have been doing fantastically so far.'

 

I discover that each of our two bee hives near the garden shed (n.b. in the private bit of the garden) is currently home to about 30,000 to 40,000 bees. I'm not sure how they manage to count them, mind! And the Bee Tree by the meadow is bursting with about 50,000 to 60,000 this summer.

 

You can watch what our most industrious garden inhabitants are up to right now on our live beecam.

 

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Inspecting the Museum's hives

 

'Here in the Wildlife Garden, it's sheltered and because of our different habitats, there is a lot for the bees to forage on,' explains Luke. I can see exactly what he means. As Caroline, the garden's manager, leads me up the path to investigate the Bee Tree we pass a mass of pretty wild flowers in the meadow and later I notice the flourishing heather on the heathland.

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Irresistable wild flowers in the Wildlife Garden's meadows, one of the thriving habitats we cultivate.

The Bee Tree is certainly buzzing and full to almost bursting point with honey combs. It also appears that something has been trying to get into the honey treasure trove - sawdust on the bark's back door is a bit of a give-away. Caroline suspects a woodpecker.

 

For those who remember the 2010 Wildlife Garden honey, the news is they may collect honey from the bees in October, but it depends. 'We want to leave the bees some to eat in the winter months' says Luke, so we'll have to see.

 

Bee-Swarm-kevin-s-garden-1000.jpgThis amazing photo (left), taken by our Museum photograher, shows bees swarming in his garden. They sometimes do this in late Spring and, for the first time in the eight years that we've kept them, the bees of the Museum's hives did so in the Wildlife Garden last week! I asked Qais Zacharia, who also looks after the Museum's hives, why this occurs:

 

'This is slightly unusual for this late in the year, but could be due to the poor start to the summer. Swarms form when the colony becomes overcrowded; the queen leaves and approximately one third of the bees from the colony follow her in search of a new home. The remaining bees stay behind to rear a new, replacement queen.

 

'During the swarm tens of thousands of honeybees can take to the air and, despite appearances and terrible B-movies, they are not agressive (their principal focus is finding a new home). After leaving the old colony, the swarm will typically congregate on a nearby branch while scouts search for a suitable place to form their new colony, a process that can take as long as a few days.

 

'Experienced beekeepers are able to capture the swarm at this point - assuming it is within reach - by shaking the bees into a "nucleus box" before moving them into a new hive. However, we didn't manage to do this last week as the swarms were too high up in the trees and they must have made a new home elsewhere, which could be anywhere from somewhere close by to several miles away.

 

 

'At the old colony, the new queen will hatch after about a week and will venture out to mate with drones from colonies nearby before returning to lay eggs. A good sign that a queen has successfully mated is pollen being taken into the hive but, if mating wasn't successful, the colony will dwindle and eventually die off. This can be prevented in kept hives by swapping in a specially bred and mated queen for the unsuccessful original.'

 

If you're visiting the Museum in summer, drop into the Wildlife Garden. And look out for a 'living' bee sculpture by artist Tomàš Libertíny outside the Museum between 28 July and 5 August as part of the Exhibition Road Show.

 

Watch now on our live beecam

 

Enjoy our Wildlife in summer website

 

Find out about visiting the Wildlife Garden

 

Browse the Wildlife Garden highlights slideshow

 

Discover the habitats in the garden

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On Saturday 23 June it's Exhibition Road Music Day. This popular and free cultural music festival returns to our local South Kensington museums and institutes with a big open stage in Kensington Gardens.

 

Here at the Natural History Museum most of our daytime events focus in or around the Central Hall and Restaurant with original English folk and jazz music from the likes of Martin Ledner and accordionist Stephen Best (below right). The voices of the English National Opera community choir (below) will resound around the Central Hall from about 15.00. Check our Music Day event schedule.

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There are two other special events worth a mention: An early afternoon Sound & Space performance over at the V&A and later on in the evening in our Darwin Centre atrium, we  host the UK premiere of prize-winning author DBC Pierre’s Live and Roar: Axolotl Odyssey. Live and Roar is a free event but requires advance booking. It has already attracted media attention, so check our website to see if tickets are still avaiilable.

 

DBC Pierre’s reading, set to music, is inspired by the curious axolotl and its significance for our times. The musicians accompanying Pierre's reading include Andy Mellon (trumpet player with Bellowhead) and Ben Nicholls (double-bass player with Seth Lakeman). They were inspired in their composition by a visit to the axolotls at London Zoo.

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Author of Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre, reads 'in the voice of a parent axolotl' at our Music Day evening event on Saturday. The Mexican axolotl is sometimes kept as an exotic pet and is now on the endangered list.

In today's Guardian Pierre writes: 'The axolotl is a symbol of so much we're about to hit upon – certainly worth setting music to... they have something we badly, badly want. They can regrow themselves. Science wants to know how....The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a type of salamander that never metamorphoses. It might seem strange... but to spend this Saturday at London's Natural History Museum, setting their strangeness and our strangeness and their hope and our hope to music, with marimbas and trumpets and lights … just seems like a signature we should do.'

 

The other special highlight is a talk and performance at the Sound & Space event featuring the art and science behind a new musical sculpture that has just gone on show. This event is in the early afternoon (14.00) over in the V&A Museum on Music Day. It's part of the three-day Supersonix Conference coinciding with Music Day. However, conference events are not free to attend, you'll need to visit their website to book tickets.

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Mira Calix at the launch of her musical sculpture Nothing is Set in Stone. The sound artist talks and performs on Saturday at the V&A, with a panel featuring our scientist Chris Jones. The stone sculpture is now open to the public at Fairlop Waters, Redbridge. All sculpture photos © Sebastian Kite

The Sound & Space presentation includes talks and performance by experimental composer Mira Calix who is joined by our Museum scientist Chris Jones. Chris and fellow Museum mineralogist Anton Kearsley both collaborated with the artist on her recent Nothing is Set in Stone musical sculpture to find a way of pushing sound through rock  – something usually difficult to achieve.

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Nothing is Set in Stone on show in Redbridge's nature reserve. As you get close to the gneiss stones you'll hear fragments of Mira Calix's ephemeral composition.

The experimental composer used striped rock known as angel stone (or gneiss) to create her sculptural installation. Nothing is Set in Stone was unveiled today, 21 June, at Fairlop Waters in Redbridge on the outskirts of London. As the listener approaches the sculpture, he or she hears fragments of the musical score in waves, passing through the solid rock. Researchers from the Museum's imaging and analysis laboratory helped the artist investigate the sound system needed for the installation..

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Left: Testing the sound system inside Mira's sculpture. Right: Museum mineralogists Chris Jones (right) and Anton Kearsley helped advise on how to 'push the sound through the stones'.

Sonic crystals, inhuman sound, the science of speaking, labyrinthitis, nano scales, and demonic sonic fictions are just some of the intriguing subjects to be featured at the Supersonix Conference celebration of the art and science of sound. Also look out for the Talk like the Animals? presentation with animal sound expert Karen McComb and ornithologist/bird call expert Geoff Sample on Friday 22 June at 10.00 to 11.30 in the Goethe Institute.

 

All the events at Exhibition Road Music Day are freeTickets are required for the Supersonix Conference events.

 

Find out what's on at Exhibition Road Music Day here and visit the official Music Day website for all the day's events on Exhibition Road

 

Read DBC Pierre's Mexican marvels article in the Guardian

 

Browse the Supersonix Conference programme of events

 

Discover Mira Calix and her music on her website and her Nothing is Set in Stone project

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The sun shone, the worms were charmed, bugs counted, trees trailed, and ponds dipped while visitors were led a merry dance through the Museum and outdoor gardens by the Insect Parade for Big Nature Day last Sunday. Over 5,000 people came. It was a resounding success.

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Hundreds of excited children made bug hats and got their faces painted at the workshops in the Darwin Centre atrium to join the Insect Parade (above and below). The parade was led by the insect band on stilts who were dressed as a giant ladybird, earwig, leaf insect and beetle. They took the procession twice around the Museum, through the Central Hall under Dippy's tail, back into the Darwin Centre and out into the Courtyard for a final song.

 

The event was also abuzz with about 50 nature groups who had amazing displays in the indoor and outdoor marquees. Friends of the Earth had people dressing up as bees to raise awareness of the decline of bumblebees. The National Trust brought their shepherd’s caravan and did bark rubbing and a poplular log run challenge. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers showed visitors how to make bird boxes and bug hotels to encourage wildlife into their gardens.

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Among the crowd you could often spot members of several Cub Scout packs who joined in the pond dipping and bug counting activities to earn their Cub Naturalist Activity badges.

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Read the news story about Big Nature Day and the Cub Scout resources

 

Enjoy some more highlights in pictures. Select images to enlarge them

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Insect carnival revelry

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The Friends of the Earth stand where you could dress up as a bee

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Getting a painted face

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Admiring bugs

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Leaf shaking for insects in the Wildlife Garden

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Worm charming in the Wildlife Garden

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Pond dipping

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Strumming ladybird

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Insect Carnival on the move

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Darwin Centre atrium workshops

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The peaceful shepherd's hut

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Our Big Nature Day on 27 May is a special kind of celebration and a brilliant day out for anyone who's interested in the natural world, whatever their age. It is the largest free event of its kind in the UK, and this year we've invited more than 50 nature groups from across the country to join us.

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Get bug-faced and hatted for the Insect Parades led by the insect band performing on stilts at our nature festival. Select images to enlarge them

One of the big excitements on Sunday is sure to be the Insect Parade led by the colourful insect band from the Museum's Darwin Centre atrium. In the morning and at lunchtime, children can drop into workshops with the street theatre company Emergeny Exit Arts to make bug-themed hats and then follow the parades - scheduled for 13.00 and 15.30 - through the Museum wearing their creations. Face painters are at hand to help kids look their buggy best.

 

Like last year, there will be marquees on the Courtyard and this is where you'll find most of the visiting nature group displays. 'It's really exciting to welcome so many voluntary nature groups across the country to the Museum - what a fantastic chance for our visitors to meet so many wildlife experts in one place,' says Lucy Carter from the OPAL citizen science project. Popular stands are bound to be The London Wildlife Trust's stag beetles and the Bat Conservation Trust's where they will be investigating bat poo!

 

Worm charming sessions take place under the Courtyard trees and several nature talks will be held in the Museum's Attenborough Studio. A Busy Bee Puppet Show workshop will entertain the little ones in the morning.

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Out in the Wildlife Garden you can get into pond-dipping, bug hunting, ladybird counting, leaf and nettle trailing, and more. We're interested in recording the species found in our garden, so scientists and volunteers will be around to help with finds and identification advice. We'll also be welcoming a group of cub scouts to the garden who are trying out their brand new Cub Scout Naturalist Activity Badge resource (the badge is pictured below).

 

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Over on the West Lawn, look out for the Bee aware display in the marquee and the National Trust's 'shepherd's hut'.

 

And remember, this is the national Be Nice to Nettles Week, so mind where you tread.

 

Big Nature Day celebrates the UN International Day of Biological Diversity and OPAL's nature activities and citizen science projects.

 

More details about Big Nature Day.

 

Find out which nature groups will be at Big Nature Day

 

 

 

Enjoy the video clip below of last year's Big Nature Day

 

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