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Want to create your own earthquake? Extract some DNA from a strawberry, or try your hand at replicating Archaeopteryx feathers?


Our Nature Live team have been very busy coordinating many of the activities and displays for tonight. They guide us through some of the things you should not miss at our annual festival, celebrating European Researchers' Night. As usual, there's an energising, entertaining and enlightening mix of things to see and do and bars to socialise in. And the event is absolutely free.

 

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Visitors admiring the giant jaws on show at last year's Science Uncovered paleontology science station. Select images to enlarge.

 

With over 350 scientists filling the Museum galleries to talk about their work, Science Uncovered on 26 September is your chance to meet researchers and hear about the latest discoveries first-hand. It's an evening filled with wonder, sure to amaze and inspire all who attend.

 

To help visitors this year, we've split the event's activities and displays into three themed areas around the Museum. So you can explore Origins and Evolution in the Red Zone, Biodiversity in the Green and Blue Zones, and Sustainability in the Orange Zone. In each of the zones, you can have a drink with scientists to chat more about these themes and any related questions.

 

Origins and Evolution in the Red Zone

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Get the heads-up on early human habits and try some cave art in the Museum's Red Zone. Science Uncovered opens to the public from 15.00 on Friday 26 September.

 

In the Earth Hall galleries of the Red Zone, you can join Museum scientists to uncover hidden secrets of our ancestry. Learn about prehistoric life and have a go at cave painting. Assess the evidence and come to your own conclusion about whether ancient humans were cannibals. Learn how ice is used to tell us what life was like on early Earth. Mingle with the mammoths and discover how extinction has shaped life on Earth.

 

Star attractions: Boxgrove tibia and Archaeopteryx. Cave painting. Try replicating some Archaeopteryx feathers yourself!

Events in the Flett Theatre: 19.00 Professor Alice Robert's lecture on evolution. 20.30 Famelab sessions.

 

Biodiversity in the Green and Blue Zone

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Get close to extraordinary specimens at the Corals station, a sneak preview of what's to come in our Coral Reefs exhibition opening next year.

 

In the Biodiversity Zone we're focusing on life in our forests and oceans, and also right on our doorsteps. Investigate rare corals and shells and discover what they tell us about our oceans - get a taste of what's to come in next year's Coral Reefs exhibition. Meet our butterfly curator Blanca Huertas and several beetle scientists who've braved wild terrains in pursuit of rare species and see their collections. Get your own specimens identified at the UK Biodiversity station. Scuttle up to the Hintze Hall balconies to help digitise our extensive beetle collection.

 

Star attractions: See huge and rare corals from our forthcoming exhibition. Extract DNA from strawberries and bananas. Play your part in digitising our collection by labelling a beetle image (Crowdsourcing the Collection station).

Event highlights: Join Nature Games between 18.00-22.00. Drop in to Soapbox Scientist rants between 18.00-22.00. Britain exhibition opens late, but book tickets to avoid disappointment.

 

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Play your part: Extract DNA from a strawberry at the Forests station. Help digitise our beetle collection with our app, find out what to do at the Crowdsourcing the Collection station located in the central Hintze Hall balconies.

 

 

Sustainability in the Orange Zone

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One of the most beautiful exhibits at Science Uncovered, and not to be overlooked, is the intricate microfossil tree on display at the Climate Change station in the Sustainability Zone.


The Climate Change station is bound to be a focal point of this zone, highlighting the latest scientific thinking and research on this important subject. But insects make a big appearance too, from their role in food and forensics to the importance of pest and parasite research. And head to this zone for the Attenborough Studio talks, Spirit Collection Tours and the Wildlife Garden.

 

Star attractions: Create your own earthquake (British Geological Survey station). Seven metre-long tape worm (Parasites and Pests station). Exquisite microfossil tree created by Chinese scientist Zheng Shouyi from foraminiferal models (Climate Change station). Sip a scientifically inspired concoction (Cocktail Bar).

Event highlights: The Wildlife Garden - open until 21.00. Sampling Space talk in the Attenborough Studio at 19.00, with a live link to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston. Crime Scene Insects talk in the Attenborough Studio at 20.00.

 

 

This is, of course, a tiny taste of what to expect on the night. For the bigger picture, grab a map when you arrive or download it below or on our website. And don't forget to do the fun Stamped on Science trail, with the chance to win a year's Museum membership, and most importantly earn yourself (or the kids) a free LOLLIPOP!

 

 

Join the conversation with @NHM_London and the hashtag #SU2014.

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We say farewell to our summer beauties this weekend on Sunday evening when the Sensational Butterflies outdoor exhibition closes for another year. This has been the sixth Museum butterfly exhibition and once again it's been a sensational hit with visitors.

 

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'What's great this year,' says Luke Brown, our butterfly house manager, 'is that in addition to our usual summer tourists, we've seen an increase in returning visitors.

 

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'Butterfly numbers have been higher than ever throughout the run of the exhibition and and we've spotted as many as 1,000 butterflies in one day. The diversity of species has been really rich too. The house can accommodate more than 1,000 happily, but that's a good limit for our nectar supplies.'

 

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Darting through the hothouse one last time today - and it is hot inside, be warned - there seem to be many of the bigger species fluttering around and, in particular, different swallowtails (above). And I don't think I've seen such a gathering of owl butterflies on the feeding table (below).

 

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One of the highlights we'll all remember about this summer's exhibition were the pictures of HRH Prince George's first birthday taken at Sensational Butterflies - the Duchess of Cambridge is our Patron of course. And we hope he'll be back again for his second and many more.

 

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On Sunday evening, the butterfly house team of staff and volunteers will work until sundown and then from first light on Monday to pack up all the inhabitants, who then wing their way over to Longleat in Wiltshire. Their next hothouse, in fact, used to belong to the Museum and was taken over by Longleat in 2008.

 

Luke flies off to Malta and after that Kuwait for more international butterfly projects and he'll be back next spring when our 2015 butterflies exhibition is due to open again.

 

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Mammoth exodus

Posted by Rose Sep 5, 2014

They are leaving. We have until Sunday evening to enjoy the Mammoths:Ice Age Giants exhibition here in the Museum's Waterhouse Gallery.

 

It has felt good having these enigmatic creatures and their friends and relatives with us over the summer and a privilege to showcase baby Lyuba. Many thousands of visitors have loved stepping into their world, if only for a brief while, to learn about their lives and legacy. And the exhibition has far exceeded our expectations.

lyuba-face-1500.jpgBaby face: Little Lyuba, the world's most complete mammoth, returns to northern Siberia next week after the Mammoths exhibition closes here on Sunday 7 September.

 

After the gallery doors shut on Sunday, the exhibition will be dismantled and most of it makes it way to Cleveland, USA, where it opens next.

 

The precious Lyuba specimen, however, flies back to the Shemanovsky Museum in Salekhard, Russia. But not before our mammoth experts Adrian Lister and Tori Herridge sneak a closer scientific look on Monday, when she's out of her display case. Adrian will also grab the chance to examine the massive Columbian mammoth skull specimen (below) before it goes.

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This enormous Columbian mammoth's skull and tusks were dug up in 1960 in Wyoming. Our mammoth expert Adrian Lister will take a closer look before it leaves us.

 

Enjoy a few last exhibition highlights in these pictures.

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Neverending tusks: After Sunday most of the specimens and models will be packed up in 11 enormous shipping containers to sail away to Cleveland, USA, where the exhibition opens next.
mammoth-man-tall.jpgLost in mammoth space... The exhibition has been a hit with kids and adults alike.
mammoths-cat-1500.jpgChildren rush voraciously to touch the big ice age models in the exhibition and be photographed with the iconic beasts (but bear in mind Lyuba can't be touched or photographed as she is the real thing and too fragile).

 

Accompanying the exhibition this summer have been the entertaining Mammoths workshops, which continue to run through the autumn.

mammoths-workshop-kids-1500.jpgMore interactive fun continues at our drop-in Hands on Mammoths workshops through the autumn.

 

You can find out more about why mammoths disappeared in our Last of the Mammoths video on YouTube. And there are amazing exhibits lurking in our permanent Mammals gallery, including London's Ilford mammoth.

 

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A luminous Portuguese man o' war has floated onto our horizon to light up the last days of summer and herald the countdown to October's big reveal of all 100 winning images in the 50th Willdlife Photographer of the Year competition. Tickets for the 2014 exhibition have also just gone on sale.

 

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Sailing by: Matthew Smith. Finalist in the Invertebrates category. Photographing at dawn's high tide in New South Wales, Matt used fibre-optic snoots to pinpoint the light and bring out the luminosity and beauty of an often unappreciated creature. Despite wearing a wet suit, he didn't avoid getting stung. Select images to enlarge.

 

The enigmatic shot (above) of a Portuguese man o' war, taken by Matthew Smith at sunrise in the strong winds and coastal waters off Australia's New South Wales, is one of the 100 fnalists chosen from almost 42,000 entries and will be the face of the WPY 2014 exhibition. Soon its presence will be felt in many London underground stations, around the Museum, and beyond to announce the opening of the exhibition here on 24 October.

 

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Snake eyes: Marc Montes. Finalist in the 11-14 Years category. Marc took this skilful shot while trekking in a forest near his home in northern Spain. To snatch the portrait of the quick-moving three-foot snake, he used a wide aperture for a narrow depth of field.

 

A large Spanish grass snake's staring eyes, a Daubenton's bat snuggled in an abandoned German WWII bunker in Poland - taking a breath just once every 90 minutes - and a crowd of migrating cranes in a Rajasthan village are among several other wildlife wonders revealed now from the first finalists announced.

 

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Lukasz Bozycki: Winter hang-out. Finalist in the Mammals category. Lukasz spent a week in an abandoned German WWII bunker in northern Poland photographing hibernating Daubenton's bats. He captured the frozen eeriness here with a cool-white balance camera setting and a flashlight on one bat on the ceiling.

 

This year of course is special for WPY. We celebrate the 50th competition, we launched our first ever People's Choice Award (which has received tens of thousands of votes to date), the exhibition will run a lot longer (all the way to next August), there are some great exclusive events coming up with big names in the photography world, and we have new categories to enjoy. I'm particularly intrigued to see the winning entries in the new mobile and timelapse awards.

 

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The elegant crowd: Jasper Doest. Finalist in the Black and White category. Captivated by cranes and their migratory behaviour, Jasper took this on the roof of a friend's house in the village of Khichan in Rajasthan, where the demoiselle cranes flocked to feed. In black and white, the size and dynamics of the flock are emphasised.

 

We must wait now until October to discover who will be the 100 finalists and the overall winner of the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Only the panel of judges (below), who came to their decision in May following a rigorous selection process, already know all.judges-345.jpg

 

Watch this space and feel the tension mount. The overall winner and all the finalists will be announced at the prestigious awards ceremony held on the evening of 21 October.

 

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It’s hard to imagine the scene below in Trafalgar Square, the way it may have looked 125,000 years ago.

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Lion’s share of Trafalgar Square: this artist's impression captures what London's famous attraction may have looked like 125,000 years ago. Select images to enlarge.

 

And strange to visualise real lions, not stone ones, observing unsuspecting elephants and hippos grazing on the grassy banks of the River Thames. This unrecognisable landscape depicted above shows the river banks reaching as far east as Trafalgar Square, where cave lions, straight-tusked elephants, hippos and Stephanorhinus once roamed.

 

Large animals played a big part in London's past and there are surprising fossilised specimens to explore in our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition.

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Trafalgar Square today: The scene echoes the same lion’s lookout of the earlier picture, but it's a very different landscape. Below: a wilder picture of what's to come this weekend at the Square's Big Dance Live festival.

 

Fast forwarding to this weekend, much wilder scenes are predicted in the Square on Saturday, 12 July. The unsuspecting stone lions may be joined by as many as 5.3 million people grooving along to the sounds of London’s Big Dance Live festival (a previous event is pictured below).

 

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Big Dance Live celebrations planned in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, 12 July.
© Foundation for Community Dance and the Greater London Authority

 

As recently as the 1950s, building work in Trafalgar Square unearthed evidence of London's wild past when a hippopotamus canine was found, dating back 125,000 years ago. It's displayed with other specimens and objects in our Britain exhibition against a huge pictorial backdrop of Trafalgar Square.

canine-hippo-1500.jpgTrafalgar Square tooth: This hippo canine was excavated in the 1950s - on show in our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition with other animal fossils from London.

 

The fossil evidence - much of which emerged in the late 19th century when major excavations took place in the city - shows that at different times, as far back as 400,000 years ago, animals such as hippos, mammoths, wild cats, bears, wolves, horses and elephants wandered freely throughout the area that London now occupies. All perfectly adapted to the changing conditions in the ice ages.

 

Hippopotamus and elephant remains beneath Trafalgar Square, woolly mammoth fossils down The Strand, woolly rhinoceros remnants under Battersea Power Station and reindeer fossils at South Kensingon Station: these are some of the significant London fossil finds our scientists are researching now.

 

Important discoveries like these will be highlighted at a special Day of Archaeology tomorrow, Friday, 11 July, which also marks the start of the two-week-long Archaeology Festival 2014. Museum human origin experts and palaeontologists including Professor Chris Stringer will join others around the country blogging on the day. Lots of festival events are planned for all ages throughout the week.

 

July events at the Museum feature a special Lates discussion with Chris Stringer and other speakers: tickets for Britain and Beyond also include entry to our Britain exhibition so get yours now.

 

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For the first time in the illustrious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition's history, we're all invited to join a public vote for a winner in the new People's Choice Award. The new award category presents 50 incredible photographs, revealed for the first time and selected by the judges from the 41,000 international entries submitted in the 50th WPY competition across all its subject categories.

 

Among the fifty shades and shapes of wildlife wonder depicted you'll find beauty, magic, mischief, drama, savagery, technical brilliance and heaps of artistic talent. The People's Choice collection is now being showcased in the WPY community's online gallery.  All you need to do is enjoy the photos and select the one that moves you the most, then vote.

 

You can only vote once though, but after you vote, if you tweet your favourite using the hashtag #MyWPY, you'll be entered into the People's Choice Award prize draw and could win a lavish edition of the 50 Years Of Wildlife Photographer Of The Year: How Wildlife Photography Became Art book (which will also be available to purchase later in the year). Voting closes on 5 September.

 

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Great peacock moth caterpillar by young British photographer Leela Channer: one of the fifty images you can vote for in the new WPY People's Choice Award. Select the image to enlarge.

 

From today we'll also be posting one of the fifty photographs each day, every weekday on our WPY Facebook page, so watch that space to see how others are reacting to each entry.

 

The overall winner of the People's Choice Award will be annnounced in October alongside the 100 award winning images chosen by the judges and the winning image, plus the four runners-up, in the People's Choice Award vote will be presented on our website.

 

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Tom Ang, one of the judges in this year's 50th competition

 

Tom Ang, member of the 2014 judging panel, says:

 

 

'If you’ve ever puzzled over why one image wins out over another, this is your chance to have your say. But with so many outstanding shots and just one vote per person, the pressure is on to cast it wisely.'

 

As you are about to find out, this isn't always easy!

 

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Bee happy in the Wildlife Garden

Posted by Rose Jun 13, 2014

Our Wildlife Garden has been a hive of activity in recent weeks, entertaining visitors at pond life sessions and family events like Nettle Weekend, not to mention the arrival of summer all around. And there's more fun and sun promised for this weekend when we join in London's Open Garden Squares Weekend on 14 and 15 June.

 

It's an annual event and this year we'll be focusing on bumblebee conservation and welcome guest artist Jessica Albarn who will be drawing bees. Don't miss a peek inside the garden's oak bee tree to see what the honey bees are up to.

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Feel the buzz of the Museum Wildlife Garden and its bee tree at our Open Garden Squares event this weekend.

Learning how to build a green roof and decorate a flower pot are other attractions. And there will be delicious refreshments to hand and interaction for all ages.

 

Wildlife Garden ecologist Larissa Cooper, who is coordinating the event, says:

 

“Staff and volunteers have been busy preparting for the weekend.The plants are being cared for ready for visitors to plant in their own pot and take home, gazebos are going up (for the shade not to keep us dry hopefully!) and some of us are baking some yummy treats for you to enjoy!

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Watch artist Jessica Albarn at work drawing bees and meet bee conservationists. Select images to enlarge.

'We are delighted to have artist Jessica Albarn coming along to draw bees and raise awareness of the work of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Jessica’s intricate work of tiny creatures is something else and this will be an event not to be missed.'

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Learn how to build your own green roof. Spot the species on tree hunts, pond walks, nature trails and more.

Our Open Garden Squares Weekend runs from 10.00 to 4.30 each day of the weekend and is free to attend.

 

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Like dinosaurs, mammoths have attained mythical status in our mindsets. Their lumbering-trunk-appeal is bound to herd in young and old visitors over the coming months to our latest exhibition, which is now open just in time for the half-term school holiday.

 

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The most mammoth of all the different mammoth species, the Colombian, is sure to wow young and old.

 

Like a kid, after my first peek into the Mammoths: Ice Age Giants exhibition, I confess I'm still awed by the ginormousness of the exhibits and specimens. None of the early images I've seen in the lead-up truly convey the sheer size of these beasts and their characteristic body parts. This is a physical experience you need to go through yourself, to feel their presence and grasp their world.

 

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Meet the early proboscideans - the first section of the exhibition is a touch-filled experience.

 

What's suprising too are all the different shapes and sizes that mammoths and their relatives come in. The spectacular show of proboscidean heads - showing the earlier predecessors of mammoths and elephants and the development of their trunks - makes a spectacular entrance.

 

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The 42,000 year old remains of Lyuba, the baby woolly mammoth, are on display outside Russia and Asia for the very first time.

 

And of course, standing close to the enigmatic baby woolly mammoth, Lyuba, surrounded by displays that tell her story, is a unique thrill... As is turning a corner on your exhibition journey and coming face to face with a fearsome sabre-toothed cat and giant short-nosed bear (the biggest bear ever), two top predators of mammoths during the Ice Age.

 

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The biggest bear ever and the fearsome sabre-toothed cat were large enough to take on mammoths.

 

Along with the big encounters, there are many little pleasures for small hands. Try and lift a mechanical trunk, pick up a heavy hay bale and do a spot of tusk jousting. It's not as easy as you think being a 5 metre tall mammoth.

 

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How easy is it to control a long proboscis? Find out with these mechanical mimics.

 

There are many amazing specimens and fossils to linger beside, ranging from woolly mammoth fur, mammoth molars and poo... to the imposing American mastodon skeleton and the stunning African Savannah elephant skull towards the end of the exhibition.

 

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An imposing American mastodon skeleton.

 

Elephants are the modern relatives of mammoths and the exhibition also examines this connection and their plight in the modern world.

 

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An African elephant skull demonstrates the similarities between them and their mammoth relatives.

 

Look out for the skulls and specimens of other Ice Age animals that lived at the time of mammoths. My favourite is this pronghorn antelope skull and there's even a tiny cotton-tail rabbit skull that provides a stark contrast to the giants surrounding you.

 

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The pronghorn antelope skull from one of the many animals that co-existed with the mammoths.

 

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Museum mammoths expert, Adrian Lister, and exhibition project manager, Becca Jones, celebrate the opening at our VIP event.

 

Mammoths: Ice Age Giants is opent at the Museum until 7 September 2014. As The Times said of the exhibition: '...this is a family show to trumpet about.'

 

 

This exhibition was created by The Field Museum, Chicago.

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Mammoths move in

Posted by Rose May 13, 2014

'Getting such enormous exhibits into the Museum last week was probably one of the most challenging load-ins we've had, for any exhibition,' says project manager, Becca Jones. 'Simply because of their sheer size and weight!'

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Mighty mammoths, mastodons and ice-age giants make their way into the Waterhouse Gallery for the opening of our BIG summer exhibition on 23 May.

 

The excitement is mounting as the installation of our summer blockbuster exhibition strides into its final weeks. Mammoths: Ice Age Giants was created by the Field Museum in Chicago and, following its earlier run in Edinburgh, will open here at the Museum on 23 May. Our photographer caught some of the installation on camera, enjoy the pictures.

 

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'Crates containing the exhibits and sets were brought into the building through the Central Hall's front doors. We erected scaffolding and fork lift trucks and pallet trucks helped manoeuvre them inside. We had to lay down plywood pathways to protect the floors because of the weight.

 

'It's been great having Field Museum staff work alongside us to bring in the exhibits and help us with the installation. Lots of late nights! We have also added some really fantastic specimens from our own collections too.

 

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'Everything is just so massive. The sets too. But we're working fast now and I'm really pleased how well it's taking shape.

 

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'This week we will rig up the lighting designs and we're all looking forward to welcoming and installing Lyuba, the Siberian baby mammoth, who's arriving from Russia. It's incredible to have the real Lyuba in the exhibition and to showcase her UK debut.

 

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The world's longest tusk, just over 5 metres, was recently photographed with our own Museum mammoths expert, Adrian Lister, and the Field Museum's Dan Fisher at the International Conference on Mammoths in Greece. It belongs to the early mastodon, Mammut borsoni, and was discovered in 2007 at the Milia site in northern Greece. Image Matthew Scarborough.

 

The Museum's mammoths expert Adrian Lister has played an important part in our own interpretation and adaptation of this exhibition. Although we won't have the world's longest tusk in it, pictured above, we can guarantee a show of jaw-dropping proportions. Watch this space for more news.

 

Mammoths: Ice Age Giants was created by the Field Museum in Chicago.

 

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Last night, Radio 4's Robin Ince kicked off this year's Lyme Regis Fossil Festival to the sound of scientific laughter. The festival, now in its 9th year, runs from 2-4 May over the bank holiday. Today is for schools, with all the public events happening on Saturday and Sunday.

 

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From fossil collecting to stone carving and rock pooling, the May bank holiday festival is awash with beachcombing fun for fossil fans, young and old.

 

As usual, a team of Museum scientists and learning educators will be showing off amazing specimens and answering fossil enquiries. Many are already there on the beach welcoming hoardes of schoolchildren. Others are busy stuffing rare objects (carefully) into their cars in readiness for the Jurassic adventures ahead. Can't make it to Lyme? Here at the Museum we'll be following our scientists there live in our free daily Fossil hunters talks.

 

Lil Stevens, plant fossils expert at the Museum, joins our festival possé for the first time.

 

'This year we will be bringing anthropologist Margaret Clegg to talk about ancient humans and our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhbiition. And palaeontologists Pip Brewer and Jerry Hooker will showcase some very ancient mammals.

 

'You can sieve for sharks teeth with fish curator Emma Bernard and expert David Ward. If you can find them you can take them home with you! They will also show you how to use shark jaws and teeth to estimate the body size of some of the largest sharks ever to have lived.

 

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Sifting for sharks teeth at the Natural History Museum display in the Grand Marquee's Fossil Fair.

 

'Zoe Hughes, our cephalopod and brachiopod curator and I will be explaining how palaeontologists reconstruct fossils to work out how the animals looked when they were alive. Test your palaeo-skills with our drawing challenge! Palaeontologists Martin Munt and Noel Morris are Lyme veterans and will be on hand to answer all your most technical paleontological questions - so you'd better think of some.

 

'Those mysterious Museum mineralogists are planning a sparkling surprise so come down to the beach and see some very special pebbles...'

 

The weather forecast is erratic for the weekend, so dress for both sun and rain if you're going but, as always at this popular family event, there will be tonnes to see and do outdoors and inside the grand marquee and other venues.

 

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Horace, the Pliosaur (l) with the cinematic walk-in belly returns by popular demand.
Homo heidelbegensis (r) is new on the scene, arriving with our palaeontogolists and on show with their other ancient human exhibits.

 

Citizen science is this year's Fossil Festival theme and special treats include the return of Horace the Travelling Pliosaur, the Dinosaur Runway and MarineLife's whale and dolphin research ... as well as our own fantastic displays and fossil identification services of course.

 

The festival is free to attend, but some of the events are ticketed.

 

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School's out, British summer time has arrived, butterflies are released and the call of the dinosaurs booms loud. If you're coming to visit over the Easter holidays here are some tips to make your trip an even happier one.

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Sensational Butterflies opened last week with the release of hundreds of tropical butterflies into the polytunnel hothouse on the Museum's front lawn. Select images to enlarge.

1. Butterfly rush

Our Sensational Butterflies outdoor exhibition is always a hit with kids and adults alike. Pick up an identification chart to see which species you can spot and follow the activity stamp trail. Look out for the hatchery and feeding table. Dress for the tropics though, it's very humid inside because that's the way the butterflies like it! There's a buggy park outside.

2. Queue busting

There will be queues to get into the Museum in the school holidays, especially if it's raining. Arrive early, for opening time, or later in the afternoon, to avoid the longer waiting times. Britain exhibition ticketholders can use the Exhibition Road fast-track entrance. Inside you may also have to queue to get into the Dinosaurs gallery. To avoid the dino queue, book your free timed visit in advance online. Keep an eye on queuing times via @NHM_Visiting.

 

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Nature-inspired arts and crafts in the Investigate Centre and Crafty Coral Fun workshops.

3. Hands-on activities

We have heaps of free activities for all ages. Try our new Crafty Coral workshop or head to the popular Investigate centre in the basement, which has specimens you can touch, microscopes and more. The Earth Hall's Restless Surface gallery has lots of touch displays for busy hands and the Cocoon includes fun interactives and games. Keep an eye on what's on for kids at Easter for the latest.

3. Refreshments and toilets

In addition to the main eating areas, the smaller cafes in the Darwin Centre and  Central Hall are usually less busy. Bring your own refreshments and take advantage of our basement picnic area. If it's sunny, sit outside and enjoy the front lawn or Darwin Centre Courtyard. The front lawn also has a refreshments kiosk with tables and chairs, but bear in mind there are no outdoor toilets.

5. Cool and quiet spaces

The corridor near the Dinosaurs and Mammals galleries can get crowded. Walk on to the Darwin Centre for the reflective Images of Nature gallery. It has a new Women artists exhibition and the amazing Inside Explorer Table which lets you examine micro-scans of a beefly and angler fish. Further on into the Darwin Centre, the Cocoon offers a lofty experience, with the elegant Courtyard and lovely Wildlife Garden beyond.

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Eggs in the Birds gallery. Ned the Neanderthal in our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition.

6. Talking eggs and chocolate

Easter wouldn't be Easter without eggs and chocolate. Don't miss the Bird gallery's display of eggs and nests - the elephant bird egg is enormous - and the free talks with our experts about where chocolate comes from and why eggs, prehistoric and present, are so eggs-traordinary.

 

3. Meet ancient Britons

Our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition opened in February to rave reviews amid news of the discovery of ancient human footprints on the Norfolk coast, dating back 800,000 years. Along with two incredibly lifelike models of a Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, this exhibition has surprising insights into our ancient ancestors, with rare archaelogical finds to marvel at. More suitable for adults and older children.

8. Gallery sensations

In January we opened Volcanoes and Earthquakes (formerly The Power Within) and this dramatic gallery is a must-see, not least because of the earthquake simulator. Hang on to little ones when the shaking in the earthquake room starts! The beautiful Treasures Cadogan Gallery, located in the upper mezannine of the Central Hall, contains 22 of our most treasured objects, including Guy the gorilla.

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Earthquake room in the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery. Tower of London Barbary lion skull in Treasures.

9. Tours and maps

Pick up the handheld Multimedia guide at the Central Hall's information desk. It doesn't cost much and will give you a great touchscreen tour of the Museum. Explorer backpacks are available at the Central Hall information desk with topic-related activity trails for under sevens. And the behind-the-scenes Spirit Collection Tour of our tank room is best for those who want something more weird and wonderful. Museum maps are available at both entrances.

10. Keep informed

Plan your visit - the Museum is a big place with much to discover. Check our website for what's on and refer to the useful Parent's Survival Guide and floor plans. Links below.

 

Happy holidays.

 

Useful links

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Wildlife Garden springs into action

Posted by Rose Mar 27, 2014

See what's bursting into life and who's out and about in the Museum's Wildlife Garden in our spring photo gallery below. Everyone who works behind the scenes in the Wildlife Garden team, including some very shaggy helpers, is busy getting the meadows, pathways, ponds, sheds and greenhouses ready for the garden's opening to the public once more, from 1 April.

 

It's also the time of year that the garden and its different habitats require special attention with all the new life in abundance. Frogs have been getting matey and mallards have been checking out the pond's moorhen island.

 

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The Museum's Wildlife Garden opens its gates to the public once again from 1 April with its first public event, Spring Widllife, on 5 April to herald the start of the Easter holidays.

 

The garden will be the focus of lots of fun and nature-filled activities, planned through the coming spring, summer and autumn seasons. And as usual we'll be hosting regular, free monthly weekend events starting with Spring Wildlife on Saturday 5 April.

 

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Pretty red crab apple blossom caught on camera a couple of weeks ago.

 

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Glowing cowslips appearing in the meadows.

 

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Our Greyface Dartmoor sheep, who usually visit from the Wetland Centre in the autumn, have been staying for a few days to graze down the meadow grass. It's the last chance to do this before wild flowers start coming up. By nipping the spring grass in the bud there will be more light for the flowers to come through.

 

mallards-bird-island-1500.jpgMallard visitors exploring the moorhen island lookout on the pond.

 

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Frogspawn was spotted in the garden's pond around 17 March.

 

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Wood anemones have recently come into flower.

 

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Violets on the hedge banks.

 

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Sweet-smelling gorse bushes in the early morning spring sunshine.

 

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White blackthorn blossom perks up the pathways.

 

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Behind the scenes in the garden's greenhouse, staff and volunteers have been preparing seedlings.

 

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The latest green roof in the garden atop the sheep shed was created last autumn. The sloping roof is planted with stonecrops and plants such as thrift, sea campion and sea lavender. More about green roofs coming later in the season.

 

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Alfred Russel Wallace the collector stands watch in front of the Wildlife Garden. His statue was unveiled here last November to commemorate his centenary.

 

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This weekend will no doubt be a busy one for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in our Waterhouse Gallery. The exhibition closes here at the Museum on Sunday 23 March. However, it's at the later time of 20.00 GMT as we've extended opening for the last day (last admissions are at 19.15 so you have time to view the exhibition).

 

On Saturday, the exhibition also stays open a little later until 19.15, so book your tickets now if you don't want to miss out. On both evenings, you can also dip into tapas at the bar in the Deli Cafe between 17.30 until 19.30. Check out the exhibition page for more details.

 

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Light path by Charlie Hamilton James, runner-up in the Behaviour: Birds award category, WPY 2013 competition. Select images to enlarge.

 

Making one last tour of the gallery this morning, I noticed the tiny details in this vivid shot of a kingfisher taken by Charlie Hamilton James in Gloucestershire. The focus may be the motion blur of the bird's dazzling feathers, but look closer and you'll spot a tiny fish in its beak and another attentive kingfisher far away in the distance (the other parent). That's the joy of seeing these unforgettable photographs close up and so beautifully lit in the gallery.

 

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The magical kokerbooms by Ugle Fuertas Sanz, commended in the Botanical Realms category, WPY 2013 competition.

 

Stars twinkling over kokerbooms on one enchanted night in Namibia is another one - the image comes alive when you stand in front of it. You're beamed into that dream sunsetting scene.

 

To come across a family of endangered Amur leopards in Russia's Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve is a rare and extraordinary sight. Valeriy Maleev's composition of the staring leopards caught in the act among the deer carnage, and blending into the pale jagged rocks, has incredible impact close up.

 

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Survivors by Valeriy Maleev, runner-up in the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species, WPY 2013 competition.

 

The exhibition of these 100 award-winning images is already on its UK tour, so even though it closes in London this weekend, it will open in Edinburgh and Cardiff shortly with more venues to follow. The 50th competition winners will go on show in the Waterhouse Gallery later in the year in October.

 

If you've entered the 50th competition, check out the jury who have now started their selection process, with the final judging rounds due in April.

 

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From newly-discovered species to common wildlife, a new free exhbiition showing the work of women artists over four centuries, opens at the Museum in the Images of Nature gallery. These women painted for pleasure, to generate income, and as Museum employees or scientists. The exhibition's unveiling on 8 March marks International Women's Day.

 

Today there are probably just as many women natural history artists as men, and they particularly dominate the contemporary botanical art scene. But in the past their contributions went largely unnoticed.

 

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This watercolour of owls, possibly spotted owlets, is by Olivia Tonge, c1908-1913, the daughter of an explorer who filled her sketchbooks with illustrations of flora and fauna on their travels. On show in the Women artists exhibition in the Images of Nature gallery.

 

'Women artists deserve to be celebrated in their own right, and this exhibiton seeks to do so. Even when they drew for pleasure, these women understood the importance of depicting their subjects with scientific accuracy. This has given us an incredibly rich collecton of artwork that is still used by contemprary scientists,' says Fiona Cole-Hamilton, Museum interpretation developer for the exhbition.

 

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Left: Mandarin duck by Sarah Stone, watercolour on paper c1788. Stone depicted specimens unknown to science and her works are important scientific records. Right: fried egg jellyfish, barrel jellyfish and moon jellyfish by G W Dalby, watercolour on board c1960.

 

More than 60 female illustrators are featured in the exhibition, from different periods, backgrounds and social classes. Are there any differences in subject or style between the male and the female visions of nature, I wonder? Some of the illustrations I've had a sneak peek at are executed with such intense pattern-like finesse.

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Various British seaweeds by Barbara Nicholson, watercolour on board c1970-1977. The image portrays the UK's ecology and biodiversity of the time. About 650 species of seaweed live in British waters.

 

Andrea Hart, Special Collections Librarian, who helped create the exhibition and the accompanying book, gives some background:

 

'Many of the artworks that we hold in the Museum collections by men were carried out on voyages of discovery or for scientific purposes and so to some extent there is quite a set way of drawing these. The Dutch floral painters were very similar in style regardless of their sex. So no, I don’t actually I think there is a visible difference (not with our Museum artworks) to say that they were completed by a male or female.

 

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Heathland by Barbara Nicholson (1906-1978). Watercolour on board c1970-1977. On show in the gallery's second rotation.

 

'It's also to do with what is required from the artist. Barbara Nicholson’s Heathland, pictured above, is beautifully intricate. But it was specifically commissioned by the Museum to show different types of ecosystems and habitats and not to focus on an individual subject like with most of the other artworks held.

 

'I'd say it's true that women did find it harder to achieve success or get their work recognised in the scientific arena especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. But others chose to work in obscurity or just draw for their own pleasure.

 

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Horse fly, c1906, by Grace Edwards. Watercolour and ink on paper. Edwards' work is part of the Museum library's collection of more than 100 illustrations of blood-sucking flies.

 

'My favourite is probably Grace Edwards' blood-sucking fly, which will be in a forthcoming rotation. Her watercolour has surprising detail and for such a small, but pain-inducing subject! We have more than 100 illustrations of African and oriental blood-sucking flies which Grace drew with immaculate precision on card no larger than 7 x 9 centimetres. I'm looking forward to the challenge of mounting 16 of them to go into the gallery for the fourth and final rotation to show in early 2015.'

 

The exhibition of women artists has four rotations in the Images of Nature gallery. The current pieces are displayed until the end of June when they will be replaced by new illustrations. Over the next 12 months the gallery will showcase more than 60 female illustrators. You can gain more insights into this collection in the accompanying book.

 

The Images of Nature gallery is located in the Blue Zone off Dinosaur Way.

 

Find out about the Women artists exhibition in Images of Nature

 

See more images from the first rotation in our highlights slideshow

 

Women Artists book

 

International Women's Day official website

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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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