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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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This week we heard the exciting news that last year's summer exhibition, Sexual Nature, has won the Museum + Heritage 2012 Award for best Temporary or Touring Exhibition. The team who conceived, produced and curated the exhibition were at the Awards Ceremony to celebrate. Among them was Mike Sarna, the Museum's Head of Exhibition Interpretation:

 

'Like everything the Natural History Museum does, the Sexual Nature exhibition helped to enthuse more people about the natural world. We are thrilled that the exhibition has been recognised for its excellence and we hope to build on that in the future with more eye-opening, thought-provoking exhibitions.

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Museum staff celebrate Sexual Nature's award for best Temporary Exhibition at the prestigious Museums + Heritage 2012 Awards ceremony at Earls Court on Wednesday 16 May.

'Over 100 specimens from the Museum’s scientific research collections provided the main basis for the displays. Cases were filled with colourful birds for attracting, antlers for battling and my favourite "love darts” that certain snails shoot at each other as a sort of foreplay. Film was also key to bringing these specimens to life and demonstrating their sexual behaviours. Watching the many birds of paradise dance and manipulate their feathers for females was so fascinating to watch.

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'We also included Isabella Rossellini’s humorous short Green Porno films. Of course museums are known for interactivity and I was delighted to see how many visitors smelt Jaguar spray, though those visitors might not be delighted with me.

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'But the exhibition was also about us - very special sexual animals. The exhibition concluded with a reflective interactive section about human sexual diversity. These displays were in effect curated by you through our Facebook page where we asked people provocative questions about what true love and sex meant to them.

 

'Sexual Nature’s prime objective was to attract new audiences to the Museum. With the exhibition we asked visitors to leave their pre-conceptions at the door and aimed to shift perceptions by delivering engaging science on a core Natural History Museum subject, evolution. We tackled evolution through one of its most important drivers, sexual selection, in a way that was fun, humorous and informative. The Museum is all about transformation and the exhibition was a wonderful catalyst for wider discussion, including our public programmes. The topic was one of our most retweeted topics, so we know you loved talking about it too.

 

'The Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence celebrate best practice within museums, galleries and heritage visitor attractions and attract hundreds of entries from across the sector. Categories range from best permanent exhibition to innovation. The judges cited our amazing interpretation, our reaching out to new audiences and the bravery of the Museum to tackle a challenging topic. We are thrilled at its success and look forward to it's tour around the globe. If you missed the exhibition you might want to go to Paris in October for the opening of its international tour.'

 

The Temporary or Touring Exhibition Award category was hotly contended and we were up against strong competition including Derby Museums & Art Gallery's Down the Back of the Sofa, the Museum of London's Dickens and London and the National Army Museum's War Horse.

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Read the news story about Sexual Nature opening in February 2011

 

Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence 2012

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What intriguing finds will the team of Natural History Museum scientists be asked to identify at this year's Lyme Regis Fossil Festival over May bank holiday weekend, 4 - 6 May? I asked the team of palaeontologists who are today getting ready to go (we have a regular presence at this popular annual event).

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Lyme Regis Fossil Festival 2012 highlights: the parade and lots of Natural History Museum displays and activities.

'It's mainly the Dorset ammonites that I am expecting to see,' our vertebrates curator Lorna Steel told me. 'But people do bring in all sorts of things from all sorts of places. The last time I went, someone handed me a badger skull... and someone else had a load of ichthyosaur bones that their granddad had found in a pile of rubble while working as a builder - they'd kept them in their loft for decades!'

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Over the next few days our scientists will be setting up their stalls in the festival's Grand Marquee fossil fair (below left) ready to meet the public and talk to them about fossil collecting.

 

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As well as hoping to discover Lower Jurassic ammonites or ichthyosaur fossil specimens, the Museum palaeontologists will be inviting festival-goers to assemble and take apart a Baryonyx skull replica and sift sand from Kent for shark teeth. There are other Museum offerings too, including gold panning, a dino dig activity led by some of our Learning Department, and talks about meteorites, whale carcass communities and corals.

 

A presentation of The What on Earth? Wallbook of Natural History timeline will be a fun attraction this year, with specimen highlights from our scientists. This Museum book is a unique guide to the history of life on Earth.

 

The Fossil Festival is just as much about music and arts as it is about fossil collecting and rockpool rambling on the beaches, where Mary Anning once walked. Have a look at the official fossil festival website programme to choose from activities as diverse as the Travelling Pliosaur Cinema, stonebalancing and carving, and a fossil time machine.

 

The theme for the 2012 Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is Discovering Earth. The event organisers are emphasising  how vital fossil collecting is today, particularly for climate change research:

 

'Paleoclimatologists studying both fossil finds and the coast itself learn new things about not only the ancient seas and the creatures that swam there, but also the way our oceans and marine life might respond in future as our climate changes. This evidence of how past life forms reacted to changing temperatures and conditions in the past helps to tell us what we might need to be prepared for.'

 

There are still important fossils and rocks being discovered on this historic Jurassic coastline - most recently a large pliosaur skull and a new species of crocodile.

 

If you can't make it to Dorset over the bank holiday weekend and are visiting the Museum, drop in to our talks with live-video-links to the Museum team at the festival. Fossil hunters: Live from Lyme Regis is on Saturday (12.30 and 14.30) and Seashore Search: live from Lyme Regis beach is on Sunday (12.30 and 14.30). Some of our scientists at the festival will also be posting live in our new Palaeontology news blog.

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The Museum has several huge ichthyosaurs on show in its Fossil Marine Reptiles gallery. One is the largest and most complete of its kind and was discovered by the 19th-century fossil-hunter Mary Anning in Lyme Regis.

Undoubtedly, we have amazing fossils in our galleries from the tiniest to the gigantic. I'd recommend Fossil Marine Reptiles, Fossils from Britain and the Red Zone's Earth Lab where you can use resources to help identify your own British rocks and fossils.

 

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival website

 

Paleontology department news

 

More fossil information

 

Find out more about fantastic fossils and ammonites on our Kids only website

Get some tips on fossil hunting

Discover all about fossils online

Watch the Baryonyx video and follow the story of this unusual British dinosaur

Explore dinosaurs and other extinct aquatic animals like ichtyhosaurs

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Will there be more than a billion acts of green on Earth Day this Sunday 22 April?  The international Earth Day Network (EDN) - the organisation behind this world celebration - certainly hopes so, but what will your act be to help them reach their target? Over the past four months, we've been discussing the big issues of our planet's sustainability at our Earth Debates here at the Museum and it seems fitting to actually do something practical and personal to mark the end of these events.

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Plant a tree or shrub, sow some seeds, make a compost heap and get that water butt out there... it's Earth Day this Sunday.

The EDN suggests some very simple things you can do on the day: recycle all your rubbish, plant a tree or sow some seeds, make a compost heap, install a water butt for rainwater harvesting, or walk instead of drive your car.

 

But because of the hosepipe ban in the south and southeast of England, I'd suggest you plant a hardy shrub, cactus or some lavender for the bees rather than a thirsty tree.

 

This Earth Day comes at the end of the week that Thames Water has been giving out drought warning leaflets with free shower-timers - I got mine at Paddington - so it's a good time to get more determined about their water-saving tips. The recommended time for a shower is 4 minutes. If we make it a brief blast, then we could save 10 litres of water per minute, they say.

 

And best to fix those leaking taps and toilets - a dripping tap can waste more than 60 litres of water per week and, at 2,800 litres per week, a leaking loo can be much, much worse. Choosing to only flush the loo when you really need to and turning off the tap while you're washing up or brushing your teeth really helps to save water too.

 

Of course it's deeply ironic, or just a consequence of being British, that the week the drought warning leaflets are being distributed is when we've been having heavy rain and thunder storms here in London. Every time I've ventured out of the office this week to grab a late lunch I've been deluged! However, will a week of downpours repair the damage caused in the UK by the driest two years since records began? Unlikely, so we should all be happy for the April showers to continue for more days yet.

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Witness the wonder of water and its cycle of life at the spectacular audio-visual quadrosphere installation in the Museum's Ecology gallery.

If you're visting the Museum at the weekend or sometime soon, I'd recommend a trip round the Ecology gallery. Stop awhile at the gigantic water cycle quadrosphere - it's really impressive. And, come rain or shine, take a stroll in our thriving Wildlife Garden (below) to immerse yourselves in its earthy, watery wonders. Remind yourself of the preciousness of our wild resources.

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See what Earth Day 2012 is all about and what's on for Earth Day UK

 

Find out about more about Thames Waters' drought information


Browse the Ecology gallery highlights and discover the water table quadrosphere.

 

Discover the Museum's Wildlife Garden and see some simple,  practical steps you can take to reduce your environmental impact

 

Find out more about our Earth Debates and watch them online.

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While many of us here in the UK feast our eyes on an appetising array of food and cookery TV shows and our stomachs on pre-prepared foods, and as our kids are tempted by ever-more cunningly-named cereals from Kraves to Choc'n'Roll, it's hard to reconcile ourselves to the hard facts of food production and sustainability. Probably because we want this basic ingredient of life to remain a sensory object of our desires rather than an everyday concern.

 

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By 2050, to feed the estimated world population of 9 billion, we'll need an annual production of around 3 billion tonnes of cereal and 200 million tonnes of meat. Image © Ellen Goff

 

But for nearly 1 billion people - one in seven - there simply isn't this luxury as they do not have enough to eat each day. And many more suffer from malnutrition, despite the fact that every human being has a right to adequate food. (I sometimes wonder why some clever bod hasn't come up with a way to recycle and preserve unused food that's chucked out daily from our households, restaurants and workplaces, and which could be supplied somehow to hunger hotspots. Here in the UK we throw away an astonishing 7.2 million tonnes of consumable food and drink each year - enough to fill 4,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools!)

 

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that by 2050 we will need to increase agricultural production by 70 per cent to meet the food demands of a suggested 9.1 billion population (one that is about 34 per cent higher than that of today). But will there be enough land, water and genetic biodiversity to meet the demands?

 

The FAO also estimates that only about a dozen species of animals provide 90 per cent of animal protein we consume globally, and only four crop species give us half the plant-based colonies in our human diet. Conversely, the gene pool in plant and animal resources and natural ecosystems, which breeders need, is known to be diminishing. In the future we may be encouraged to be more vegetarian or reconsider genetically modified foods such as in vitro meat on our menu. Our breeders and farmers may be asked for alternatives to single crops and to re-evaluate the benefits of industrial as opposed to family farmng. As more people move to the cities, there may need to be more institutionalised plans in place for rural agriculture.

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Is there enough water for the crops of the future? Will the need for staple grain crops decline in an increasingly industrialised world?  These and other key concerns of food security and production will be  discussed tonight in our fourth Earth Debate at the Museum.

And how will factors like a much larger urban population and the associated rise in supermarket culture, climate change and biofuels impact on our food security? In what ways can we balance the uneven distribution of resources and the over-nutrition of developed, more industrialised societies with the malnutrition of poorer communities? How much of the problem is one of production rather than managing wastage and taking over more land? And what of population growth checks?

 

These paradoxes of food and our future food security are the subject tonight of our fourth and final Earth Debate to be webcast and hosted in the Museum's Attenborough Studio and we need your thoughts on the subject too. Stakeholders Forum for a sustainable future will feed - scuse the pun - the discussions on to the big Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June.

 

On the panel are Sue Dibb, Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council, Barry Gardiner, MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity, John Ingram, Food Security Leader at the Natural Environment Research Council and Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Insititute for Environment and Development. The BBC's Richard Black will be chairing and, as with the previous debates, an invited audience and submissions via #earthdebates on Twitter will lead the questions to the panel.

 

Watch the Food security: how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050 debate live online at 19.00 BST tonight. If you can't tune into the webcast, we'll also be live-tweeting from @NHM_Live starting at approximately 18.50 or you can follow #earthdebates.

 

See the other debates online

 

Find out more about our Earth Debates

 

Read the Food and Agriculture Organisation's food security report


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After a week of busy media and VIP events, our Animal Inside Out exhibition bared all to the public for its Easter opening yesterday on Good Friday.

 

The exhibition, which is adapted from Gunther von Hagens' famous Body Worlds plastinated shows, is set to flex its momentous muscles and open hearts throughout the coming summer months. As well as being an illuminating anatomical journey, it really is something to behold. At times the exhibits appear more like artworks than plastinated animals with exposed inner organs. The gallery has been beautifully designed and lit. There's no doubt it will be big success.

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Actress Miranda Richardson contemplates the enormous 4-tonne, plastinated elephant at our recent Animal Inside Out celebrity event.

Among the VIPs who attended the exhibition's recent celebrity launch were Miranda Richardson, Bill Wyman, Celia Sawyer, Will Self, and John Humphrys. Enjoy some of the photos from the night and some of the other stars of the show.

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Musician Bill Wyman looks into the eyes of the goat

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Four Rooms dealer Celia Sawyer gets interior design tips from the plastinated cuttlefish

For the launch events, Dr Angelina Whalley from the Insitute for Plastination and co-founder of Body Worlds was at hand to answer questions. I asked her if there was an animal they hadn't yet plastinated but would like to. She told me: 'It's Gunther's dream to plastinate a blue whale. But the elephant was such an enormous challenge, and so costly, I am not wishing for that to come true too quickly'.will-self-horse-head-1000.jpg

Writer Will Self looks a stripped horse head in the mouth.. the horse's head is cut into three sections to show it's inner workings.

The exhibition focuses on six different internal anatomical systems: the muscular, blood, skeletal, digestive, nervous, and reproductive. From tiny chicks to towering giraffes, it features nearly 100 plastinated animals.

 

If you are considering visiting with children, have a look at the exhibition website and highlghts slideshow to see what's inside.

 

Buy tickets for Animal Inside Out

 

Find out more about the exhibition and plastination

 

Read the news story about the exhibition and the plastination of the elephant

More celebrity photos at Animal Inside Out's launch event. Select images to enlarge them

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Actress Olivia Grant
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Presenter John Humphrys

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Fashion designer Pam Hogg

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Journalist Kate Adie

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Actor Rafe Spall

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Presenter Evan Davis
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Presenter Dallas Campbell
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The Central Hall's famous Diplodocus skeleton has a new furry friend this week. A bactrian camel with two humps and three heads - well actually it's one head in three sections - which stands proudly displaying its inner anatomy in front of the grand staircase and Charles Darwin's statue.

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The plastinated camel in the Museum's Central Hall gives us a peek into Animal Inside Out, opening for Easter.

This unmissable plastinated specimen is one of the spectacular creatures from our next big exhibition, Animal Inside Out, which opens its doors to the public on Good Friday, 6 April. The camel points the way to the Waterhouse Gallery where the exhibition is currently being installed. We've adapted Gunther von Hagens' Animal BodyWorlds and this is the first time the show will be seen in the UK.

 

I asked Paul Gallagher who is managing the installation of Animal Inside Out how things were behind the scenes:

 

'The exhibition arrived on Saturday 24 March, in six large truck loads from Germany. For this particular unload we had to build an extra sturdy scaffold platform at the front of the Museum capable of withstanding loads up to three tonnes. We also had to use thicker protective wooden boards throughout the unload route into the Museum. And then we laid heavy strong steel plates to help bridge the changing floor levels between the Central Hall mosaic tiles and the fossil gallery wooden floor.

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'Some of the larger exhibits such as the shark and the gorilla had to be unpacked outside and brought in piece-by-piece as they were too big to go through the doors.

 

'The bull arrived wrapped in very tight black plastic which looked really surreal in the fading night light as we fork-lifted it onto the platform. Luckily for us, the huge elephant came in several smaller sections in flight cases on wheels which all fitted through all our doorways easily!

 

'Walking around the exhibition space, it's clear that the larger creatures will undoubtedly be the stars of the show for their sheer scale and dominance in the gallery. The huge charging bull seemingly frozen in time as a centrepiece really demonstrates the real power and presence of this animal. I wouldn't wave a red flag here. But there are plenty of smaller specimens in the glass showcases that will excite visitors.

 

'Another really exciting aspect of this show is the newly-designed graphic panels that we’ve produced here in-house by our own resident designer. He has created a stunning series of really dynamic yet elegant sketches using all sorts of animals in various poses that really complement the exhibit descriptions. These really enhance the 3D objects on display. They are so good that I hear some will feature on our merchandise range in the exhibition's shop. So I know I’ll be getting a T shirt!

 

giraffe-installation.jpg'The camel plastinate which has just been unveiled in the Central Hall is an attractor for the exhibition. Luckily this is on wheels so even though it weighs over 1 tonne it can be moved quite easily for the many functions that take place there in the evenings unless of course our clients are happy to invite it to their event.

 

''Having shown a few people round the gallery already, the first thing most say is: ‘these aren’t real animals though are they?’ So it’s really great when you tell them that ‘oh yes, they are real. Their faces change dramatically as they can’t believe it. Then they usually say ‘WOW. How amazing it’s unbelievable’’. So I hope all our visitors will feel the same way too.'

 

Watch this space for more animal insides news next week.

 

Find out more about Animal Inside Out on our exhibition website.

 

Buy tickets for the exhibition

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In memoriam. Captain Robert Falcon Scott, 6 June 1868 to 29 March 1912.

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Portrait of Scott by expedition photographer Herbert Ponting, and Memorial cross image below, courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. Select images to enlarge them.

 

Today marks the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's last diary entry on 29 March 1912. It is thought to be the day Scott died.

 

Scott's last words from his famous diary read: 'We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think that I can write any more.'

 

Inside our Scott exhibition, the final exhibits showing the iconic cairn cross adorned with Scott's last messages home, next to the belongings found in the tent where his frozen body and those of Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson were discovered, are among the most haunting in the gallery.

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Scott is assumed to be the last to perish of the five-strong Polar party. It's likely he died on 29 March 1912 in the tent where he, Bowers and Wilson sheltered from the unrelenting blizzards, their food provisions gone. A depot containing enough supplies to get them back to base camp was just 11 miles away. The legendary cairn cross photo (above) was taken by the search party who found the tent and the frozen bodies 8 months later on 12 November 1912.  In tribute they made a great cairn of ice over the tent and bodies and fashioned a cross from skis. A sledge was thrust into a smaller cairn nearby.

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Next to the huge cairn cross display in the exhibition, you'll see some of the belongings retrieved from the tent where Scott, Bowers and Wilson were found. A theodolite, Wilson's sledging diary, the green satchell in which Scott kept his diary, and Scott's own silk embroidered British flag inscribed with the words 'Ready, Aye, Ready' are among them. Near these exhibits, there's the chance to turn the pages and read extracts from Scott's virtual diary, and listen to them too.

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Some months after the search party found Scott, an official Memorial cross was erected at Observation Hill on Ross Island, Antarctica, where it still stands today (left).

 

The Memorial cross bears the names of the five men who were lost, Capt R. F. Scott, Dr E. A. Wilson, Capt. L. E. C. Oates, Lt H. H. Bowers, and Petty Officer E. Evans, and words from Tennyson's Ulysses poem:

 

'To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield'.

 

Today, members of the Museum's staff attended the moving Scott commemorative ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral where 2,000 people gathered from all over the world.

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Outside St Paul's earlier today, a Museum spokesman said: 'It's remarkable to see how Scott's legacy influences us still, 100 years on. It was simply extraordinary to be there.'

Earlier in the week, we welcomed special guests from the British Services Antarctic Expedition team to our Scott exhibition to see rocks and fossils collected by Scott's team which are kept in our collections.

 

As well as the personal stories and everyday objects that played a part in this epic Polar journey, you'll also discover some of the many scientific specimens including geological samples that were found with the last three perished. Come and visit. Scott's Last Expedition is also open late every last Friday of the month.

 

Find out more about Scott's Last Expedition exhbition online

 

Read the news story about the British Services Antarctic Expedition team visiting the Museum and recreating Scott's last birthday meal in the Terra Nova base camp hut

 

Keep in touch with Antarctic research now - follow the Antarctic Conservation blog

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The Museum played a poignant part in a heart-warming story last week when we invited the Greene family in early on Friday morning for an exclusive, early-morning skate through the Central Hall and Dinosaur Way on their Heelys, fulfilling one of their late mum's wishes.

 

The Greenes' skate through the Museum was filmed and featured on ITV's This Morning show as a follow-up to Mother's Day and an earlier interview with them about their incredible family struggles and mum's moving memoir. You can watch it on the video clip below.

 

 

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The Greene family's skating adventure here was one of the things on their 'mum's list'...

 

In 2010, at  the age of 38, Kate Greene discovered that she had terminal breast cancer. Before passing away, she made a list of  things that she had wanted to do and that her husband and their two young sons should do after she'd gone. The wish list of over 100 things has become immortalised in the bestselling book Mum's List, (right) written by her husband, Singe.

 

Two years on from her death, achieving some of the things on their mum's wish list has helped the family to remember and celebrate their beloved Kate. Along with their recent Heelys skate here, they've already snorkelled through the corals of Egypt's Dead Sea, visited Lapland and are still buying orange Club biscuits every time they go down the shops - Kate's favourite!

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The Museum was delighted to welcome all the Greene family (dad Singe, sons Finn, left and Reef right pictured above) to skate in the Central Hall and Dinosaur Way last week for the ITV's This Morning film feature and to be part of the Mum's List story. Select images to enlarge them.

Dad Singe says of their visit:

 

'It was very emotional for us to tick off one of the items on Kate's List on Friday. The museum was so lovely and made us all feel really welcome. Finn preferred going up and down the corridors rather than around the dinosaur as the floor was smoother! To have that opportunity to not only tick something off the list, but in such style at the Natural History Museum in London was completely phenomenal. I can't thank the Natural History Museum and This Morning enough for making that happen. I've been smiling ever since.'

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We wish the Greene family the very best of luck in achieving lots more on their mum's list in the future.

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How green is your alley?

Posted by Rose Mar 12, 2012

Along the streets and alleyways of our future eco-cities there will be borders of wild flowers buzzing with bees and butterflies. Swifts and bats will fly freely again to and from the eaves of public buildings and tower blocks. Glimpses of solar panels, wind turbines and roof gardens, reflected in self-cleaning windows, will frame the high horizon. It will take under 7minutes to walk to your nearest public transport, recycling centre and local farmer's market. A tree-lined park, river or lake will be just as close.

 

Does it sound romantic and as far away as the Emerald City seemed to Dorothy when she first set foot in Oz? Such improvements to the sustainability, biodiversity and natural quality of urban life are already part of the greening plans for many cities around the world. And for good reason. It's the first time in history we face a situation where half of the world's population is located in urban spaces rather than rural areas. Planning the future of our cities will make or break a green economy.

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Above: Green roofs are starting to pop up all over London. Enough of them could cut down flooding risks, help cool the city, and reduce health hazards in the anticipated hot summers that climate change may bring. And make more space for nature.

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In places like Curitiba, capital of Brazil's Parana State, and Sweden, to name a couple, there have been big successes in cutting pollution, fuel consumption and waste through innovative city planning. There are also more ambitious schemes for completely new developments such as Masdar City near Abu Dhabi. Masdar is being hailed as the world's first zero carbon city and a showcase for sustainable living.

 

And what of Britain's most energy-efficient cities? Are they doing as well as they should? Here in London, there has been much talk of the Green Olympics with sustainability embedded firmly in Olympic planning from the outset. Pictured right is the area around east London's Olympic Park site which is being transformed in line with sustainability guidelines.

 

The costs and benefits of making our cities and urban housing greener and the promise of the greenest-ever Olympics will no doubt be among the hot topics on the agenda of this week's Earth Debate taking place here at the Museum. Olympics sustainability head, David Stubbs, joins the panel of key speakers to discuss Green cities in a green economy.

 

Green cities in a green economy - how to pioneer a sustainable transition? is on Wednesday 14 March from 19.00 to 20.00 GMT in the Attenborough  Studio. Like the last two it folllows a Question Time format with an invited studio audience and four panellists.

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Watch the Green cities debate live on our website or join us on our online community to have your say before, during and after the event. On the night, you can contribute questions or comments using #earthdebates on Twitter.

 

This is our third Earth Debate, organised jointly with our Earth Debates partner, the Stakeholder Forum for a sustainable future, in the lead-up to the UN's Earth summit in June, Rio+20.

 

Find out more about the Earth Debates and watch the previous debates on video


Join in the UK's Climate Week activities

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On Sunday 11 March at around 5:50 GMT, the Waterhouse Gallery doors at the Museum will close on the current Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. This year's showcase of winning photos - the 48th one since we set up the competition - has been a huge hit, as ever with this popular show. It was nominated three times during its run as Time Out's Critic's Choice.

 

Over the last few weeks, the exhibition shop has been busier than ever ringing up sales of the 2011 exhibition Portfolio book, calendars, retro cameras, fridge magnets and, of course, the beautiful prints to remind us of this year's winning photographs. It's no surprise that the print that most people wanted to own was of this little cutie, who lives high up in China's Qinling Mountains (where many of us may never travel to in our lifetimes). The Tiny warm-up photo was the runner-up in the 2011 Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species.

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Tiny warm-up by Cyril Ruoso captured the vulnerability of China's endangered golden snub-monkeys. The youngster was one of a band of about 70 monkeys living high up in China's Qinling Mountains, surviving on lichen, leaves, bark and buds. This particular subspecies probably numbers no more than about 4,000. The image was the favourite from this year's exhibition print range.

One of the vital things about this exhibition is that in the latest and best photographs of life, and sometimes death, on our planet, we get closer to creatures and corners of our natural world we wouldn't otherwise know about. And in the stories behind the photos and of the individuals who took them, we learn about important things affecting our environment. The overall 2011 Veolia Enivronnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner, Daniel Beltra, is testament to that with his unforgettable Still life in oil image of rescued pelicans from Louisiana's catastrophic oil slick.

 

Whizzing through the gallery one last time - I always wish I could linger more - I realise again how brilliant it is to see these pictures close up and how the back-lit installations bring out all the details, colours and contours so intensely. Working on the exhibition's website as I do, these are things that I sometimes miss.

 

I've got lots of favourites from this year. Here are a couple that will haunt me after my last exhibition visit.

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Fading beauty by David Maitland (above) is incredibly deceptive. It looks like a painting, but the stylishly-shot mass of poppies was photographed on David's local car-park embankment in Wiltshire last summer. Sadly, three days after David captured them in full bloom (before most had seeded) someone weed-killered the lot! So there will be no poppies to brighten up his car park this year.

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Wings of a gull by Jan van der Greef is startling close up with its ethereal iridescent quality. The herring gull's wonderful wing motion and the shimmering stream of water from its legs were taken by Jan on a boat trip in northern Norway. He went to photograph white-tailed eagles, but instead was mesmerised by the gulls. The 2011 exhibition will be remembered for its abundance of breathtaking bird imagery.

The 2011 exhibition has already started its UK and international tour so there are plenty of chances to catch it outside of London.

 

Behind the scenes, the judges of this year's 2012 competition are now shoulders-deep in the first round of the selection process for the shortlist of winners. They have the highest amount of entries ever to contend with - so good luck to them.

 

We'll keep you posted on the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website of news on the judging and tour updates.

 

And we're now putting the finishing touches to Wild Planet, a free outdoor exhibition of classic shots from Wildlife Photographer of the Year, opening on the Museum's east lawn on 23 March. Check our website for details of this coming soon.

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Martian marvels in The Vault

Posted by Rose Feb 28, 2012

It's incredible to think that the giant-fist-sized meteoritic rock that you see below, which was blasted off Mars' surface into the solar system, travelling an average distance of 49 million miles to reach Morocco on Earth last year, is now nestling in the Museum's Vault gallery. Just think of what it may tell us when it gets examined closely by our meteorite experts.

 

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The Museum's new and most important Mars meteorite, the Tissint, is on display in The Vault gallery for another month. Select images to enlarge them.

 

You'll notice the Tissint Mars meteorite is exhibited in a curious-looking contraption. It's known as a desiccator and is essential to minimise contamination of the meteorite by keeping it dry and in a low-oxygen environment. The dessicant crystals underneath help to do this job.

 

At 1.1kg the Tissint is now the largest Martian meteorite in the Museum's collection. It is one of the biggest chunks from the shower of Martian stones that fell in the Moroccan village near Tissint, and is incredibly rare and important because it showed hardly any signs of contamination at all. Museum meteorite expert Dr Caroline Smith (below) described the Tissint as 'the most important meteorite to have fallen in 100 years.'

 

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What will this recently-acquired piece of the Red Planet reveal about the mysteries of Mars? Museum meteorite expert Dr Caroline Smith (left) and her team will research the Tissint when it comes off display in The Vault. Right, Mars surface digitally pieced together from photos taken on the late 1970s Viking spacecraft missions. Mars globe image courtesy of NHM, John  Bridges, October 2003.

 

The Tissint meteorite is on show in The Vault for another month at least, so catch it while you can. It is exhibited next to the Nakhla, another of our extremely rare Mars meterorites (below), which fell in Egypt in 1911. Clay minerals found in this meteorite proved that water once existed on Mars.

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When you get close to these Martian marvels and read about them in the gallery, you'll realise how valuable they are to planetary research and our understanding of the mysteries of the Red Planet. With its volcanoes and valleys, its watery history and its seasons, Mars will never cease to intrigue us because it resembles our planet more than any other.

 

The Tissint meteorite will be coming off display periodically so that Dr Smith and other Museum scientists, in conjunction with colleagues around the world, will be able to study it. Research will include analysing the minerals it contains and looking in detail at the chemistry of the rock to better understand the formation and history of the Red Planet. A lot of this work will be done in the Museum's own world-class laboratories.

 

There are other beautiful meteorites to discover, including ones from the Moon, in The Vault's collection of Mars rocks, dazzling gemstones and crystals. And head over to the Red Zone's Earth Today and Tomorrow gallery to gasp at the Cranbourne meteorite which is our most massive space rock in the Museum.

 

The Vault gallery is in the Green Zone, on the upper gallery of the Central Hall at the end of the Minerals gallery.

Browse The Vault gallery highlights slideshow

 

Read the news story about the mighty Tissint meteorite landing at the Museum

 

We have lots of information about Mars and meteorites on our website. Enjoy this selection:

Martian meteroites

More about meteorites from Mars and the moon

Exploration of Mars

The surface of Mars in 3D

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Is Earth's future out of order?

Posted by Rose Feb 20, 2012

As I walked through the Museum’s Earth galleries last week it made me chuckle to see a small sign posted on the What is Earth’s future? exhibit. The sign read ‘Out of Order. This exhibit is being repaired…’ The group of young lads who noticed it too were also highly amused at the irony of it.

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The Museum's What is Earth's future? exhibit, recently declared 'Out of order'. Symbolic of things to come for our planet? The exhibit, located in the From the Beginning gallery in the Museum's Red Zone, has since been restored to its spinning globe with haunting moving images projected on it. Select images to enlarge them

 

Of late, we’ve experienced some trying times behind the scenes in the Earth galleries office block, where I work. First our staff lift ground to a halt (leaving us with a lung-busting hike up the stairs), then the water packed up - just as well since the toilets had stopped working - and to top it all off  the heating threw in the towel for a day at the height of the recent cold spell. However, we soldiered on to make the Red Zone's galleries the greatest show of Earth on Earth. And, because we care and because the Natural History Museum is an inspiring place to work, we were happy to do so (like the rest of our 'fairly happy' fellow Britons as recently observed in the much-talked-about Happiness survey.)

 

It strikes me that what happened in the Museum's Earth galleries is in uncanny synchronicity with the central concerns of our current series of Earth Debates, which continue here over the next three months: if we don’t do some vital repairs to our resources and society, will parts of the Earth soon be declared out of order too? What is the real impact of what we produce and consume on our surroundings? Does our quest for the greatest show, greater monetary wealth and the constant demand for more material goods come before our immediate day-to-day living needs? Are we happier and do we feel more valued if we are more affluent or is it because of what we achieve and where and who we are with?

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Would you be willing to go vegetarian, or even just to switch to eating poultry, pork or pasture-fed beef rather than grain-fed beef to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment? Big decisions are ahead at the next international Earth summit.

 

There is little point in me trying to explain here why the UN's earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in June is so important (aka Rio+20 as it is being held 20 years after 1992's seminal summit). It would take too long - our Earth Debates partner, the Stakeholder Forum for a sustainable future, who are coordinating and guiding key discussions in the lead-up to Rio+20, has identified 97 key issues (see the tag cloud below) - and besides our Earth Debates pages online already do a very clear job of this and will point you to all the right places for more information.

 

What's more vital is that the Museum needs your input now on the big issues that will be acted upon at global level in June. We need your thoughts on a sustainable green economy for the world or your local area, and all your favourite bugbears that go with it, as part of our ongoing Earth Debates.


Each of our four Earth Debates, with its four panellists and invited audience, is broadcast live from the Attenborough Studio on our website. The format of each debate is like BBC’s Question Time and you can watch it live, follow or contribute your questions or comments using #earthdebates on Twitter, or post your views to our online community before, during and after the event.

 

The next Earth Debate is this Wednesday 22 February from 19.00 to 20.00 GMT where the panel and studio audience will ask Beyond GDP - how can we measure progress? This debate will question the alternatives - like measuring our wellbeing and the value of the environment - to the traditional measures of economic growth and and asks what is needed for businesses and governments to invest in a green economy rather than exploit it.

 

Bookmark the link to the webcast and to #earthdebates on Twitter to join us on the night.

 

Missed the first Earth debate on 25 January about the price of nature? Watch the highlights in this short video clip which features debate chair Tim Radford, panellists Professor Sir Robert Watson, Claire Brown, Ian Dickie and Will Evison, and audience member Tony Juniper.

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'Business as usual is absolutely unsustainable... but we also have to show business that there are solutions.' An extract from the closing comment of Defra's Robert Watson in January's first Earth Debate.

Watch the whole of the first debate Ecosystem economics - can we put a price on nature? (video of the 1st Earth Debate).

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The third debate will tackle Green cities in a green economy - how to pioneer a sustainable transition? on 14 March 2012, followed by the fourth debate Food security - how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050? on 11 April 2012.

 

Find out more online about our Earth Debates and the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro

 

Get more information on the the Stakeholder Forum for a sustainable future and their priority concerns.

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The entries have been pouring in for the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition but I can't believe there's just under one week to go before the competition closes.

 

The entry period has flown by this year, even though there's been almost an extra month due to the early opening in December for the first time. If you want to be in with a chance of winning, you will need to submit the very best of your wildlife photographs and catch the deadline of 23.59 GMT on Thursday 23 February.

 

The competition is open to everyone, from budding amateurs to professionals to young photographers across the world, but you'll need images that stand out from the crowd to get the judges' notice during the thorough selection process. So, for last-minute entrants, here are a few suggestions:

 

From those of you just starting out to those of you already firmly established in your chosen field, there are categories for everyone. Whatever your favourite subject is, be it plants, insects, reptiles, underwater shots, landscapes, urban wildlife, mammals and birds, or more find the category that is best-suited to your skills and interests before you enter. And if you can tell a riveting story through a series of themed photographs, then the photojournalism category could be the one for you.

 

Whatever your age or your experience, get the judges to stop in their tracks with a new angle or an evocative and innovative use of technique or framing and you'll be part-way there.

 

From common subjects to once-in-a-lifetime events, enter photographs that turn them into moments of magic, like this year's Boy meets nature by Alexander Badyaev, Pelican perspective by Bence Máté, Swoop of the sea scavenger by Roy Mangersnes or the techinical simplicity of Great tit poised from one of our youngest entrants in 2011, Corentin Graillot Denaix.

 

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Urban wildlife is full of surprises as captured perfectly in Alexander Badyaev's 2011 winning image, Boy meets nature. From bats in cabins in the Montana wilderness, to coyotes on railway tracks in Canada's Burnaby to Moorish geckoes on the Italian Riviera, last year's winners in this award really captured the moment. (Click images to see them full size)

 

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We must have all seen pictures of pelicans before, but none quite like this. Bence Máté's award-winning photograph doesn't just provide a different perspective, it frames the pelican's most recognisable feature in a fantastically unique way and was just one of a captivating series that won Bence the Eric Hosking Portfolio Award in 2011.

 

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With its striking silhouette and the tight-framing of its subject, Roy's highly commended photograph successfully reflects the sheer size of the white-tailed eagle shortly after it's successful swoop to scavenge a fish.

 

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Keeping the adult entrants on their toes...  one of the youngest 2011 award-winners was Great tit poised by Corentin Graillot Denaix in the Under 10 years category. His simple but carefully framed shot was taken in his garden where he observed the birds who visited the hide constructed by his dad.

 

It's photos like these above that make us catch our breath at the unimaginable wonders of our world. So, whatever your passion, pay heed to some wise words from the youthful Mateusz Piesiak of Poland, the 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Young Photographer of the Year who won with his Pester Power oystercatchers. Mateusz says:

 

"I started with a compact camera and then in 2007 had a major breakthrough in my development when my parents bought me a digital SLR. I also met several nature photographers who showed me how to approach birds and build special photographic hides. As the months and years passed I learnt the secrets of photography and became infected with the rather incurable disease that is bird photography!

 

"I think that what counts above all in photography is creativity and the ability to look at a commonly captured subject and make something new out of it, something that nobody has ever seen before."

 

All the information you need to enter the competition is online, so good luck!

 

Haven't seen the 2011 exhibition yet? You've got until 11 March to catch it here at the Museum in London (attend in the morning if you can to enjoy more space at the exhibition).

 

Can't make it to the Museum? See where where it's touring next, throughout the UK and worldwide.

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