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Have you visited our Images of Nature gallery, with its stunning images from the 17th century to modern-day CT scans? Have you explored the Cocoon in the Darwin Centre – what did you think? Are you planning to visit our latest exhibitions?
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.
'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.
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.
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.
'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.
'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.
Farewell to William Blake's God, Atlas, Cyclops, Medusa, Spaceman and Scientist.
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.
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?
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.
There are just hours to go to submit your most spectacular and creative visions of wildlife caught on camera to the 50th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. It closes at 12.00 GMT on Thursday 27 February. So enter now.
This year's competition saw a simpler set of subject and photographic categories introduced as well as new awards. So far there have been tens of thousands of entries from around the world, with a lot of interest in the new TIMElapse and portfolio adult categories as well as the WILD-I category for young smartphone photographers.
Here are some words of advice from the WPY team for last-minute entrants:
'We want to see outstanding shots of any species, like these three 2013 award winning images pictured here. Photographs that depict the familiar to the less well known, the widespread to the endangered, the charismatic to the overlooked, and the urban to the wild.
'Our competition judges, as ever, are looking for fresh, creative images that reveal the diversity, majesty and beauty of life on Earth. As well as those that highlight the fragility of the natural world.
'It doesn't matter where you take your shot. It could be in a garden or car park, underwater or in a remote corner of our planet. Just take a closer look and share your vision with us, wherever you are. There's still time. And good luck!'
The first round of the judging for the 50th competition entries starts on 10 March.
Follow the WPY blog to get behind the scenes with winning photographers and judges