Palaeontologist Dr Susie Maidment holds a dinosaur bone.

Palaeontologist Dr Susie Maidment, who is one of the experts responsible for the thousands of dinosaur remains at the Museum. Image: The Garden Productions.

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Museum to star in new Channel 5 series

The Museum is set to star in a new four-part primetime Channel 5 series.

Natural History Museum: World of Wonder will air weekly from 7 January 2021 at 8pm on Channel 5 and will be available to view on the video on demand player My5.

Channel 5 Factual Commissioning Editor Lucy Willis commissioned multi-award-winning production company The Garden Productions to make the series.

Lucy says, 'In this series we go behind the doors of one of the greatest museums in the world. Every year, over five million visitors come to see its incredible collection: from extraordinary dinosaurs to giant whales, rare fossils to space rocks as old as the solar system itself, all looked after by its passionate staff.

'But visitors see only a fraction of the staggering 80 million items in the collection. Now our cameras have been allowed not just front of house but behind the scenes too, to capture the incredible specimens and reveal the unique and rare pieces too valuable to exhibit.'

The series documents the work of some the Museum's 300 scientists and takes a behind-the-scenes look at preparation for its exhibitions. It explores almost every inch of the Museum, including the public galleries, labs, scanning suites, collection spaces and dissecting rooms.

Ninder Billing, Head of Specialist Factual at The Garden Productions and Executive Producer of the series, says, 'It's been a privilege to be granted such extraordinary access to the treasures of the Natural History Museum. We've loved bringing the spectacular collections and the ground-breaking work going on behind the scenes at the Museum to an audience, especially when we've been deprived of visiting it for so much of this past year. We hope the series is a joyful treat in the depths of winter.

Principal Curator of Mammals Richard Sabin. Image: Channel 5.

Principal Curator of Mammals Richard Sabin. Image: Channel 5.

The series will include:

  • Principal Curator of Mammals Richard Sabin reveals details of the life Hope, the Museum's blue whale skeleton. He shaves off tiny samples from Hope's mouth plates for chemical analysis, making fascinating new discoveries, including the fact she had carried a calf.
  • Ancient DNA researcher Dr Selina Brace re-examines the remains of ancient humans discovered in a cave in Somerset. She looks at the evidence that suggests these early inhabitants of the UK were cannibals.
  • Palaeontologist Dr Susie Maidment opens a crate from a famous dinosaur dig in Lesotho, Africa that has never been unpacked. She discovers a rock that could contain a 199-million-year-old, rare dinosaur skull.
  • Head of Earth Sciences Collections and planetary scientist Professor Caroline Smith reveals a meteorite that contains particles which are older than the solar system itself.  The series follows her work on the NASA Mars 2020 rover mission to bring back samples from the red planet.
Senior Curator Dr Erica McAlister (Credit: Channel 5)

Senior Curator Dr Erica McAlister. Image: Channel 5.

  • Senior Insects Curator Dr Erica McAlister is digitising some of the more bizarre specimens from the collection she helps look after, including fleas dressed in wedding party costumes, created by nuns in Mexico.
  • Cameras follow the Museum's scientists as they undertake field trips. Palaeontologists Dr Susie Maidment and Professor Paul Barrett head to Penrith beach in Wales following a promising tip-off from a member of the public who thinks they have spotted a rare set of dinosaur tracks.
  • Elsewhere, insect experts from the Museum head to Hever Castle in Kent to find insects as part of the Darwin Tree of Life project. The Museum is one of ten science centres which is aiming to collect, store samples and read the DNA of 60,000 species that live in and around the British Isles to better understand and protect the precious biodiversity we have left.
  • Head of Conservation Lorraine Cornish travels to Rochdale for a close-up inspection on Dippy, the Museum's world-famous Diplodocus cast, which is currently on tour.
  • The series charts preparation for the Museum's blockbuster exhibition, Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature. Head of Conservation Lorraine is racing against time to ensure all 120 exhibits are ready for installation.
  • Cameras follow Duty Manager Jack Evans who has the mammoth task of making sure the Museum is ready for its thousands of visitors each day.
  • Senior Curator in charge of the mollusc collections, Jon Ablett, takes viewers into the Museum's tank room, where dissections and cutting-edge research takes place. The tank room holds spectacular specimens such as the Museum’s 8.62-metre-long giant squid, Archie, as well as Charles Darwin’s pet octopus.
  • Senior Curator Dr Blanca Huertas oversees the largest collection of butterflies and moths in the world.
  • Principal Curator of Crustacea Miranda Lowe makes a selection from the exceptionally fragile, late nineteenth century Blaschka glass models of sea creatures for the forthcoming exhibition, Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It.