diamond geezer

 Friday, November 09, 2012

I had an hour and a bit to fill after work yesterday, so I went to the Natural History Museum. That's one of the joys of working in Central London - you can nip out for a ton of culture in the evening in a way that's not possible in, say, Ipswich. I should nip out more often.

4:30pm The Museum Ice Rink
Walk out of the subway at dusk and ooooh, all the trees are magically lit up with fairy lights. By now the ice rink's already busy with families and couples swirling around in slow circles. They all seem to be enjoying themselves, which at £13.50 for 50 minutes you'd hope they were. It's still early so few crowds are watching, and there are no queues for the rinkside refreshments either. The tented cafe is brought to you by a well known High Street coffee chain, stretching their menu beyond "Red Cup favourites" to a selection of mulled alcohols. The only natural history related features here are the penguin-branded stabilisers for kids, plus the equine merry-go-round illuminated by the entrance. But if you're a top museum with outdoor space and two months to fill, why wouldn't you freeze it over.

4:35pm Dinosaurs
This is usually packed, or at least it is at weekends. But come late afternoon in the week after half term and the experience is considerably more manageable. Turn left at Dippy in the main hall, then up onto the central walkway to stroll between old bones. The gallery's been very well done, whether you're after facts or spectacle, right down to the giant T Rex behind the screen at the far end. This scared the willies out of my nephew several years ago, growling and roaring at the bottom of the ramp with animatronic largesse. I skedaddled past the ground level displays on that occasion, but they're really varied and informative if you stop to read them. The hanging skeletons look like fibreglass, but these are proper old skulls and ribs, some of them from deepest Sussex. Oh yes, the dinosaurs are definitely best viewed without kids (sorry kids).

4:55pm The Darwin Centre
It's been open three years, but for some reason I've not made it here before. An eight storey glass extension, located just round the back of the blue whale, built to house a properly scientific exploratorium. Take the glass lift to the 7th floor to delve inside the Cocoon, which is a multi-storey egg-shaped concrete shell housing the museum's comprehensive collection of plant and animal specimens. You won't get right inside to see the rows of shelves, but there is clear view of the scientists working in their labs alongside. Some were working late, others were packing up after a hard day's analysing and classifying. The visitor experience does a really good job of explaining what these folk do, and might well inspire an inquisitive teen to consider a career in some related scientific field. Don't forget to pick up a barcoded Nature Plus card on the way in, then you can "collect" experiences on the way round to investigate further when you get home. I had a good time on the interactive panels pretending to be twelve again, in the absence of any twelve year old audience looking on and wishing they were playing instead. If you think you've 'done' the NHM, thanks to Darwin you might not have done.

5:30pm The Minerals Gallery
It's often one of the emptiest rooms in the museum because most visitors are here for the animals not the rocks. But I love this 1881 gallery, with its rows and rows of Victorian display cases and a long row of elegant pillars stretching off into the distance. This is the largest public display of minerals in the world, from quartz to Blue John and topaz to iron pyrites. The best part is right down at the far end, in The Vault, where some truly out of this world exhibits are kept. Here are the meteorites, two of them chipped-off chunks of Mars, others formerly part of the Moon. A powder of micro-diamonds formed in a supernova before the solar system was born is described as the oldest thing you will ever see, which is fairly mind-blowing late on a November afternoon. Ladies and Gentlemen the museum will be closing in ten minutes.

5:47pm The NHM shop
There are three museum shops, one full of dinosaur-related goodies, one selling rocks, and the other larger and more mainstream. There's some serious stuff, and some gifty stuff, and quite a lot of stuff aimed firmly at children, but nothing I'd descibe as in any way tacky. It being this time of year I should probably mutter the words "stocking filler" and leave you to mull that over. Just try to arrive before ten to six.

5:50pm The Museum is now closing, please make your way to the exits
Or visit on the last Friday of the month if you want to explore the galleries until half past ten. The old Gothic building has real atmosphere after dark, so A Night In The Museum comes highly recommended.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Lambeth Country Show
Sat 19th - Sun 20th July
The 40th rural extravaganza
returns to Brockwell Park.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
tired of london
thelondonphile
in the aquarium
christopher fowler
thamesfacingeast
one bus at a time
london daily photo
london reconnections
uk general election 2015

read the archive
Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv