The Natural History Museum is home to a wide range of interesting specimens from various periods of natural history. Located in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum is the most visited of its kind in Europe, attracting more than 5 million visitors every year. It is housed in an impressive building that matches the wonder that’s inspired by the exhibits. It’s a grand Victorian building which is awash with generous space, beautifully decorated arches, sweeping staircases and colourful stained glass windows. The grandeur, combined with the breathtaking skeleton of a blue whale, makes a memorable welcome for visitors. So, just how did it become the world-leading museum we know and love today?
The Natural History Museum officially opened in 1881 but its history stretches back to 1753 to a man named Sir Hans Sloane. Sloane was a respectable doctor who had a passion for collecting specimens and artifacts that belonged to different historical periods. While travelling the world and treating the upper-class members of society, he’d make time to find interesting specimens and artifacts and slowly built up his very own collection.
Sloane died in 1753 but had already formulated a plan to put his collection of 71,000 items to good use. His will stipulated that Parliament could purchase the collection for £20,000; a very low price compared to the real worth. The offer was too good to turn down. Sloane’s collection was originally held in the newly built British Museum and was open to the public.
The Natural History Museum was born through the passion of Sir Hans Sloane but there is also another man that is key to the museum’s own history. Sir Richard Owen was a popular natural scientist, best known for coming up with the name for dinosaurs. In 1856, he joined the British Museum and took ownership of the natural history collection.
Owen soon became frustrated by the lack of space he had available to grow his natural history collection. Taking matters into his own hands, he approached the British Museum’s board of trustees and convinced them that a brand new building was needed to house the natural history collection. Alfred Waterhouse, a relatively unknown architect at the time, made Owen’s plans for the museum come to life. It took 7 years to construct the museum before it opened its doors in 1881.
Over the years, the Natural History Museum has been home to many popular exhibitions such as ‘Dippy,’ the 32m long Diplodocus carnegii skeleton replica and a 25m blue whale skeleton being the two most famous.
Once you’ve visited the Natural History Museum, drop in and visit us for a bite to eat. Find out more here.
Next up: The Victoria and Albert Museum