the green zone, natural history musuem

During my visit at The Natural History Museum in London, the majority of my time was spent in the Green Zone.  The zone is actually a  mix of several areas: the central hall, minerals, fossil marine reptiles, creepy crawlies, birds, primates, and our place in evolution.  I’ll discuss the areas that I found most fascinating.

The central hall is beautiful just based on the architecture, which I briefly discussed in the previous post.  Plus “Dippy”, the Diplodocus skeleton, is placed front and center within the hall and is there to great you upon your arrival.  At the end of the hall there is a staircase with Charles Darwin’s statue sitting at the top.

Nearly five million people walk through this hall each year.  (Currently the museum is raising funds to renovate the central hall, so it may look quite different in a few years time.  I viewed the plans that the museum has for the hall and I think it will look even more impressive after renovations.)

The Fossil Marine Reptiles Gallery is to the right of the Central Hall in what is known as Waterhouse Way.  The hall includes one of the world’s most complete Ichthyosaur fossils, which was discovered by Mary Anning.  I do not have a strong paleontology background and had never heard of Mary Anning prior to my visit, but she is an interesting figure that appears quite inspirational, especially for female scientists.  If you’ve never heard of her, you should definitely research her history.  There are also fossil pregnant Ichthyosaurs – which is really neat to see!

The Primates section includes some interesting statues and also taxidermy animals.  My favorite was definitely the pygmy marmoset (seen in the top right picture above).  It is one of the world’s smallest mammals.  Itsy bitsy primates – it doesn’t get much better than that. This section is right next to the entrance of the Coleoptera research section, so I would pass by it every day.

The Creepy Crawlies section is devoted to arthropods, so you know that I spent a good amount of time here.  There’s a large display of a butterfly along with a caterpillar and cocoon that covers the topic of complete metomorphosis.  You can also watch leaf cutter ants work as they chop up pieces of vegetation and feed these to their fungus farm.  Their nest is cut away so that you can actually see the fungus within, which was pretty neat.  There are exhibits on household pests including termites and other exhibits on arachnids and crustaceans.  To be completely honest, though this should have been my favorite section, I found it underwhelming.  The format is geared towards a younger audience, which is fine, but I was really missing insect displays.  I think that both adults and children can take awe in a really beautifully put together insect display.  According to the Central Hall’s upcoming renovation outline, the museum actually plans to implement something along these lines, which makes me incredibly happy!  I think the rest of the displays in the museum are really beautiful and really inspiring, especially to a younger audience.  The museum has one of the best insect collections in the world and I hope that they soon display more of these wonders to inspire the next generation of entomologists!

This is just a quick sampling of all there is to see within the Green Zone.  And, of course, the rest of the museum as well.  I absolutely recommend stopping by the museum if you are ever in London.  The building itself is absolutely beautiful, the displays are well put together – some breathtaking, and you can wander in at any time without any admission costs so you can stay for five minutes or five hours.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour and are inspired to visit a natural history museum where you live!

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2 thoughts on “the green zone, natural history musuem

  1. Sadly, too many natural history exhibits are geared almost exclusively for children, and our flagship American Museum of Natural History is often overrun with them. Here in the U.S. school group trips are a major source of the all-important admission numbers, and evidently a way of raising funds from our monied elites (ooh, education!). And yet somehow, very few scientists, or even amateur naturalists, seem to emerge from all this exposure at a young age….

  2. Hi Matthew – you bring up an interesting point, but I’m not sure that I entirely agree. I know that I loved, loved the natural history museum that I visited as a young child (The Peabody Museum of Natural History). I distinctly remember loving the taxidermy animals. I think museums are an important aspect of outreach, especially to a younger audience, and especially in cities where those children may not have much ‘natural’ areas around them. My problem with the insect display at the natural history museum is the overuse of large, plastic representations of insects. Just because insects are smaller and seemingly less impressive than mammals, I think that having live insects (as they did with the leaf cutter ants) or showcasing beautifully preserved real insects would impart a sense of wonder and respect for these creatures – in both children and adults alike.

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