The last time I visited the Natural History Museum in London I was barely tall enough to see over the counter but like most children that visit I was overawed with an experience that left me with a lasting impression. Over 30 years later I finally return and the experience albeit different was no less impacting.
From the moment you first set eyes upon this architectural marvel with its ornate terracotta facade you are struck by everything this place represents, even the Victorian styling embodies the past and present diversity of nature and this prepares you for the marvels that lie ahead.
The first pleasant surprise comes in the cost of entry, its free. Those people committed to bringing you the truth about our origins wish to place no barriers, beyond the vast queues to gain access to this knowledge and the waiting time is little more than an irritation. Once inside you are left with an array of choices, do you go and find out about the origins of our species or go back further to find out how our planet, solar system and even universe came into being. Perhaps the idea of seeing the vast array of life that exists on the earth is the place to start but no visit is complete without a walk around the fossilised remains of the prehistoric leviathans that once stalked our lands. All in all there are over 80 million different items on display that fall under 5 main categories, Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology.
If I was to be critical it would be in the way that the institution seems to have gone down the path of shock marketing, shocking to kids that is. After perambulating the dinosaur exhibit I was presented with a life-size animatronics version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex complete with moving head and deafening roar. For some of the youngest of visitors this was all too much with children being quickly hurried from the room by overwrought parents and I felt this was sad. I remember as a child being fascinated by the blue whale or the size of the Diplodocus bones and my imagination did the rest and by trying to bring a greater reality it looses impact. Perhaps though I am being overly judgemental and you can see from the popularity of the venue that it is not having a negative effect and maybe adults bemoaned the modernisation of the exhibits 30 years ago when I first went so who am I to stand in the way of progression, but part of me still believes that less is often more.
Whichever you choose to visit first you are sure to marvel at whats on offer. The museum stands as a monument against ignorance and a triumph of science over superstition and for that alone it deserves all the praise I can muster.
If you have never been put it high on your list of places to visit soon.