I often find museums as intriguing for their architecture as for their contents. London’s Tate Modern, housed in an abandoned power station; the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, an old railway station; or Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, whose interior resembles a giant oyster shell. And, as soon as I set foot in the Natural History Museum, I realised I had found another fascinating building to explore.
A Grand Victorian Building
I’d been to the Natural History Museum many times when I was younger, but I remembered it as a dingy, dusty building, a poor rival to the nearby Science Museum. All that has changed now; the museum has been cleaned and given a facelift, so that you can see it in all its finery.
Purpose built for the museum, the building stands in Exhibition Road, alongside the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is a grand Victorian building and, like those other giants of 19thcentury architecture, the great railway stations, it resembles a cathedral: a glorious concoction of space, arches, sweeping staircases and stained glass windows.
The Natural History Museum Collections
The building may be grand and ornate, but you never forget that you are in a natural history museum. The entrance hall is dominated by a 32 metre long replica Diplodocusskeleton, a statue of Charles Darwin sits on top of the main staircase, and other scientists can be spotted as you walk around. Look carefully at the details on the tiles and pillars too; plants and animals have been incorporated into the design.
And, when you leave, remember to glance at the outside of the museum, where you will find more animals climbing up the stonework.