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.  

Natural History Museum, London
Looking down to the Central Hall from the upper gallery

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.  

Natural History Museum, London
The exterior of the museum is reminiscent of a cathedral, or a railway station

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.  

Minerals Gallery, London
Inside the Minerals Gallery
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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 Diplodocus skeleton, 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.  

Natural History Museum, London
The diplodocus dominates the Central Hall
Carving of birds
Panels on pillars have intricate carvings of animals and birds
Natural History Museum, London
Look up to the ceiling for pictures of plants and flowers
Carving of a monkey
And monkeys climb around the arches
Carving of a fish
Look for pictures of fossils and extinct animals in the Minerals Gallery

And, when you leave, remember to glance at the outside of the museum, where you will find more animals climbing up the stonework.  

Exterior carving, Natural History Museum, London
Remember to look for carvings of animals outside the museum
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