May 9, 2017
There’s no shortage of things to do in the nation’s capital and the Natural History Museum offers something for everyone as Helen Dolphin MBE discovered during her recent visit.
Here she reports back on the wide range of exhibits and, of course, disabled access.
Natural History Museum
If you’re looking for something for your whole family to enjoy then I’d highly recommend a visit to the Natural History Museum in London.
As I find public transport in London difficult to use I decided to drive to the museum. If you’re a Blue Badge holder you can book a parking space by calling Security on 020 7942 5000 but as I discovered they go very quickly. If you can’t get one of these spaces, there are also 12 Blue Badge parking spaces on Exhibition Road but these can’t be booked in advance. As all these spaces were also taken, I parked my car in an NCP car park about half a mile away in Kensington High Street.
Once inside the museum I got rid of my coat and bag in the cloakroom. There’s a small charge for this so if you don’t want to pay you should leave your belongings in your car. As you enter the museum you are given a map so you can plan which exhibitions you want to see. The museum is split into four distinct zones. Blue is life on Earth, green the planet’s evolution, red the planet’s forces and orange the Darwin centre and wildlife garden.
First I headed to the blue zone. In the Mammals gallery there was an impressive blue whale model and skeleton suspended from the ceiling. On ground level there were bones from extinct mammoths and giant elk, as well as giraffes, hippos and horses. It was interesting to compare the human brain size to that of a whale and see how animals have changed over the past 55 million years. Although you could spend a lot of time looking and reading everything in one exhibition
I decided I’d try to see as much of the museum as I could so after a quick tour round mammals I made my way to see the dinosaurs.
As it was the school holidays when I was visiting, there were a lot of children and the dinosaurs were clearly the most popular exhibition. Here you can see the first fossil ever found from a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the enormous skull of the plant-eating Triceratops. The cause of great excitement to lots of children was a life-sized model of a roaring T. Rex. Here, you could also explore the different theories as to why the dinosaurs became extinct.
After the dinosaurs I entered the Human Biology exhibit, which in comparison to most of the museum seemed a little tired. There is currently a lot of renovation going on at the site and a lot of the museum is being improved. However, this exhibit was still a good way to find out about the human body and all its workings.
The museum was really easy to get about as the corridors were wide and the floors smooth, which made pushing my wheelchair easy. After finishing looking around the blue zone I decided to go next to the green zone. My favourite exhibit was called “Mineral”, where you got to see many different rocks, minerals and gems including some very impressive diamonds, rubies and sapphires. However, the Natural History Museum is not just about looking and there were loads of things for children to get involved in. “Creepy Crawlies” had lots for children to see as well as do, including building their own spider.
Looking around a museum this size is hungry work and there were plenty of cafes dotted around. Even in school holidays the queues were very small and there was a good selection of food including some amazing cakes. If you prefer you can take your own food and a picnic area is provided. There are also a number of accessible toilets in the museum but none of them are changing places.
After lunch I finished my visit in the red zone where there was a great exhibition on volcanoes and earthquakes. Here you get to see casts of victims from the Mount Vesuvius eruption of AD 79, as well as lava bombs, volcanic glass hair, and crystals. I finished my visit in the exhibit called “Earth’s treasures” which had more amazing gems and precious stones.
The Natural History Museum really is for everyone. Whether you are young or old you’ll find something of interest. If you fancy visiting two museums in one day both the Science museum and the Victoria and Albert museum are just a short distance from here.
Further Access Information
You can hire wheelchairs free of charge from the cloakrooms.
There are audio descriptive guides available for Images of Nature, the Human Evolution gallery, and the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery.
Tactile and Braille books and large-print gallery guides are also available at the entrance to many of the Museum’s galleries.
Induction loops are built in at the information desks and ticket desks, and at various points in the Darwin Centre and Images of Nature gallery.