Interesting facts about the Natural History Museum, London

natural history museum london

The Natural History Museum in London is a museum of natural history that exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history.

It is a world-class visitor attraction and leading science research center.

The Natural History Museum in London holds the world’s most important natural history collection.

The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology.

The original nucleus of the Natural History Museum, which was founded in 1754 and moved to its present building in 1881, was formed by the scientific collections of Sir Hans Sloane.

Following the sudden death of the architect originally appointed to design the Natural History Museum, Alfred Waterhouse, a young architect from Liverpool, took over the task. He used a mixture of Gothic Revival and twelfth-century Romanesque-style architecture.

The building was completed in 1881, after seven years of construction, from 1873 to 1880.


The Natural History Museum is one of Britain’s most striking examples of Romanesque architecture, and has become one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

The building is dominated by the cathedral-like Hinzte Hall (formerly Central Hall) at the Museum’s main entrance. The ceilings are adorned with intricate tiles that feature plants from all over the world on 162 panels. Three of the arches of the Hinzte Hall are adorned with 78 monkeys.

natural history museum london main hall

One of the most famous and certainly most prominent of the exhibits — nicknamed “Dippy” — is a 32-meter (105-foot)-long replica of a Diplodocus carnegii skeleton which was on display for many years within the central hall.

natural history museum dippy

After 112 years on display at the museum, Dippy was removed in early 2017 to be replaced by the actual skeleton of a young blue whale. The beloved dinosaur will travel the length and breadth of the UK from early 2018 to late 2020

blue whale skeleton

The Museum houses one of the world’s most important dinosaur collections. The collection includes 157 taxa, 115 consist of original material and 69 are type specimens. There is also the first fossil ever found from a Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest carnivores ever to have walked the Earth. The museum’s mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex, helps visitors understand how the dinosaur moved and behaved.

blue whale tyrannosaurus rex

The Museum’s fossil mammal collection contains an estimated 250,000 specimens from around the world, and is rich in type and figured material. There are fossils and skeletons of extinct animals alongside specimens of their living relatives. The collection includes historical research sub-collections, such as mammalian material collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle.

In the Large Mammals Hall you can see blue whale model, seemingly swimming with the other cetacean skeletons and replicas suspended from the ceiling. On the ground examine extinct mammoths and giant elk and their living relatives, as well as giraffes, hippos and horses.

large mammals hall

The Darwin Center (named after Charles Darwin) was designed as a new home for the museum’s collection of tens of millions of preserved specimens, as well as new work spaces for the museum’s scientific staff, and new educational visitor experiences. Built in two distinct phases, with two new buildings adjacent to the main Waterhouse building, it is the most significant new development project in the museum’s history.

Phase one of the Darwin Centre opened to the public in 2002, and it houses the zoological department’s ‘spirit collections’—organisms preserved in alcohol. Phase Two was unveiled in September 2008 and opened to the general public in September 2009. It was designed by the Danish architecture practice C. F. Møller Architects in the shape of a giant, eight-story cocoon and houses the entomology and botanical collections—the ‘dry collections’.

darwin centre

The Earth Galleries have an extensive and interesting collection of material on the geology and minerals of the world. Regular lectures and film shows are offered on particular subjects, and in the Main Hall, a rotating globe, almost 2 meters (6 feet) in diameter, serves as a reminder of the museum’s purpose: to tell the “Story of the Earth.”

earth galleries

The Museum’s mineralogy collection is one of the most important and comprehensive collections of its type in the world. It contains about 500,000 rocks, gems and minerals, including 5,000 meteorites.

mineralogy collection

The Museum’s botany collection holds an estimated six million specimens of bryophytes, ferns, seed plants and slime moulds from all over the world.

botany collection

The Museum’s entomology collection is the oldest and most important entomology collection in the world of over 34 million insects and arachnids.

entomology collection

The Museum’s zoology collection consists of over 29 million animal specimens.


The Museum’s palaeontology collection consists of over seven million vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils.


The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only.

The museum is recognised as the pre-eminent center of natural history and research of related fields in the world.

The Natural History Museum welcome more than five million visitors annually.

Entrance to the Natural History Museum in London is free.

The museum is kept up through donations and government funds.

Although commonly referred to as the Natural History Museum, it was officially known as British Museum (Natural History) until 1992, despite legal separation from the British Museum itself in 1963.

The Natural History Museum is open until 10.30 pm on the last Friday of every month (except December). You can browse the collections, listen to live music and relax with tapas and drinks.

In 2010 a six-part BBC documentary series was filmed at the museum entitled Museum of Life exploring the history and behind the scenes aspects of the museum.