on November 8, 2008
Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are two of the Big Three on Cromwell Road/Exhibition Road in the West End of London. The Victoria and Albert Museum is the third of the triumvirate. You can't possibly see both of them in one day, not if you are going to do each of them justice. We did the Natural History and Science museums together and even that was a bit much. We didn't see all of it because it was just too much to take in but what we did was really good. It's a really good museum for families too. Kids can't seem to get enough of dinosaurs and science and the exhibits are top quality. Originally, these exhibits were part of the British Museum but grew so large and numerous that their own building was erected in the late 1880s. The building itself is every bit as interesting and beautiful as the museum, if, like me, you love architectural detail. Don't forget to look up at all the decoration on the ceiling panels. The building itself is Victorian and purpose-built with grand staircases and high ceilings. There is disabled access, of course, and lifts but the sprawl is a bit hard to find your way around at times, I found. even with a map. You are greeted by a full scale model of a dinosaur skeleton with a small head on a long searching neck in the grand Entrance Hall. You veer to the left for the Dino exhibit and if you want, you can go up a set of stairs to an overhead walkway to look down on the skeletons or at the ones hanging from the ceilings at eye level. There are ground level exhibits too, so you can just stay on the ground and gaze up while checking out the information boards. There's an animatronic T-Rex that growls and howls and scares little kids. It must be moving by motion detection because it will swing it's head around, seemingly randomly and very menacingly. We saw more than one child jump and look doubtful but yet not able to tear themselves away! The mammal hall has the models (or perhaps stuffed actual carcasses?) of lots of various types of mammals including a giant blue whale, Elephant, school of porpoises, giraffe and many more. All of them are to scale so you can compare the sizes. That and the dinosaurs are both very popular and so very crowded. Be warned. There are also sections on human biology, creepy crawlies like snakes and insects which I wasn't really up to viewing, personally. There are fossils, birds, and ecology exhibits. The Science museum wing was really interesting. You can learn all about volcanoes and earthquakes, what causes them and was kind of effect they have. There is a huge model of the earth, as the plates would look and you take an escalator right up inside it where there is a celestial map lining it's interior. There are scultures on the lower court in front of it and loads of interesting and interactive things to see and do. Entrance hours from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wheelchair entrance is off Exhibition Road and there are lifts. Get there via the South Kensington Tube station and follow the signs for the museums. You'll have to come up some steps and you'll find yourself by the front of the museum. The Science Museum is on the Exhibition Road side. There are restaurants and cafes and several shops. We arrived at opening on a Sunday and spent a good few hours checking it out, including a tea break in one of the cafes.
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