Natural History Museum
View of the Natural History Museum
from the south east
The Natural History Museum, one of three large museums located in South Kensington, London, England (the others are the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum), is home to life and earth science collections comprising some 70 million specimens or items. There are five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology.
The museum is renowned for its Central Hall, which houses the museum's collection of dinosaur skeletons.
The foundation of the collection was a bequest by English doctor Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753). Sloane's collection, which included dried plants, and animal and human skeletons, was initially housed in Montagu House in Bloomsbury in 1756, and was considered part of the British Museum. In the late 1850s, Professor Richard Owen, Superintendent of the natural history departments of the British Museum, became convinced that the Natural History Museum needed a bigger building. Land in South Kensington was purchased, and in 1864 a competition was held to design the new museum. The winning entry was submitted by Captain Francis Fowke. Work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. The new museum opened in 1881, although the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883. In 1963, the Natural History Museum finally became a museum in its own right, and in 1986 absorbed the adjacent Geological Museum.
In the 1990s the Museum's Mineralogy department, described as "just a collection of rocks in cabinets", was completely rebuilt and relaunched in 1998 as a multimedia exhibition entitled The Earth Galleries, while the other departments were retitled The Life Galleries.