I used to be a devoted member of the Natural History Museum – being one of my very fave buildings and subject matters. They used to run pretty regular behind the scenes tours – and these, frankly were about as good as it can get for me. Before the swish Darwin wing was constructed you’d find the Spirit Dept (Fish to you and me) in the bowels of the museum. The aroma, the subterranean environment and light starvation conspired to make for a particularly gothic atmosphere. And boy did those scientists fit the bill – a little bit wonky with the odd tick that had been allowed to bed in over the years. These guys have clearly been at the museum for donkeys years – their security pass mugshots are so dramatically dated (most of them look like recent grads from the 70s!)
The far side of the building houses forensic scientists in one of the turrets. Bright and airy these peeps were particularly jovial about spending the days researching forensic etymology.
However, we need to move far far away from fancy South Ken…to their secret mammal overflow warehouse near Wimbledon. Housed in a huge old bus station this utterly incongruous hanger is home to 00000s of stuffed creatures – rack after rack of them. Because the layout of the archive is laid out in taxonomic order apparently anyone familiar with this will be able to locate a species in an instant. So in we went through airlock after airlock – my god it was nippy! Moths. They would have a field day if they could get in there and last five minutes. Anyway, we saw British Bulldogs – over about 5 centuries and you can see how intensive breeding has accentuated the gruffness over the years. Wally (?) the Whale’s remains laid out on a table, oil oozing out years after HER demise. You can see how they were hunted for their properties. It was simply a marvel to wander around the acres of storage with all these beady eyes beaming down….I let my membership lapse after the membership dept started slacking off on the tours. It was the main incentive for me. But maybe a little pressure would be effective. I know they’re certainly open to the idea of private tours, like every museum they need the dosh.