I always enjoy a visit to London, it’s a place where there is something I always find new, but one thing we do over and over again is the Natural History Museum.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a palaeontologist, teacher or potato maker, and since potato making was the area specialised in by weird little alien things on TV and I took a dislike to my teacher, palaeontology was the place I wanted to head, or Dinosaur Hunter, because an 8 year old simply can’t say palaeontologist (in fact as a 30-cough year old, I have difficulty now!)
Anyway, I digress. The Natural History Museum became a thing of wonder for me, and as a child, being taken to visit it, the chance to see Dinosaurs made me realise a few things. The first thing was that Dinosaurs were so much more awesome than I ever imagined, and the second, that all Dinosaurs were dead and in museums as bits of rock, so the requirement for somebody hunting them became a little less of an important career.
Since then I have visited a few times, and found out more and more, not only about Dinosaurs, but also about the animal kingdom, the human body, the seas and earth and space.
Now, I never really did anything but walk and wander at the exhibitions, taking in new knowledge and taking away fascinating facts and titbits that I could use at work for the next few days before I promptly forgot 99% of it.
Anyway, this visit was the first with our son, and we knew it would be busy since it was the summer holidays, so we woke up in the hotel nice and early, had our lovely all you can eat Premier Inn breakfast and set off on the 43 minute tube ride all the way to South Kensington.
When we arrived at the museum, we found that the queue was huge, and stretching back all the way back to Queens Gate. We had come all this way now, in rush hour, and we were going to queue. It was a good thing we found that just 5 minutes later at 10am, the queue started moving, faster and faster, and we saw that they had opened a whole cattle pen for us. It wasn’t more than 15 minutes and we were walking up the stairs and into the main hall of the museum, greeted by the Dippy the Diplodocus.
We had clutched in our hands a piece of paper with a reference number upon it. This was our tickets to go and see the Dinosaur exhibition. We headed straight there and enquired what we were to do with the code, only to be told to go straight on in and enjoy it before the queues built up – in effect, our piece of paper was useless and if we didn’t go straight in, there would be a huge wait, reference number or not.
Feeling a little cheated, we headed in and enjoyed the exhibition, coming fact to face with a T-Rex model which moved and roared. As most people gawped and gasped at the model, I was more interested in the behind the scenes stuff, realising where all the compressed air tanks were and working out what did what – quite sad.
Exiting the exhibition after about 20 minutes, we indeed saw a huge queue, snaking back into the main hall and circling old Dippy obstructing the one photo that everybody wanted.
It was getting really busy now, and we forced our way into the Human Body exhibition, to which a very inquisitive 6 year old didn’t fail to embarrass us by asking why some men had hair around their tinkles and why mummy didn’t have a tinkle.
Before we got out it had got incredibly busy, and we decided that we could no longer actually stop and see anything in any of the glass cases, so took the decision to move on and visit the Science Museum next door.
Before leaving, I must say that I left the museum some what disappointed, the displays we say were all tatty and dusty, grim built up on the exhibits and the exhibitions were placed in such a way that most of the fantastic building that houses them was hidden from view. I took a peek behind one exhibit and it revealed a corridor of red brick and tile sculptures, all exquisite little animals climbing the walls, all now hidden from view by dirty back boards.
It was the first time I can remember coming out of the Natural History Museum with such feelings as the building cannot be enjoyed, they have tried to use the space and some of the dated items them have just go to spoil what could otherwise be a fantastic environment, much like the great hall we had entered through.
I left feeling that the museum needed to step back and re-asses itself and bring back the building, using the space in a more creative way than simply boxing sections off with partitions.