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South Kensington Museums

ImageThe Science Museum was founded along with the Victoria and Albert Museum in the wake of the Great Exhibition and is part of Great Britain’s National Museum of Science and Insustry.  It did not become an independent entity until 1909.  The current building, known as the East Block was constructed between 1913 and 1928.

The museum has a collection of more than 300,000 objects, which depict the history of science.  Some of the more famous items include Crick and Watson’s original model of DNA and the first jet engine.  There are significant exhibits dedicated to medicine, physics, space flight, and agriculture among others.  The collection is unique and eclectic, but there is also some missed opportunities here.  The layout is not intuitive and does not do some of the displays justice.  It’s still definitely worth a visit, though.  There are a number of hand-on exhibits for kids.

Right next door to the Science Museum is the Natural History Museum.    The Natural History was originally part of the British Museum (and would remain such until the 1960s) and was founded all the way back in 1756.  By 1864, the collection had grown too large and a new building was necessary.  Construction began in 1873 and was finished in 1883.  The building is a striking example of Victorian architecture.  This museum, more than any other, has shaped how we view museums today.  It made them palatable and informative for the ordinary citizen, rather than just repositories for objects.

The Natural History Museum’s collection includes more than 70 million objects, most of which are not on display.  They are divided into five main departments: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology, and Zoology.  The newest addition to the museum is the Darwin Center, which houses an extensive collection of specimens dating as far back as the 16th century.  There are a lot of interactive displays, and this is another great attraction for children.  Unfortunately, things can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends, and adults may not find the exhibits stimulating enough.

Science Museum

Address: Exhibition Road, SW7

Telephone: +44 020 7942 4000

Website: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

Hours: Open daily 10:00-18:00

Free admission; charge for some of the temporary exhibitions.

Natural History Museum

Address: Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD

Telephone: +44 020 7942 5000

Website: www.nhm.ac.uk

Hours: Open daily 10:00-17:50

Free admission; charge for some of the temporary exhibitions.



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