NHM London – what did I LIKE?

This post was planned for tomorrow, but as it seems I have made a lot of people unhappy with my last one I’ll fire it off as soon as I am done writing. Wouldn’t want anyone to get/retain the impression I did not like the NHM. I did – just not as much as I had expected.

The NHM was a minor disappointment, both because it wasn’t as nice as I hoped it would be, but rather cramped and out-of-date especially in the dinosaur exhibit, and because it was not as magnificent as I remembered it from about 18 years ago. And there are more complaints to come. However, there was a lot that I did like! I spent a very enjoyable almost-day there, and saw many great specimens! Let me make a list now (incomplete), so that I do not put the place down all the time, but give it due credit:

  • the building (upcoming post)
  • the Diplodocus mount
  • several other dinosaur mounts
  • the T. rex robot
  • the Glyptodon
  • some of the birds exhibit
  • part of the mammals exhibit
  • parts of most other exhibits

I’ll now toss a bunch of photos  in here without much comment (no dino exhibit this time, that’ll have to wait for part 2 of the rant), and I won’t whine too much about the problems.

The Glyptodon, photographed from the only angle that has few reflections (and with camera touching the glass, and hand shielding the lens to avoid reflections). Isn’t it magnificent? Compare to the Berlin one; it’s a glypto-striptease!

Back to London:

One of the old exhibition cases in the birds exhibition. There are several with lovingly detailed displays explaining basics and details of bird anatomy, including exceptions and abnormalities.

Skull terms. This is only a part of the section explaining them.

A detail: an albatross head with labels. WOW! Old-time museum quality exhibit! It is old-fashioned, and to the shallow, TV-bound MDVs (Most Disinterested Visitor) most new exhibits are planned for, this is either boring or gross. In fact, however, this is the one thing a museum can do well, and TV can’t: TEACH! Teach via guided tours, audio tours, by visitors just reading the labels and signage themselves – provided there actually is material on exhibit that allows you to gain information that is not suitable to in-between-cheerio-commercials snippets! Kudos to the people who decided that these cases stay in the exhibition!

And one for Darren Naish of TetZoo fame. I daren’t call him a ‘fellow’ blogger, as he is way above my league.

Check out Darrens posts on hornbills (3 links, not 1)!

The marine reptiles are (again) not quite up to what I expected, but the hall is nice anyways.

Looking from the Main Hall into the Marine Reptile Hall. It doubles as an exhibition space and a passage to other halls – tricky to do! You’ll have large groups pushing through while others want to stand still smack in the middle, looking up at stuff. The gallery solves these problems pretty well: there are no cabinets standing in anyone’s way, and all the fossils are hung up on the walls. The natural lighting is neat, with a row of windows running down the middle of the roof. Naturally, I was very unhappy, because the fossils are all behind glass – reflection times! On the other hand, you can’t leave them unprotected….. the solution to this dilemma presented itself in the bird collection: there, there are light-colored blinds installed. That’s mainly I assume to protect the specimens from direct sunlight, so they won’t bleach out, but it has the nice additional effect that the glass reflects a lot less stuff. Combine that with angled glass covers…. and maybe that’d be enough! Why there are no blinds in the Marine Reptile Hall is beyond me.

The other thing I did not really like all that much is how the fossils are set up. Most are “cut out” of the rock and set into unicolor slabs of painted wood(?). That’s then mounted flat on the wall, with wooden frames holding the glass cover. At least the frames do not cut across fossils (No, do not make me mention the dinosaur collection).

Now, this is not bad at all, it’s just not a very loving way of displaying them. Compare to the ichthyosaurs I showed over the last few weeks. Setting them into slabs of rock is much nicer.
OK, I admit I was just peeved by there being so little extra info provided! It’s not half bad, in fact it’s a neat display.

What else did I like? For example, this:

Dacentrurus armatus. In a wooden case with glass, but in this case it was hung low enough on the wall and on the right side so that there were no reflections. You can get really close, too, which is another plus point for glass covers. I guess I’ll never be happy, whatever museums’ do. In this case, there is also a little bit of extra text, and although I’d wish for more, this is in fact well done.

And then there was lots more that was nice – but do not that I have not mentioning the mammal hall so far. Until they clean those whale skeletons and put in some air conditioning to remove the stuffy smell I won’t like it. It is, I am glad to report, packed with specimens, and as much as I wished they had more space, the status quo is much better than if they had kicked most of the stuff to the basement and retained only two whales. Well done, NHM!

And then, for the grand finale, I must mention the Animals Inside Out exhibit. Dave Hone has said all there is to say at his blog, absolving me from wasting more words.

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About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in Aves, Dinopics, Dinosauria, ichthyosaur, lower vertebrates, Maniraptora, MfN Berlin, NHM London, Theropoda. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to NHM London – what did I LIKE?

  1. Wow, I publish something positive and everyone shuts up and gets bored with my blog – I wonder why? *mischief*

  2. himmapaan says:

    Those bird cabinets are the best. That was where I spent all morning drawing last week, with the afternoon given to the shoebill. But you know all that now, so I’ll hush.

    I agree about the mammals gallery, of course. I took one peek through the door, saw how immensely crowded it was, and beat a hasty retreat…

  3. Marc (Horridus) says:

    I love the marine reptiles hall, it’s one of my favourite parts of the museum. The Rhomaleosaurus is a highlight – I love boring people with something Adam S Smith explained to me once (although I found it interesting), namely that the fins are all sculpted from scratch as the original was mounted incorrectly.

  4. Pingback: NHM London: the building (outside) | dinosaurpalaeo

  5. Pingback: Some bio-architecture in London | dinosaurpalaeo

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