Fascinating Places in London
Natural History Museum
There are in London some magical places that you could get lost in for hours, museums that you could explore over and over again, without becoming bored, because they’re a great source of both information and inspiration. I decided to start a short series of posts about my favourite ones and, hopefully, you’ll find in them some useful recommendations that you’ll consider, when planning your next visiting trip.
The Natural History Museum is the first Londoner landmark I dedicate a blog to. Serving, as well, as research institution, the fabulous museum was inaugurated on the Cromwell Road in 1881 and its pale blue and terracotta facade only prepares you for the natural wonders within.
I visited the museum a while ago and the whole experience was like a breath of fresh air. The galleries you can access are incredibly rich and diverse, but, as you may expect, I had a particular interest in the mineral collection, which is one of the world’s finest, including over 500,000 items. Plenty to see and learn! The museum is organised in zones, each represented by a colour, but if you’re like me, fascinated by minerals and gemstones, then you should definitely check the Minerals and The Vault Galleries in the Green zone and the Earth’s Treasury in the Red zone. So, grab a cup of coffee because we’re about to embark on a virtual tour!
Before heading to the museum, I had coffee with the lovely Emily, a former workshop participant who came all the way from Leeds to attend our creative event. She gave me some fresh ideas about how to further develop the workshops that I can’t wait to implement. Coffee and new friends are, without a doubt, a great combo!
The Red Zone
The first area I visited puts the beautiful gemstones in the spotlight and lets them shine as if they’re ready for a glossy photoshoot. I took advantage of this ingenious display and let the slices of agate, azurite, and malachite charm me for good. I really enjoyed the Earth’s Treasury, this mine of information on a variety of precious metals, gems and crystals, each with its own story.
The highlight: Finding out about the ‘villain’ minerals or ‘minerals that harm’ was the highlight of this zone. They are equally noxious and unpleasantly looking, that’s why they would probably fit perfectly in a sci-fi movie.
As you enter the Minerals Gallery in the Green zone, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, in 1881 to be more precise, because you have the chance to see the original oak display cabinets of the museum. The immense room bathes in natural light and it’s the perfect environment to find out some historical information, to learn how the minerals formed and how they are used today in a variety of fields. I marveled at the diversity of colours, textures and shapes of the exhibits: some of them looked bizarre and out of this world, while others seemed as delicate as snowflakes.
The highlight: I couldn’t decide between the Ostro Stone, the world’s largest treated intense blue, faceted topaz, and the meteorite fragments, so I guess we have a draw here. I wouldn’t know what to do with a topaz weighting 2.5 kilos, but I would definitely take a piece of meteorite and turn it into a small planet-shaped pendant. One can only dream!
The Vault includes a collection of precious stones, from coloured diamonds to emeralds, few rare meteorites, including the largest Martian meteorite, and some unique jewellery pieces.
The highlight: The diamonds that change their colours and reflections under infrared light.
I ended my trip at the souvenir shop, where I bought a few amethyst crystals, rose quartz, selenites and agates for a future jewellery item. The museum has, as well, several cafés, where you can enjoy a sweet treat after all the exploring. One important detail that you need to know is, of course, the ticket price. Even thought you may need to pay a small fee for the temporary exhibitions and the museum’s events, the admission to the permanent galleries is free! To those who are not from London (or Great Britain, for that matter), the museum gives them the chance to explore highlights of the geological collections in an online exhibition. How wonderful is that!
Now, if you visited the NHM before, let me know what impressed you the most. What other London museums would you recommend to someone who’s fascinated by minerals and gemstone? Let me know your suggestions!
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