Last week I went to the Natural History Museum in London and I was struck by what an inspirational experience it was. Not only in a ‘wow, look at all the amazing stuff there is in the world’ way , but also in a creative, arty way. Depending on where you live and how you have to travel to get there, the Museum is cheap for what you get out of it. Entry is free, and I could have happily camped out in it for a week and not run out of things to see and do. The place is huge.
As a writer, and someone who admires artists, this place was such a rich source of inspiration. My friend and I started off with the dinosaur section. It was brilliantly under-lit to give it a creepy atmosphere. There was a walkway which ran across the room, accessed by stairs and from it you could view the dinosaur skeletons hanging from the ceiling. It was like a scene out of a nightmarish laboratory, with various bits of skeleton and animatronics on display. So much fun!
It also included a section dedicated to humanities interpretations of and fascination with dinosaurs across the ages. A screen cycled through various films and television programmes that have featured dinosaurs, from the stop-motion original Godzilla to the more sophisticated models in Jurassic Park to cartoon dinosaurs.
Not only the dinosaurs were amazing, but I loved looking at the more contemporary animals. I think most of them were taxidermy specimens, but old ones because the Museum doesn’t support that form of collection any more. Some of them were like something out of the fantasy art books the Brother owns, which I like to look through on occasion. I mean, just look at this crazy guy…
I don’t know if it comes across well in the picture, but its legs are freakishly long. I also like how the reflection on the glass kind of makes it look as though it has a unicorn horn. I can just imagine him as a piece of fantasy artwork, set on an otherworldly desert background.
The Earth section was also pretty cool, although some parts of it were shut down for maintenance so I didn’t get to look around all of it. Eerie space-like music played and an escalator took people up into a hollowed out globe. The whole thing looked like something out of a H.G. Wells novel. It was very impressive.
Just beyond the escalator was a group of statues of mythological figures. One of these was a cyclops. Beneath the cyclops was a skull of a mammoth which was found in Greece. The cavity in the skull from which a trunk would have protruded looked just like a single eye socket. It’s thought that the ancient Greeks found skulls like it and thought they belonged to an extinct race of one-eyed giants, thus giving birth to the myth of cyclops.
The section on the minerals was like something out of a science-fiction film. Some of them glow under ultra-violet light and although I wasn’t able to get a picture of it, it looked just like a Borg Cube from Star Trek. It’s amazing to think that such colours and constructs appear naturally. Some minerals looked like space-age weapons or glowing magical wands. There was even one that I was at first convinced had a city skyline painted on it, but it was in fact naturally formed.
I wish I could have stayed longer and taken more of it in! It was such a great day.