National History Museum

The National History Museum of Britain is one of the larger museums in the city of London. It, along with other notable museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, is located on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, though the main front of the building is on the adjoining Cromwell Road. The museum is run by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom Government. It is a non departmental public body, meaning that while not being an integral part of Government, ministers are ultimately responsible to Parliament for what happens in their sector. The current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is Andy Burnham MP, of Labour; however, he has little to do with the general running of the museum, though he represents their interests at Parliament.

National History MuseumThe National History Museum is split into five main sections. These are: Botany (study of plants), Entomology (study of insects), Mineralogy (study of earth sciences and minerals), Paleontology (studies of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life forms) and Zoology (study of animals). The museum is also used as a research centre, drawing worldwide acclaim in fields such as conservation and taxonomy.

A particular area of interest for any visitor of the National History Museum is the Paleontology section, as the museum is famed for its exhibits of dinosaur skeletons. Even outside of the main section itself the excellent track record in dinosaur exhibition is continued; a full size cast of a Diplodocus dominates the central hall.

As is fitting for a place designed to honor the past, the National History Museum dates back hundreds of years. The collection was started as a private whim of Sir Hans Sloane, who collected what were then referred to as rarities for pleasure. However, over the course of his lifetime he allowed the British government to purchase most of his collection. The collection was housed at Montague House in Bloomsbury as part of the British Museum in 1756.

Separation from the British Museum was considered important right from the beginning of the collection, with the first petition for separation issued to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1866. There was perhaps some good reason for this desire for separation, as it was later revealed that various keepers of the British Museum has sold effects from the Sloane collection. It is reported that by 1833, of the 5,500 insects in the original Sloane collection, none remained.

Although the wrangling over detachment from the British Museum never went away, it wasn’t until 1963 that it became a separate museum with its own board of trustees. It was then another nigh on thirty years until the name National History Museum was used, and the separation declared complete.

The National History Museum is a hub for tourist visitors, both from abroad and from within the United Kingdom (it is a popular destination for school trips). It is best found by the London Underground station South Kensington. Admission is free, though some specific exhibitions are priced, and donations boxes appear sporadically through the museum.