There are a few places in the world that are very special to me, and this is one of them – the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. I came here just before Christmas with my family to see the dinosaurs (Dippy the Diplodocus is still taking pride of place in the main hall, but will soon be replaced with a whale skeleton). I used to come here when I was a child to see the dinosaurs (Dippy was my favourite), when my older sister used to bring me here as a four-year-old so that I could argue with the staff about vertebrae (I never understood that story either). I was a total dinosaur nut, and I even still have a few of my old dinosaur books from my youth. Those dinosaur illustrations enthralled me, and the long hard-to-pronounce names were fascinating to me. This place is more than just dinosaurs of course, and within its walls it keeps a massive collection of specimens from all periods of natural history – around 80 million specimens in all, mostly housed in the Darwin Centre. This is an unbelievably important place. But back to the dinosaurs, the term ‘dinosaur’ was coined by Dr. Richard Owen, who eventually helped to found the Natural History Museum. This building was opened in 1881, and is one of the jewels of London. And importantly, it is free to go in.My son’s not as into dinosaurs as I was, he kind of likes them, but he really likes rocks and minerals, so he enjoyed that. After we were done and had played a few games of Top Trumps in the cafe, we went and had lunch in South Kensington (it’s so nice there, so civilized, and I had an organic mince pie which is very posh of me), I went back to use up the rest of the daylight sketching the ice rink and Christmas tree in front of the museum. In London in December it starts getting dark at about half past three, though this was an unseasonably mild day with some clear sky. The scene before the museum is so festive, I might make it into a Christmas card next year. You’d probably not catch me ice skating though.
10 thoughts on “christmas in south ken”
This post is lovely, nostalgia is wonderful. I used to love visiting the museum of chilhood in edinburgh. It’s a really small museum but I loved how it made me feel. It was like magic. Dipping my toes into my past. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Kirsty. I love seeing how the NHM has evolved since I was a kid, and I hope my son keeps good memories of this place when he grows up.
Great post – I’m off to the ‘smoke’ next weekend :)
Cheers! Have fun!
Lovely pics! Have you taken your son to the Geological Museum yet? I remember being wowed as a child by the ‘earthquake machine’ they had there (it was the ’80s and such things were very new). And rocks with raw gemstones in… happy days.
They have all that in the NHM now, it was folded into it a while ago. He loves all the geological stuff, probably more than dinosaurs.
Oh, I didn’t know! :) It’s been such a long time since I visited. I guess it’s much more convenient as a ‘one stop shop’, if potentially a lot busier. What fun – something for everyone.
Terrific drawing of the museum. It’s an incredible building architecturally. I love all the little themed details. The Natural History Museum is one of my top three museums in the world (the others being the National Museum of Scotland and the Shelburne Museum in Vermont). I wish I could have taken my kids to the NHM more often before we left Britain.
It really is, and I could spend days there just drawing the building. My cousin actually does get to go and draw their insect collections. This is definitely my favourite, though I love the British Museum as well. I’ve not been to any in the US quite as good yet, but I’d love to visit the Smithsonian one day.
The Smithsonian is marvellous because of the variety it offers across all its buildings and – unusually for America – it is all entirely free. My in-laws used to live in Washington DC so any time we visited them from the UK I had another opportunity to go and visit favourite haunts at the Smithsonian and some of WDC’s other wonderful museums and galleries. Since we emigrated, we have taken the boys to the American History and Air and Space collections at the Smithsonian but we must take another trip to DC to show them more.
I love the British Museum too. Its real strength is in the WOW! factor of its holdings. It showcases so many treasures that each room holds a treat. I do think it has improved massively over the last decade. I remember it used to feel quite musty and old-fashioned, with things crammed into dark cases and faded, type-written labels. It is much better organised now and has much better information presented alongside the items. I love that rotunda area that they added too.