Tuesday, 11 September 2018
The Natural History Museum in London exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history. It is one of three major museums on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the others being the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Museum first opened its doors on 18 April 1881, but its origins stretch back to 1753 and the generous offer of a renowned doctor, Sir Hans Sloane. After his death in 1753, Sloane's will allowed Parliament to buy his extensive collection of more than 71,000 items for £20,000 - significantly less than its estimated value. The government agreed to purchase Sloane’s collection and then built the British Museum so these items could be displayed to the public.
In 1856 Sir Richard Owen took charge of the British Museum’s natural history collection. Unhappy with the lack of space for its ever-growing collection of natural history specimens, Owen convinced the British Museum's board of trustees that a separate building was needed to house these national treasures.
In 1864 Francis Fowke, the architect who designed the Royal Albert Hall and parts of the Victoria and Albert Museum, won a competition to design the Natural History Museum. When he unexpectedly died a year later, the relatively unknown Alfred Waterhouse took over and came up with a new plan for the South Kensington site. Waterhouse used terracotta for the entire building as this material was more resistant to Victorian London's harsh climate.
The result is one of Britain’s most striking examples of Romanesque architecture, which is considered a work of art in its own right and has become one of London's most iconic landmarks.