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The Natural History Museum

478 of 1169 nominations


The Natural History Museum

Is this an icon?


The Natural History Museum

Ask anyone what they know about the Natural History Museum and you might get a one-word answer: dinosaurs. However, the Museum is actually home to much more than those giant skeletons that have fired the imaginations of generations of young minds: its five main collections – Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology – consist of some 70 million items.

It all began in 1753, when Sir Hans Sloane’s will bequeathed his collections of dried plants and skeletons to the British Museum. A century later, it was decided that its natural history departments needed their own home; a site was bought in South Kensington, and the Museum finally opened in 1881. Alfred Waterhouse’s Romanesque design utilised terracotta bricks, featuring images of animals, fossils and plants.

The Museum’s most famous recent acquisition was the skeleton of "Wally", the female bottlenose whale who swam up the Thames in January 2006 and died, despite a concerted rescue effort (but not before being nominated as an icon of England).

Photo: © Natural History Museum


Your comments

It has a magnificence and splendour from a bygone age, and stands out regally today from its surroundings in Kensington. It has also stood for centuries as the focal point for exploration (Phileas Fogg) and for worldwide artefacts to be displayed in its huge halls.

Joe Coll

The Natural History Museum is part of my personal history. I first visited soon after it was opened, just after the war. There wasn't much to see - most of it was closed, & I became fascinated by what lay behind those blocked up corridors. Can you imagine my excitement; what was I, 13 then; when one day I arrived and the Dinosaur department had opened. I go back from time to time to 'relive' my childhood. Silly, I know, but that museum, and the Science museum, taught me so much that made me what I am.
Richard King

An icon of London possibly but hardly an icon of England. Most people in the whole of England wouldn't recognise it - inside or out.

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry