Monday 25 February 2013

Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire

 Everyone knows of, and quite possibly visited, the Natural History Museum in London. In Tring is their sister museum which was started by Walter Rothschild over 100 years ago.
The history of the museum and Walter is amazing. The NHM website has excellent video which is fascinating viewing and puts it all a lot better than I can write it.

The museum is quite unique in that the cases and animals are still displayed as Wrothchild left them. The cases are quite close together. Not like the wide open spaced museums we often find now. Animals are also grouped as they were 100 years ago, by type lion, monkey, fish etc these days we have a variation on this theme. Some cases are also very cluttered, the animals are posed and displayed in a way you wouldn't find now. These aren't negative points at all... its just a very different museum to what we see a lot of now. It reminds me slightly of the pitt-rivers in Oxford. A low light museum with so much to see at every turn, and you see something different every time. It all adds to the atmosphere.

There is such a variety of animals, and such an amazing vast selection, yet this is only some of it. Some were sold and some used for study. Walter used to keep animals on his land in Tring, popular animals being tortoises and zebras. The zebras he harnsed up to a cart and he was pulled past Buckingham Palace. These zebras can now be seen on display.

There is a really big display of dogs, not something you would expect to see in a museum. Some of the breeds were unusual yet some we recognised the names but as cross breeding has continued the animals looked different to the ones you will see today.

There was a video on taxidermy .. we skipped this. Sorry. Just could not watch. You can read the display next to it which we did and look at the types of eyes used.

We brought a worksheet from the shop before we went in, and it was fun to find all the letters and spot the different animals in the display cases. We also grabbed a bite to eat from the cafe, its very compact and the food was ok, if the weather was nice it would have been good to take a picnic and eat it outside.

NHM Tring was an excellent few hours of exploring, its free to enter and has free parking. It was really busy when we went, with kids of all ages having an excellent time. Some areas were a little cramped with large pushchairs but every area is accessible with lifts.

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