May 2019

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum

As part of the Enchanted Garden series, a small group of guests were invited to attend a behind the scenes tour of the iconic Natural History Museum.

Co-hosted by botanical artist Sarah Graham, guests were first taken to the Tank Room, an underground facility which houses the museum’s wet specimens (those stored in formaldehyde). The majority of specimens in the Tank Room belong to fish, our guide Oliver Crimmen, explained. As the Senior Fish Curator at the museum Crimmen is obsessed with sea life, and over his 45 year tenure at the institution has helped everyone from Damien Hirst to film crews better understand what goes on in the deep. After a short explanation about preserving specimens, Crimmen gave guests a tour of his highlights, which included a giant tuna, the largest sea bass caught in English waters, a female anglerfish and her minuscule mate, and Archie the famous giant squid. Some of Darwin’s original wet specimens were also on show.

Next on the tour was the museum’s library and print room, home to hundreds of important botanical studies, artworks and natural history books, many of which are hand drawn or inscribed. Amongst the selection on show guests were able to see a rare Audubon bird book, detailed gouache studies of wasps and original botanical studies from the Beagle voyage.

The final stop was at the coleoptera collection, or beetle room. Here, Max the head curator showed guests a handful of his favourite specimens from a hoard of 10 million. Among those on display included both the smallest and largest of the beetles, as well as pupae in their different colours and forms.