I had a couple of hours to kill in London recently so I thought I would visit the Natural History Museum for the first time in about 15 years. I’m not sure if everything conspired against me but it was not a good experience. After paying £6 to put my tiny suitcase in left luggage I headed out optimistically to revisit old favourites and see the recent additions.
I found the new Cocoon research center impressive architecturally but the displays very disappointing. Maybe you need to be under the age of 11 to appreciate them but I found them over reliant on large format digital printouts, Perspex boxes and concrete. There is the occasional cabinet with a display of insects, and glimpses of intriguing science happening in the interior of the building but the endless grey corridor is just irritating.
The ‘Spirit Collection’, containing the wet specimens in jars of alcohol was closed, apparently without warning for an impromptu meeting, and the dinosaur room was being cleaned!
Of course there are still areas where the architecture of the building and the beautiful original cabinets can be seen but these are few and, what is worrying, seemingly getting fewer. Many of the rooms have fallen pray to oppressive information panels and entire displays are comprised of digital vinyl’s, large primary colored panels and dated design. The ‘Creepy Crawlies’ exhibition is a case in point – more ‘corporate promotion’ than stimulating display.