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Natural History Museum
London SW7 5BD
Switchboard +44 (0)20 7942 5000 - (9.00-17.30 Mon-Fri)
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The Natural History Museum, one of three large museums located on Exhibition Road, Kensington, London, England (the others are the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum), is home to life and earth science collections comprising some 70 million specimens or items. There are five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology.
The museum is renowned for its Central Hall and its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons, particularly the large Diplodocus cast which dominates the entrance.
The foundation of the collection was a bequest by English doctor Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753). Sloane's collection, which included dried plants, and animal and human skeletons, was initially housed in Montague House in Bloomsbury in 1756, and was considered part of the British Museum. In the late 1850s, Professor Richard Owen, Superintendent of the natural history departments of the British Museum, became convinced that the natural history departments needed a bigger, separate building.
Land in South Kensington was purchased, and in 1864 a competition was held to design the new museum. The winning entry was submitted by Captain Francis Fowke who died shortly afterwards. The scheme was taken over by Alfred Waterhouse who substantially revised the agreed plans, and designed the facades in his own idiosyncratic Romanesque style. Work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. The new museum opened in 1881, although the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883.
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