Visiting London’s Natural History Museum as a teenager

posted in: Blog, London | 12
Emperor penguin egg, Treasures Exhibition, Natural History Museum
(pic by John Cummings via Wikimedia Commons)

Jess, aged 15, writes: I visited the Natural History Museum frequently when I was younger (in fact, one of my earliest memories is looking at the dinosaurs), but I hadn’t been for at least five years until one of my friends suggested a visit. It’s strange being a teenager at museums: exhibits are either super babyish or ridiculously quiet and intellectual, and attempts at appealing to teenagers usually involve cringe-y “LOL”s and hashtags. We wondered if the museum had changed much since we last visited it, and if there would be anything for us.

We started out in the “Red Zone”, which is all about earth’s structure. My friend and I were instantly entranced by the entrance: an escalator leading into a giant model of the earth. It seemed like the start of a ride at Disneyworld! The first exhibition was one I remembered from years ago – “Volcanoes and Earthquakes”. Despite both of us being Geography GCSE students and already knowing most of the facts, we really enjoyed the exhibition – it was colourful, in depth, relatively up to date, and had lots to see and do. Particular highlights were casts from Pompeii and a supermarket that simulates the 1996 Great Hanshin earthquake.

Volcanoes gallery at the Natural History Museum
(photo courtesy of the Natural History Museum)

Next, we passed through the “Human Evolution” and “Earth’s Treasures” galleries, which we found fascinating. “Human Evolution” features lots of realistic models of different human species over time, and “Earth’s Treasures” is full of minerals and jewels of every size and colour. While these were definitely exciting to look at, it was also very interesting to learn about mineral structure and history of metals. My friend and I were pleasantly surprised – we didn’t remember any of this from when we were younger, and it was set at a perfect level for us.

Next came the “Blue Zone”, which was all about biology. We both remembered this room, which contains a gigantic blue whale model. There was a lot to see and do, and while everything was impressive, we got bored very quickly. Everything was exactly the same as we remembered, and it seemed quite faded and repetitive. However, there was another exhibition about human biology which we really enjoyed – while it was old, unchanged, and some things didn’t work, there were lots of games to play and videos to watch. We enjoyed a game where you had to keep a boy alive by monitoring breathing rates, food consumption and more (we failed), circus mirrors, and an unintentionally funny video about getting hurt while being scared of a dog. We learnt nothing, but it was a lot of fun!

Next came the dinosaurs, which we were really looking forward to. This was the busiest part of the museum, and as expected, it was seemingly unchanged from when we were younger. The dinosaurs were as gigantic and awe-inspring as ever, and we spent a long time in the exhibition. However, this wasn’t our favourite part of the museum…

The “Treasures” gallery is something I had never ever heard of before, but my friend and I thought it was amazing. It is a collection of 22 of the most remarkable objects in the museums collection, and we spent about 40 minutes just in this small room. This includes pages from the world’s most expensive book: (“John James Audubon’s Birds of America”), and my personal favourite, an emperor penguin egg collected on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to Antarctica. This was with the aim of finding a link between reptiles and birds by looking at the penguin’s embryo. My friend and I were shocked and amazed by this story, and I went home and looked it up to find out more. Here’s a video from the museum:

Overall, my friend and I had a really great time at the Natural History museum. We learnt a lot and had a lot of fun interacting with the exhibits. However, we thought that the famous parts of the museum (the dinosaurs and the mammals) weren’t as interesting as the rest of it. We definitely had a good time, but we won’t be making a return visit, seeing as it hasn’t really changed that much.

Entrance to the Natural History Museum is free, although there is a charge for some exhibitions. The Treasures Gallery is now undergoing refurbishment, but will reopen this summer.


12 Responses

  1. Cathy (Mummytravels)

    It’s the mark of a good museum when it can appeal to so many levels – I don’t think there was as much when I visited occasionally as a teen but good to know there’ll still be some areas of interest once my daughter has outgrown the dinosaurs – our current first stop.

  2. Mike Cotton

    I love the Natural History Museum. I visited loads when I was a kid and been back a few times since I’ve gotten older. Best of all, it’s free!

  3. Jessica The Dining Traveler

    Great to read this post from a Teenager’s perspective. It was interesting to see that the mineral exhibition was more interesting than the classic dinasaus. Fascinating to see how we all see things at different stages of our lives.

  4. mark wyld

    We love museums like this our oldest daughter is interested in all things like this. She wants to be some sort of oligist it changes week to weeks for palaeontologist to archaeologist to marinebiologist lol. I will be putting this on our list for next visit to London

  5. Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures

    I was probably the same age (or a bit younger) when I first visited the Natural History Museum, and I loved it – I still do. Normally I’m not a massive fan of museums because I get bored quite easily, but I love the fact that the NHM is interactive and you can play around with different things. My favourite section was actually the same as Jess’s – I remember the game where you had to keep someone alive, and there was also this video about a robbery, which was supposed to be testing your short term memory (and your attention to detail). I loved that!

  6. Claire at Tin Box Traveller

    It’s interesting to see the museum from a teenager’s perspective. The two times I’ve been were when I was pre-teen (I think) and then with a baby and toddler. We got slightly less out of the experience with two small kids. It’s not a bad day out at all for free though

  7. MrsS

    Lovely to read from a a teenager’s perspective. I would have loved the blue zone with the biology and probably skipped past the dinosaurs! I Love it when a place appeals to different ages and different levels. great read!

  8. Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)

    It’s great to read an account of a visit to the Natural History Museum from a teenager’s point of view. Museums need to appeal to visitors of all ages – you want to find different things each time you go. It sounds as though there was plenty to interest you here and how wonderful that you were inspired to find out more when you got home.

  9. Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me)

    It made me chuckle that you didn’t manage to keep the boy alive! This is an interesting read. The Natural History Museum’s always been a big hit with my two, but I hae wondered whether they’d still enjoy it when they were older. Now I know!

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