Showing posts with label Natural History Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Natural History Museum. Show all posts

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Chi Chi The Giant Panda

My grandparents in Wembley often took us to museums when we were children.
My most vivid memories of these trips are the Natural History Museum, the RAF museum in Hendon, travelling on Underground trains with wooden floors,
and the long walk back to their house at the end of an exhausting day
along the 'longest road in the world', Carlton Avenue East.

And what I remember most clearly about the Natural History Museum
was seeing Chi Chi the giant panda.

Going to see Chi Chi was an 'event'.
The diorama intrigued me.
Is that what China really looked like?
And why is she sitting eating? Is that what pandas do all day?
And why that yellow! That yellow has stayed with me.

I went back to the Natural History Museum recently with my kids and there was Chi Chi.
The same diorama, the same yellow.
I was excited, I could say to my kids,
"I saw that when I was a girl, that same Panda, that same yellow.
It looked just like that when I was your age."

Looking at the lettering used for 'Chi Chi', very seventies looking, I feel I am probably right.
Nothing has changed.

 Chi Chi was caught in China in 1957. After being kept in a number of different Zoos, she came to London Zoo in 1958 where she lived until 1972 when she died of old age.
They tried, unsuccessfully, to get her to mate and have babies.

So her legacy is not one of children, grandchildren
and helping to increase the panda population.
It is as a natural history specimen, to be wondered and marvelled at
by generations of visitors to the Natural History Museum.

But this visit was with a knowledgeable uncle
who used to work at the Natural History Museum.
None of that talk of yellow walls and seventies lettering.
We got animal facts.

"Pandas are unusual, not like other bears, because they have an opposable thumb, like us, for stripping the bamboo so they can eat it. Other bears haven't got opposable thumbs.
They're weird because they eat vegetation all the time, not what other bears eat,
they're omnivores. They have a very restricted diet.
I think you're asking for trouble if you're a panda with a restricted diet of fresh bamboo
and not much else!"

Don't hold me responsible for the factual accuracy of the above statement,
we were just having a chat.
If I did see Chi Chi alive in London Zoo, I was too young to remember it.
I will ask my parents.

Opening times and details here

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Armadillo

In museums some things just grab your attention.

Like the Three-Banded Armadillo

Like the hedgehog, in a previous post here, they too roll themselves into a ball when scared.
Into an armoured ball. Look how amazingly the pieces of shell fit together.
"Like a puzzle."

It impressed us.
"That's so cool! It's all fits together so perfectly."

"Looks like my Bakugan Battle Brawler."
I think you need to be ten years old to get this connection.
They're creatures from a Japanese TV series, characters called Baku-Gan,
which when translated means 'exploding-ball'.
Could the Armadillo have been the inspiration behind this?

See these armadillos from Brasil (not Japan) at the Natural history Museum.
Opening times on their website here.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Museums don't keep everybody happy. At the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, also written about in a previous blog post here, five of us were happy and one of us wasn't. That one is ten years old and boy did he let us know that he was bored!

Trying to distract him from continually asking to "go now", I had a bright idea. I gave him my notebook, down which I had written the beginings of an acrostic. The letters of his and his sister's name. I then asked him to go round the exhibition and find things in the photos beginning with each letter. 

He went off, I felt slightly (if a little prematurely) pleased with myself. We now had more time to enjoy the exhibition in peace.

This is what he gave back to me. Not my acrostic, but one he had devised himself.


I laughed! Genius, I had succeeded in getting him to look at the photos.

You might be wondering about Oosten. That's Marsel Van Oosten who waited years for the right conditions to take a photo of an Acacia tree in the Namibian Desert, taken in rolling fog as the sun was rising. Wonder if he got bored waiting? You can see his picture here.

My son, despite proclaiming to be bored, he did describe the photos as Incredible!

You can see the 'incredible' photos in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum until 23rd March 2014.

Friday, 28 February 2014


At the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in the Natural History Museum I discovered that, rather than photos being moments of chance, the photographer happening to be in the right place at the right time, a lot of waiting around had gone on. I thought I would tell you some of the stories about waiting to inspire you to visit, as no photography is allowed in the exhibition.

Some waiting sounds more appealing than others.

Underwater... 'When he spotted a fin, he dived down, held his breath and waited for the eight metre (Whale Shark) animal to pass overhead.'

For fifty days... 'In all that time he only saw one tiger, early morning on day fifty of his stake-out.'

For the morning... 'waited for the perfect dew to form on the flower and the vegetation behind it.'

Baiting Bears... 'Using a Deer as bait he waited patiently for ten days.'

For the weather... 'Marsel had waited years for the right weather to take this photo'

On river banks...'It took three days to get close enough to take a photo of this American Crocodile'

On the sea floor... 'Douglas captured this image by lying on the sea floor and waiting for the Dudong (Manatee) to approach'

Camping... 'Udayan spent the night camping next to a colony of Gharias on the bank, hoping to photograph them early in the morning light'

In a hide... 'Anton and his father were in Finland to take pictures of brown bears. They rented a hide, put out some dog food as bait, and waited'

Don't wait too long to go and see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum as it closes on the 23rd March 2014. A great exhibition for teenagers. 

You can read more about the exhibition here.

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