Tips for navigating London’s Natural History Museum

Posted by on Feb 3, 2011 | 4 Comments

Tonight on Museum Secrets: Inside the Natural History Museum, on History Television (Canada) at 10 PM ET/ PT, we take you to London’s museum that is a cathedral of nature, housing over 70 million specimens, and visited annually by more than 4 million people.

But how does a visitor start to navigate this huge museum?

Read our tips below about where you can find some of the objects featured on Museum Secrets at the NHM, then check out the links provided for some interactive features on where you can experience the objects in a new way and learn of their surprising stories.

Tour the Spirit Collection at the NHM

Discover over 17,000 specimens that are kept in 80 per cent industrial methylated spirit to preserve them. This collection of animals and sea creatures includes the hidden specimens collected by Charles Darwin. The oldest collections on display date back to Captain Cook’s voyages in the 1760s and 1770s.

Visit the vault in the minerals gallery to find the Cursed Amethyst

Some of the world’s most unique and valuable gems, crystals, metals and meteorites are in the museum’s vault, located in the Minerals gallery in the NHM’s Green Zone on the mezzanine gallery of the Central Hall.

The cursed amethyst (featured on Museum Secrets) also known as the purple sapphire, was stolen during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Ever since, misfortune and even death have been said to befall anyone who dares hold it in their grasp. Is the curse real?

  • Curator Richard Savin reveals the strange experiences he had after touching the stone in this Web Exclusive Video: Unexplained Evidence.

Find the artifacts from Somerset Cave and learn about whether the ancient Brits were cannibals

As part of the research being done for the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, visitors at the NHM can find small hand tools and other artifacts from 50,000 – 20,000 years ago. In a cave in Somerset England, where archeologists found small tools, they also discovered human bones that date back 13,000 years.  On Museum Secrets we follow two paleontologists as they analyze clues that may lead to a disturbing answer. Were early Britons cannibals?

  • We invite you to examine the physical evidence by viewing our Interactive Feature: Ice Age CSI.


  1. william bugyra
    February 9, 2011

    I watched the show and can’t remember the name of the lions of today
    that were the same as the skulls found in the moat in England.
    Could you please send me the name.
    Thankyou Bill.

  2. Amanda
    February 16, 2011

    Hi Bill,
    The lions of the past whose skulls are at the museum are Barbary Lions.
    Royal Moroccan Lions are the present day lions!
    See more here:

  3. Nikola
    September 9, 2011

    Hi, I haven’t had the chance to watch the episode Natural history museum,
    and I am not from Canada so I can t watch it online.

    Would it be too much trouble for you to send me that episode on my email?
    Thanks, Nikola from Croatia

  4. Museum Secrets
    September 13, 2011

    Hi Nikola,
    Thanks for your interest in the episode.
    Unfortunately we don’t have any DVDs of the series for sale yet.
    Stay tuned here for news about DVDs available in other regions! :)