Culture Corner


Cultural Days Out in Kensington

Posted by Oliver, on 25 Dec 2013, in Culture Corner
Natural History Museum – London, © 2010 Cristiano Maia, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Natural History Museum – London, © 2010 Cristiano Maia, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Almost everyone who comes to visit Kensington knows about our amazing collection of museums. Whether it’s the Victoria and Albert, the Natural History Museum or even the Science Museum of London, they’re all within spitting distance of one another: and more importantly, within walking distance of many hotels in Kensington, London.

There are a series of rookie mistakes that every guest makes when they go exploring Kensington’s museums. First of all, they don’t remember to eat lunch first! To me, there’s nothing worse than trying to learn about the world if your tummy is rumbling. Second, they try to take in the entire museum in one trip.

Museums like the V&A or the Natural History Museum are simply too huge to take in on one visit! The best approach is to know what you want to see, and where you want to see it. Here are my favourites!

Darwin Centre Spirit Collection at the Natural History Museum

In September 2009, the Darwin Centre opened at the Natural History Museum, allowing visitors to “explore world-class science in action in a dramatic new public space”.

The “Spirit Collection” contains specimens collected and preserved by Darwin himself, all of which are preserved in alcohol and ghoulishly displayed in mason jars. Several species in the collection were discovered initially by Darwin, and are marked by their glass jars with yellow tops. While I’m fascinated by this exhibition, it’s not for the very young – or the faint of heart!

The 10,000 Year Clock at the Science Museum of London

The 10,000 year clock began to tick on December 31, 1999. The clock, now known as the Clock of the Long Now, was built to inspire long-term thinking. The clock is hundreds of feet tall and the real version is deep inside a remote mountain site in Nevada, but the first prototype lives in London’s Science Museum. In 1995, the idea of the clock was introduced by Danny Hills, when he said:

“I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.”

I find that so inspiring! Make sure you go see the prototype if you’re in the Science Museum, as it’s by far my favourite attraction.

Tipu’s Tiger at the V&A

British history book might sometimes have you believe that other country’s welcomed their colonial presence – but Tipu’s Tiger might have you believe different!

Tipu, a sultan who ruled India in the late 1700s, was tiger obsessed. A cursory glance over his armoury reveals this to be the case, as it featured mortars shaped like sitting tigers, cannons with tiger muzzles, and weapons decorated with ornate tiger heads. Yep, it’s safe to say he had a thing for tigers!

Too bad he didn’t have the same affection for the British! The V&A’s “Tipu’s Tiger” is a mechanical organ shaped like a tiger mauling an English soldier. When activated, the organ emits the sounds of a man in his death throws, raising his arm in defense. Not a great way to be remembered!

After this little bit of advice, I hope our hotels in Kensington, London are filled with some very satisfied – and very educated – guests.