Anna Mallach gives her take on some of the most exciting collections, museums and galleries that can be found around the capital
Whether you have just moved to London or have lived here for a few years, London is a pretty exciting place to be. With so many cool things to do, it is easy to lose sight of the truly nerdy and “science-y” things that are definitely worth seeing.
Being located so closely to UCL, some of you may have strolled past Wellcome Collection. Next time, just go inside and have a look around. Their regular exhibition includes the entire human genome printed out into a large volume of books, so if you ever wanted to know the base pair sequence around the 50th place of chromosome 7, don’t Google it, just head to the collection and look it up for yourself! As well as permanent exhibitions, the collection also houses additional exhibitions that change periodically, so depending on your interests, they are definitely worthwhile as well. If exhibitions aren’t quite your thing, the Collection also contains a lovely library space at the top floor with cosy chairs, making it the perfect place to spend an hour between lectures. https://wellcomecollection.org
Finally, Wellcome Collection support a collaborative group of researchers for two years at a time. Now, for one more year, Created Out of Mind explores the various aspects of dementia, both from a researcher’s and a patient’s point of view. Collaborating with UCL’s own Institute of Neurology, they hold a range of exciting public events. http://www.createdoutofmind.org
When thinking about science in London, of course the Science Museum comes to mind, and there is good reason for this: it is an excellent museum. Packed with exciting collections, it may be too much to behold in one trip, but since admission is free (like most museums in London), this is not a problem. However, the Museum does contain exhibitions that are definitely worth paying a small sum for, including the Wonderlab. Although this exhibition immediately gives the impression that this hands-on space has been created for children, for science nerds it is an exciting opportunity to play with ferromagnetic fluids and paper airplanes without being judged! In particular, do not miss the Tesla coil, which the museum demonstrates how to use in order to create tiny lightning bolts. https://sciencemuseum.org.uk
Right down the street from the Science Museum, you can find the Natural History Museum, and chances are you may have already visited it. Again, being too large to see it all in one trip, the fantastic building and exhibitions invite you to keep on returning. Whilst the dinosaur exhibition gets busy on weekends and school holidays, the moving T. Rex is not to be missed. http://www.nhm.ac.uk
One particular treat offered by both the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are the Lates. On the last Friday and Wednesday of every month at the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum respectively, the museums stay open until late, and give you the compelling opportunity to browse the exhibitions at dark with a beer in hand. Each month has a different theme, which is explored further within interesting pop-up stalls and talks around the museum. Additionally, as winter is approaching, if you are looking for a less scientific thrill then you can try your luck on the Ice Rink, situated at the Natural History Museum, and warm up afterwards with mulled wine in the neighbouring café.
Alternatively, if you want to feel like you have escaped the hectic nature of London for a while, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill offers exactly that, with its amazing garden and conservatory. The scenery is so beautiful it should even sway your less science-inclined friends to look around the Museum’s collection, and marvel at relics from Antarctica. http://horniman.ac.uk
Lastly, another gem is the soon-to-be opened Science Gallery London. When the gallery was first opened in Dublin, it was an immediate success because of its intriguing approach of presenting scientific concepts through artistic displays. The combination of these two contrasting elements is very exciting, and presents scientific findings in a different light in comparison to more ‘normal’ museums. The gallery will open in 2018 at Guy’s Campus, King’s College London, but to tie you over until then they run pop-up events such as BLOOD: Life Uncut. Having been to the original Science Gallery in Dublin, and not having been able to stop talking about it for two years, I thoroughly recommend you check it out as soon as possible when it officially opens next year. https://london.sciencegallery.com
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