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Bringing the science & public spheres together
(The Natural History Museum, London)

© The Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum first opened to the public in April 1881. The Museum is known worldwide not only for its science communication programmes and exhibitions but also as a world leader in scientific research. More than 800 staff work at the Museum, including 350 researchers, curators and students who work behind the scenes to study the diversity of nature using the Museum’s vast collections. Museum collections now comprise over 70 million plants, animals, fossils, rocks and minerals from around the world including 28 million insects, 27 million animals, 9 million fossils, 6 million algae, diatoms, ferns, mosses, lichens and seed plants, more than 500,000 rocks and minerals and 3,200 meteorites. The fish collections alone cover 4,500 metres of shelving.

The Natural History Museum was the first national UK museum to launch a website that currently receives around 1.7 million page views and around 400,000 visitors each month. The Natural History Museum is the UK’s premier institution for the study of systematics, the naming, describing and classifying of life on Earth. The research is organised into six interdisciplinary themes, tackling current issues of concern, from Earth’s biodiversity to cosmic mineralogy. The collections, scientific staff and research facilities are organised into five departments, comprising Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology.

The Darwin Centre

Phase One of the Darwin Centre opened to the public in September 2002. The Darwin Centre is a major new vision for science that will change the way many people view the Museum by revealing for the first time the amazing organisms in the collections and the cutting-edge scientific research they support. One of the exciting and novel features provided by Phase One is the Darwin Centre (DC) Live programme. On a daily basis members of the public are able to meet Museum researchers, curators and their associates to explore earth and life science in a pre-programmed series of discussion-based events. Visitors are able to find out more about the scientific research undertaken at the Museum and exchange their ideas and views with on such topical issues as pollution and climate change. Each session in DC Live provides the opportunity to demonstrate how the Museum actively curates, develops and uses the collections and to give insight into the lives of our scientists and their areas of research.

© The Natural History Museum, London

The space in which DC Live takes place is a state-of-the art digital studio environment comprising video-conferencing facilities which allows DC Live sessions to be broadcast onto screens in the Darwin Centre itself and live-streamed to the World Wide Web. This has the added benefit of allowing interaction to take place via remote link with people in another area of the Museum or indeed anywhere else in the world. DC Live aims to facilitate personal interaction and dialogue between science and its publics. Additionally, the Darwin Centre website also has an extensive archive of freely available video footage from the DC Live programme thus opening access to an online audience long after the physical doors of the Museum have closed.

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