Museum to move its insects (that's all 28 million of them)
The specimens form part of one of the biggest insect collections in the world - second only to that of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington - and their removal is the most complex ever undertaken in Britain.
Over 18 weeks the museum hopes to ship out its entire collection of insects and spiders to eight locations, seven within the grounds of the museum and one at a warehouse in south London.
Here they will be stored temporarily until a £65.5m building at the museum's home in South Kensington is finished ready for their return in 2008 when many will return to public display.
The collection has a rich history, the oldest specimens dating back 300 years and some being brought back to Britain by such scientific luminaries as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, the 19th-century naturalist who, like Darwin, travelled the world in search of rare creatures.
Professor Nigel Fergusson, a museum entomologist who is helping to co-ordinate the move, said the shipment was a logistical nightmare because many of the specimens were old and delicate. "It's a huge project and an incredible responsibility," he said. "The specimens are unique and extremely fragile."
The collection, which includes spiders, is held in 7,250 museum cabinets, containing more than 140,000 drawers holding some 32,000 individual microscope slides for the smaller items. The largest specimen is a 3ft 6ins-tall hornet's nest from China. The smallest specimen is the barely visible fairy fly with a wingspan of less than 8/1000 of an inch; the largest insect is a moth with a wingspan of almost a foot.
Some one million species of insects have been formally described by science and three-quarters of these are defined as "type specimens" kept by the Natural History Museum, Professor Fergusson said.
"The insect collections form an irreplaceable library of life supporting research on human health, biodiversity, conservation and the environment around the world."
Fourteen million specimens alone form the Lepidoptera collection of moths and butterflies which will be stored in Wandsworth, south London. In addition, the removal men have to shift a library of 75,000 bound volumes and 33,000 scientific drawings.
Pests, humidity and fire threatened the collection in its old building which dates from the 1930s. The new Darwin Centre Phase Two will by contrast be an environmentally controlled "cocoon" seven stories high, Professor Fergusson said.
More than £59.6m has been pledged to build the next phase of the Darwin Centre, with funding coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wellcome Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline, the drugs company.
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...