The Natural History Museum is one of the three large museums located on Exhibition Road, South Kensington in London, the others being the Science museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Natural History Museum is the home to life and earth science specimens totaling over 70 million items included in the five main collections, namely, Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy,
Paleontology and Zoology. Not only are the specimens of the museum considered for their scientific value, they also have garnered considerable historical value as well considering the age of the institution.
The Natural History Museum building was first conceived when Richard Owen, appointed Superintendent of the natural history departments of the British Museum in 1856, saw that the natural history department required more space in order to house its specimens and that the site of the British Museum wont be able to provide that. Land located in South Kensington was eventually bought for the construction of a new museum.
In 1864, a competition was held for the design of the new museum. Captain Francis Fowke won the design contest but unfortunately died shortly afterward. The design plan was handed over to Alfred Waterhouse who added his own revisions to the design along with his own Romanesque style facade design.
Construction work for the Natural History Museum started in 1873 and was completed in 1801. The new museum opened in 1881 although the move of the collections from the old museum was not completed until 1883.
The interior and the exterior of the Natural History Museum made extensive use of terracotta tiles in order to resist the polluted sooty climate of then Victorian London. The bricks and tiles were manufactured by Gibbs and Canning Limited and featured relief sculptures of various flora and fauna. The sculptures of both living and extinct species were separately featured within the west and the east wings of the museum, respectively.