The Natural History Museum is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England (the others are the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum). Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road. The museum is an exempt charity, and a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 70 million items within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology. The museum is a world-renowned centre of research, specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Darwin. The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments. Access to the library is by appointment only.
The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons, and ornate architecture — sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature — both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast which dominates the vaulted central hall.
Originating from collections within the British Museum, the landmark Alfred Waterhouse building was built and opened by 1881, and later incorporated the Geological Museum. The Darwin Centre is a more recent addition, partly designed as a modern facility for storing the valuable collections.