Making our new gardens accessible to all… | The Urban Nature Project

The new pond dipping area

We believe that everyone should be able to experience the wonder of natural history and urban nature. That’s why accessibility and inclusivity have been at the core of the Urban Nature Project’s design from the start. Here, Harriet Fink (Learning and Volunteering Programme Manager), who co-chairs the Museum’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action group, talks about how we’ve incorporated accessibility into our designs.

The new pond dipping area
Artist’s impression of the new accessible pond dipping area

Harriet says…

This week we’re excited to share that work has begun to make access to our gardens step-free. The cumbersome steps that lead out of the TfL tunnel near our Exhibition Road entrance are being removed and replaced with a wide ramp, to make entering the gardens smooth and easy.

The Urban Nature Project gives us a unique opportunity to transform our five-acre site in South Kensington into a welcoming, engaging, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London. These exciting new spaces will: tell the story of how life evolved on earth; give opportunities for people to explore nature; and will be used as living laboratories. The spaces and experiences are being designed to be enjoyed by all and to accommodate as wide range of people’s needs as possible. The plans for our new gardens, and the activities that will take place in them, have been developed in consultation with a number of access specialist organisations and disabled individuals who shared their expertise and experience to enable our gardens to be as welcoming as possible for everyone.

The steps leading out of the TfL tunnel by our Exhibition Road entrance are being removed, making access to the site much easier

The ramp that will replace these steps, and which will in itself form part of an amazing new geological feature, is the first of many design aspects that will enhance access to our new gardens, there will also be:   

  •  step-free access from the street to our gardens for the first time  
  • pathways wide enough for two wheelchair users to pass comfortably  
  • raised ponds so wheelchair users can freely join our pond-dipping learning activities  
  • state of the art ‘changing places’ accessible toilet facilities in our new Learning and Activity Centre  
  • steps replaced by gentle slopes  
  • benches and stopping places across our gardens 

We’re taking a sensory approach to planting and interpretation – our new outdoor galleries will be designed to be touched, smelled and heard, as well as seen in all their glory. Interpretation will include tactile maps, audio descriptive guides and acoustic audio posts which will play the sounds of the environment captured through our scientific acoustic monitoring. Calm and contemplative spaces will also be created within our gardens for those that need a more restful space. Accessibility has been central to the plans and as a bonus we believe it will create a richer, more enjoyable experience, for everyone visiting our gardens, this week’s removal of the steps from the TfL tunnel marks an exciting first step in this vision becoming reality.

Adapting our training and support for the Big Seaweed Search in Mexico | Community Science

A workshop facilitator and student in a classroom, preserving speciments for a seaweed collection.

In this blog I want to tell you about the amazing work my colleague Ana is doing with our colleagues from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM): Ameyalli, Arely, Carmen and Erika.

For every community science programme we run at the Museum, we provide training and guidance to help people take part. This will be tailored according to the programme and audience. This means that training will sometimes be delivered in person, sometimes we produce written resources, and sometimes we develop video tutorials, for example.

In Mexico, our colleagues delivered training workshops in Sisal and Puerto Morelos in March and April respectively, and have recently returned from delivering workshops in the same locations, but in the rainy season.

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Introducing Big Seaweed Search Mexico! | Community Science

I’m Jess Wardlaw, Community Science Programme Developer at the Museum. I’m excited to be working together with my Museum colleagues, Juliet Brodie, Lucy Robinson and Ana Benavides Lahnstein, on a new international partnership project funded by the British Academy’s Knowledge Frontiers programme.

Alongside partners at the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and the Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores (ENES) from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), in Merida, Mexico, we are excited to be taking our Big Seaweed Search community science project to new shorelines…Mexico’s Caribbean and Yucatán coasts, which are part of the Yucatán Peninsula!

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Volunteers’ Week – My Experience as a NHM Learning Volunteer

Published by Leonie on behalf of Learning Volunteer Clare Green

When I was younger, going to the Natural History Museum with my family or on a school trip was always an exciting experience. Certain memories have stuck in my mind—having to be taken away, crying, from the animatronic T.rex because it was too scary, being fascinated at the size of the blue whale in the Whale Hall, or ascending with anticipation into the Earth through the escalator. These memories have remained with me into adulthood, eliciting a sense that I wouldn’t feel the same kind of excitement I had done when I was young.

How wrong I was! On my very first day as a Learning Volunteer, I realised that the excitement I’d felt as a kid was ready to bubble to the surface again.

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Highlighting Histories: Women in Science – Mary Mantell

Published by Leonie on behalf of Learning Volunteer & Women in Science Tour Guide Alex Holding

As a taster for the free NHM Women in Science Tours, Learning Volunteers will be sharing blogs on some pioneering women of science.  We can learn more about them, their work and share some information about the Museum’s displays and cutting-edge science.  Our first venture is Mary Mantell.

Mary Mantell was an active amateur fossil hunter in the nineteenth century. Arguably, she is less well known than her namesake Mary Anning.  Mantell’s reputation is also eclipsed by that of her husband Gideon Mantell, a medical doctor, renowned amateur geologist, and palaeontologist.

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Ananse, Wisdom, and the World of Trees: Working in partnership with our local audiences  | Urban Nature Project

Pupils show off some of their creations

Connecting audiences with nature is at the heart of everything we do.  Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we are working on the Urban Nature Project to transform our gardens and visitor experiences at the NHM.

We have been connecting with our local community to help shape what goes into the new activities in the gardens, what stories of people, plants and animals should be shared, and how the activities should look and feel.

Lauren Hyams, the Museum’s Head of Urban Nature Project Activities tells us more about this work…

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Equality, Diversity and Inclusion update | Executive Director of Engagement

Over the last few months, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors through our doors, opened our hugely popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition and celebrated the end of the smash hit tour of our famous dinosaur Dippy at Norwich Cathedral.

We hosted a Nature Bar event space in Glasgow during COP26 in collaboration with our Ambassador David de Rothschild and his organisation Voice for Nature. As part of The New York Times Climate Hub, the Nature Bar gave visitors and delegates an opportunity to connect with the Museum’s solutions-focused science and a fantastically diverse line-up of young activists, explorers, artists and business leaders. 

A standout session for me was seeing our Biodiversity Researcher Dr Adriana De Palma discussing the pressures on our planet with DJ, music producer and environmental toxicologist Jayda G and activists Daphne Frias and Phoebe Hanson (Operations Director for Force of Nature) – a stellar panel and a fascinating discussion.

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Uncovering the hidden diversity of species in urban areas | Urban Nature Project

A man wearing blue gloves sits hunched over a tray of tubes as he uses a pair of tweezers to place small pieces of insects into each one

Over the past year, the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project team have been working together on a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve been able to develop and test cutting-edge scientific tools and methods that will help study the natural world in new ways and transform our understanding of urban wildlife across the UK.

In this blog, the Museum’s UK Biodiversity Officer Sam Thomas talks about how we have been working with partners across the UK to better understand and protect urban nature.

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