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Christine McGourty reports
"Millions of specimens have been kept under lock and key"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Museum to unveil hidden treasures
Bugged out: The Elephant Beetle emerges
Visitors to the Natural History Museum in London are to be given unprecedented access to millions of specimens not currently on display.

As we run out of room in our cupboards, we are having to move them into cardboard boxes

Dr Sandy Knapp
The 100m Darwin Centre will house beetles, maggots and other dried insects which have hitherto been kept under lock and key at the museum.

The Natural History Museum holds at least 70 million specimens, but fewer than one per cent are on public display.

Bated breath: The world's largest maggot will be on display
The giant Elephant Beetle from Central America is one of more than 10 million beetles which will be on show at the centre which opens in two years' time.

However, despite its fearsome appearance, the giant beetle eats only vegetables.

Another equally gruesome-looking specimen is the world's largest maggot.

Charles Darwin
Born February 12, 1809
Began collecting plants and insects while studying theology at Christ's College, Cambridge
In 183,1 joined the HMS Beagle during a five-year circumnavigation of the globe
In Origin of Species (1859) Darwin proposed principle of "survival of the fittest"
The work was applauded, but also attacked for undermining the biblical account of creation
The fish collection includes specimens from around the world, some brought back by the great naturalist Charles Darwin himself.

Dr Sandy Knapp of the museum told the BBC: "We have six million specimens in our plant collection and we are running out of space. As we run out of room in our cupboards we are having to move them into cardboard boxes.

"At the new centre, there will be enough space to house the collections that we have and they will be kept in climate-controlled conditions, which will be much better for the specimens themselves."

Origin of the species: Darwin exhibit
Sarah Darwin, great grand-daughter of Charles Darwin, and a botanist at the museum, laid flints from the country house where Darwin developed his theories at the "topping out" ceremony to mark completion of the first phase of the development on Tuesday.

The stones once formed part of the Sandwalk, a path at Down House, Downe, Kent, where Darwin used to ponder his theories.

The Wellcome Trust on Tuesday announced a 10m award in principle which will go towards the 53m cost of Phase Two of the project.

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See also:

16 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Darwin species to go on display
24 May 99 | Sci/Tech
Grrrrreat big beast
29 Jun 99 | Sci/Tech
Spirit of adventure
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