The Natural History Museum is London has launched a public fundraising campaign for its Urban Nature Project – a free green space for learning and engagement that is due to open in 2023.
The project will cost about £19.6m and has already received support from major funders, including a £3.2m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The public appeal target is £650,0000, with people asked to donate from £50 plus.
The money will help create biologically diverse green space within the museum’s five-acre site in West Kensington. New outdoor galleries will showcase scientific research and provide outdoor learning spaces and an activity centre to host a new schools programme.
The existing wildlife garden will be extended to double the area of native habitats, and step-free routes will be introduced to ensure full accessibility across the site. A community engagement programme will co-create family activities and resources, from self-guided tours and handling stations to craft activities. And a new volunteer programme is being developed, alongside a summer programme for 35 school leavers.
The Natural History Museum’s fundraising campaign
- Donate £50 to sponsor a square metre of the garden
- Donate £250 to engrave a name on the jetty railings
- Donate £500 to engrave a name with a symbol of nature
- Donate £5,000 – 10,000 to engrave a name on a long or standalone bench
“We know that getting children outside inspires them to care for the nature that surrounds them,” said Lauren Hyams, the head of garden activities at the Natural History Museum. “The Urban Nature Project will allow children and families to explore the museum in a new way, and reconnect them with the outdoors, giving them the tools to safeguard nature in towns and cities, so that people and planet can thrive.”
The museum’s plans for the gardens are subject to change but include plants from the Jurassic period surrounded by giant bronze dinosaurs, wetland areas and an area for grazing Greyface Dartmoor sheep. A weatherproof cast of Dippy will also go on display in a Jurassic garden filled with tree ferns and cycads.
Technology to monitor change in urban environments will be installed, including eDNA and acoustic monitoring, with the data shared to help wider understanding about how best to manage urban spaces for wildlife.
The design of the gardens is also intended to support the organisation’s sustainability goals, with rainwater capture and ground source heat pumps to help minimise its carbon footprint.
A survey commissioned by the Natural History Museum has found that young people in London aged between nine and 14 are more likely to connect with nature through social media than a walk in the park, with the biggest barrier being time spent inside the classroom and studying.
The survey found that 84% of young people found spending time outside and connecting with nature improved their mental health and wellbeing, and the majority believed that people can just as easily connect with nature and wildlife in towns and cities as they can in the countryside, particularly when specially created urban nature areas exist.
Of those asked, 87% thought students would learn more about the natural world by experiencing it first hand. This support for outside learning was mirrored by adults in London when asked how children would best learn about wildlife.