London Lite Thursday, 16 July 2009 17 78m web siteMuseums17minsectsincreepy-crawlyspectacular what visitors will see A WALL of 326 specimens over two floors, from a half-metre crayfish to a wingless termite An Atlas moth, right, with a 16cm wingspan, the 15.5cm elephant beetle and 3mm sandflies on microscope slides Fifty giant plants including the 1.2-metre Hemlock Water Dropwort Insects collected by Charles Darwin A herbarium volume containing plants gathered by collector Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) The Monstrous Dune Cricket found in temperate and tropical Asia. They are said to have a very painful bite Shes got legs: conservator Helen Weir holds a dead tarantula; left, a desert cricket specimen THE Natural History Museum today unveiled its 78m con- crete cocoon dedicated to Charles Darwin. With 17 million insects, three million plants and 40,000 shelf spaces, the eight-storey centre is the museums big- gest expansion since moving to South Kensington in 1881. The collection, from taran- tulas to metre-high poisonous p l a n t s, w i l l i l l u s t r at e Darwins theory of evolution. Housed in the Darwin Centre, it will be kept at 17C to provide per- fect conditions for s ome o f t he planets rarest life-forms. Curators were today moving the final specimens into the cocoon, which will open on 15 September. The structure, 65 metres long and 28 metres high, has been compared to a spaceship or an egg and is the largest sprayed concrete curved structure in Europe. A view- ing deck lets visitors watch the museums 220 scientists at work and they will hold regu- lar talks for the public. Paul Bowers, project direc- tor for the public galleries in the Darwin Centre, said: Weve been a research insti- tute for over 100 years, but most people dont know that. To let people see what we actually do is a big step for- ward for us. The new building also includes the David Attenborough Studio, where scientists will take ques- tions from the p u b l i c a n d h o s t schools activities. There will also be an area for visitors to bring in objects or animals they want identified. Mr Bowers said: We were very careful to think about how we interact with the old building, and this new struc- ture really brings the entire site together. by bo wilson Insect cocoon: the egg-shaped centre index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html36.html37.html38.html39.html40.html41.html42.html43.html