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See Darwin Centre Spirit Collection

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Repository for more than 22 million pickled specimens.

Opened to the public in September 2009, the Darwin Centre’s collection allows museum visitors to “explore world-class science in action in a dramatic new public space” according to the museum’s website. “The Darwin Centre is a state-of-the-art science and collections facility. The building is the most significant expansion at the Museum since it moved to South Kensington in 1881.”

The “spirit collections” are those preserved in alcohol, of which there are millions, some on display, but most stored in jars in what looks like filing cabinets that are several metres long; these are inaccessible to the public unless you sign up for a tour of the Centre. Several species found by Darwin were the first of that species to be discovered and are preserved in glass jars with golden yellow tops.

The most famous creature preserved in spirits is arguably a giant squid, more than 8.5 meters long, affectionately named Archie.