A Pounds million project to bring Natural History Museum scientists into the public eye was unveiled on Tuesday.
The Darwin Centre, a modern, eight-storey block to be constructed alongside the historic Waterhouse building, will enable visitors to watch some of the 300 experts who work at the museum and discuss their research with them during guided laboratory tours.
The centre will also give the public access to elements of the museum's enormous collection of 12 million specimens, including animal remains brought back by Charles Darwin from his voyage on the Beagle.
Phase one is already funded and will open in the summer of 2002. A second phase will incorporate the museum's entomological and botanical collections.