REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature, Natural History Museum

The world of magical creatures and natural history collide to fascinating effect in the Natural History Museum’s ambitious exhibition.

From unicorns and dragons to slightly more obscure creatures found in the world that J.K Rowling created for Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts such as Nifflers and Bowtruckles, this new fun and engaging exhibition reveals the magic in the natural world.

Showcasing a huge variety of objects such as a dinosaur skeleton named Dracorex hogwartsia found in 2004 to a mummified mermaid, this exhibition sets to sort out the truth from the fiction behind some of the best known mythological creatures.

While on the surface it looks as though it is more about the film Fantastic Beasts, on closer inspection it is clear that a lot of thought, research and convincing argument has gone into creating this exhibition to cover all manner of creatures.

Filled with plenty of interactive elements that younger visitors will enjoy (too good to ruin here), the exhibition is presented with great style – and magical elements it gets the balance of objects from the films to real life objects and skeletons just right – providing great opportunities for compare and contrast.

One of the strongest elements of the exhibition is the way in which it argues effectively just what makes the real life creature so special and in its own way unique. For example, the way in which sloths are able to grow their own green camouflage – due to algae that grows on their fur over the years due to their laid back nature, or the way in which one particular species of spider and frog are able to live in harmony with each other.

Divided into a number of sections, the surprises are continuous – particularly when it comes to the section focused on the creatures that are able to change their size for a variety of reasons including shrews, which can shrink their skull, spine, brain, heart and lungs during the winter. Another example is the way in which marine iguanas can shrink and increase their size around 20% (just like the Occamy – from Fantastic Beasts) depending on food availability.

By combining the world of magic and natural world, the Natural History Museum ensures that while fans of the world of Harry Potter get their fix, it is also a way for them to engage with the magic of the natural world which really exists.

In terms of the way in which it is presented, it is family friendly and magical with all the information provided being really concise and fascinating to read. The details – including quotes from the Fantastic Beasts book and props from the films that were used ensure that the exhibition is kept light and entertaining for younger visitors.

Overall, there is plenty to be admired about this detailed, entertaining and fascinating exhibition that makes it worth a visit or two.

By Emma Clarendon

Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature will be on display at the Natural History Museum until 3rd January 2022.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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