The Fact Hungry Witch's Detective Hunt
Congratulations – you did it!
You solved the Fact Hungry Witch’s clues!
The hidden words were:
You should now be inside the Natural History Museum’s ‘Hintze Hall’.
Tip your head back and look up as high as you can. Can you spot the plants painted onto the CEILING?
You’ve discovered a treasure trove of hidden histories above your head! Each panel tells a story about plants and people from all over the world, but these are often missed by visitors who rush through the museum and don’t look up.
Why do you think it might be important to remember to look up?
Looking up can help us connect with the world and the stories we can’t see on the ground. The Fact Hungry Witch likes looking up so much that she flies through the sky looking for hidden facts, stories, and histories!
GET UP CLOSE
To take a closer look at these ceiling treasures and discover more about the stories they tell, you’ll need to go up!
Head to the stairs (unless you can fly like the Fact Hungry Witch!?), at the top of the main stairs, pass the statue of Charles Darwin and turn left or right along one of the balconies overlooking the hall and walk to the end. As you walk, have a look around, what else can you see that is hidden in plain sight? A pineapple? Some monkeys maybe? What stories do you think they might tell if they could talk?
At the end of the walkway, climb the stairs towards the Giant Sequoia tree slice. Look for the information panels tucked around the corners on both your left and right, here you’ll find some detailed drawings of the artworks which you can inspect without craning your neck!
These 162 decorated panels were painted over 140 years ago when the Museum first opened in 1881!
Since the 1600s, Britain has bought, swapped, and taken plants and natural specimens from all over the world. Lots of these plants and natural objects were placed in the museum when it was first built. The ceiling was designed to represent the objects in the museum. What plants can you spot? Pears and lemons? Sunflowers and poppies?
Some you might not recognise. Can you spot cotton, tobacco, and tea plants?
Have a look at what you’re wearing, are you wearing any cotton (check the labels!) – did you know it came from a plant!?
Plants like these are important reminders of Britain’s colonial past. This was when Britain took control of other lands across the globe to expand its power and wealth. Plants such as cotton were often grown by enslaved people in British colonies like America, and then transported to this country. This can be difficult to think about as we know that slavery destroyed lives and changed the course of history, but it is important that we recognise these histories so everyone’s stories can be told.
The objects in many museums came to this country thanks to colonialism. The stories about these objects; where they came from & how and who they were used by, have been concealed in the past as museums have preferred instead to tell one type of history. A history where European people ‘discovered’ continents, animals, and plants. This leaves out the stories of people in places like India (where cotton came from) and South America (where tobacco came from), the original names they gave these plants, and how they helped European people find and use them.
The Fact Hungry Witch is on the hunt for these untold stories as there are so many different histories we can learn from.
Have you ever wondered where the things we use every day come from?
Look very carefully, can you spot a pineapple on the ceiling!?
The Fact Hungry Witch’s favourite plant lives in water and smells like a pineapple! Can you guess what it is?