I assure you that the torch has been firmly passed on and will be looked upon with great interest in the future.
I remember coming here first as a child with my mother. Millions of others will have shared with me that same sense of awe and wonder as you step off the street, through the doors, to stare into the beady eye of the blue whale or the terrifying eye socket of a T-Rex. A moment never to be forgotten – especially when everything is a lot bigger than you!
That whole experience sparked in me a love of the natural world which has stayed with me - and still grows within me. How it works. How the natural balance depends on us. How we depend on it. Encouraged by my father, this boyhood fascination has developed into an interest in how we, as members of the human race, meet the challenges now facing us, and our planet.
So, this place is fun – perhaps the most fun you can have in London as a child – but it is something so much more than that. As the superb new facilities of the Darwin Centre show, the Natural History Museum and the dedicated people who work here are at the very forefront of research, seeking out through study of the natural world the answers to these great questions of our age.
It is such a privilege for me to be asked here today to open the Darwin Centre. The Natural History Museum is one of our great institutions. Its collections, and what it achieves in the areas of research and education make it - quite simply - the envy of the world. This magnificent new wing will further enhance the museum’s peerless reputation. It gives me great pleasure in declaring the second phase of the Darwin Centre open.