Old photograph of elephant in the museum

Before the bombings began some of the museum’s most valuable objects and specimens were moved to the basement for safe keeping.

The museum’s staff thought this was the safest place in the museum, in fact so safe it was used as an air raid shelter. But the bomb that exploded on the Library’s roof caused an unpredictable fire. The museum’s burning roof timbers fell down into the air vents causing the fire to rip through the building from top to bottom. As the flames raced into the basement the museum’s prized collections did not stand a chance.

Many other galleries were completely destroyed including the Upper Horseshoe gallery (now the World Cultures gallery) which had been home to the natural history displays.



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