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Review: Mastercard Priceless Experience at the Natural History Museum

BY Boon Koh
Published 26 May 2012

If you’ve been a Londoner for more than a couple of months, you can’t have missed the Mastercard Priceless ads in the Evening Standard newspaper or while waiting for your Tube train on the platform. And if you are a Mastercard holder, you might be wondering what these Priceless London experiences are, and whether they are worth attending.

I was invited to come and experience one of the events, Treasures, at the Natural History Museum, and took up the offer as it is one of my favourite venues in London. Having been to many of the exhibitions inside, I wanted to see what sort of “Priceless” experience Mastercard had come up with.

The night started out at the Darwin centre, which is the new wing of the Natural History Museum. While the main museum building itself is steeped in history and looks very much like its 130+ year old age implies, the Darwin Centre, on the other hand, is a strikingly modern building utilising lots of glass to provide lots of light.

It was at the Darwin Centre’s atrium that the night’s Priceless experience started, with delicious canapés and champagne passed around to all the guests, perfect for unwinding after a long day at work.

Soon, everyone was split into groups, with each group assigned a seasoned Natural History Museum guide for the upcoming specially prepared tour for this Mastercard Priceless London event. The first stop was in one of the Darwin Centre’s educational rooms, where the theme of the stop was around cocoa. On two tables were a few artefacts related to cocoa – one was a book that described a famous voyager’s trip to the Americas and his discovery of cocoa, and the other was an old book of different leaves, and had a dried and pressed specimen of the cocoa leaf. This book, we were told, was used like a scientific “bible”, where in the days before DNA testing and Wikipedia, biologists would look up any unknown leaves they found to see if it matched a known plant.

The Priceless part of the event was that instead of being behind a thick glass case, these ancient books and samples of cocoa pods and seeds were there plainly on the table for us to get a good look, and we had an expert on hand to answer questions and provide an interesting commentary on the history of cocoa that you wouldn’t otherwise have in the public section of the museum.

The tour continued, but I regrettably I had to cut my participation short at that point for another engagement that evening. However, I was impressed by this Treasure event at the Natural History Museum – it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience that you wouldn’t otherwise get (unless you worked for the museum!), and these unique experiences are rather valuable in these time-challenged career-oriented times that we live in.

Find out upcoming Mastercard Priceless London events, including sake & sushi masterclasses at Inamo Restaurant, a behind the scenes experience at the Les Miserables musical, and other upcoming special museum Lates in London.