It is a hugely popular attraction with parents wanting to teach their children about science and the living world – and an important research institution in its own right.
But now the Natural History Museum is turning its attention to the origins of Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s fictional creatures, such as the Niffler and the Demiguise.
A new paid-for exhibition at the London museum, called Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature, will showcase ‘creatures from the natural, mythical and the wizarding world’ to explore how legends and stories have been inspired by the real world.
Wizarding world specimens will include an Erumpent horn from the Harry Potter films, and the dragon skull from Professor Lupin’s classroom.
Meanwhile, a giant oarfish, the world’s longest bony fish, which is thought to be the inspiration for mythical sea serpents, will feature from the real world.
Visitors will be able to ‘compare the camouflage tactics of a jaguar to that of the wizarding world’s Demiguise and the mating rituals of the peacock spider to the wizarding world’s Erumpent’.
The exhibition will also feature in an accompanying new BBC One documentary presented by Stephen Fry, to ‘show how closely real world animals, mythological creatures and wizarding world beasts are intertwined’.
Fry, who narrated the Harry Potter audio books, said: ‘I could not be more delighted to be a part of this magnificent opportunity for us Muggles to show the wizarding world that the fantastic beasts in our world are more than a match for theirs.’
‘We hope to be able to bring you closer than you’ve ever been to some of the most spectacular and extraordinary creatures ever seen.’
The exhibition will feature the character Newt Scamander, created by Rowling who wants to better understand and protect wildlife.
BBC director of content Charlotte Moore said it was ‘a delight to bring the natural world and wizarding world together’ in the programme, given the working title Fantastic Beasts: A Natural History.
The exhibition will feature scenes from the Fantastic Beasts films and footage from the BBC Natural History Unit.
Clare Matterson, the museum’s executive director of engagement, said: ‘Bringing characters from the wizarding world together with some of the most fantastic creatures from the natural world will produce a captivating experience that will show how the natural world has inspired legends and stories that have enthralled generations.
‘It will be impossible to leave without wanting to learn more about the wonders of our planet and how we can all better protect it.’
The exhibition – developed in partnership with Warner Bros, which runs the Harry Potter Studio Tour near Watford, Hertfordshire – will open at the museum in spring 2020. It will run for seven months before embarking on an international tour.
Tickets for the event will be allocated by time to avoid over-crowding. If a huge success, fans of the fantastical could expect to see more exhibitions of a similar vein in the future.
Daniel Radcliffe played boy wizard Harry Potter in the franchise while Eddie Redmayne took the lead as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts.
In 2018 Forbes reported the wizarding world has raked in $8.64 (£6.58) billion at the box office worldwide.
The third film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise is slated for release in 2021.