By Maria Puente, USA TODAY
Britain's newest "treasure," Duchess Kate, opened the Treasures Gallery at the Natural History Museum in London today, casting her bright spotlight on some of the museum's most exceptional objects of all time.
Catherine Duchess of Cambridge joined museum officials, curators and guests for a preview of the new gallery, which opens to the public on Friday.
It will celebrate the museum's collection of specimens and artifacts by displaying 22 special objects, from among a total of about 70 million and spanning 4.5 billion years of natural history. They were chosen to represent the museum's scientific, aesthetic, historical, social and cultural holdings, according to a palace press release.
These include a 147-million-year-old limestone slab that contains the fossil of one of the earliest known birds; a rare first edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species; a 200-million-year-old fossil sea creatures that led to the discovery that Earth's rocks are layered through time; the world's most expensive book, John James Audubon's Birds of America; and fossilized Iguanodon teeth that led to the discovery of dinosaurs.
The Daily Mail reported the duchess wore a dress she's worn before, a bright green silk pleated shirt-dress by Mulberry (about $2,200) with long sleeves and a tightly belted waist. In other words, no baby bump yet. However, she seemed to have a new hair style with long bangs, more layers and a part, the paper said.
Also, Kate spoke briefly in opening the gallery, calling the objects on display "spectacular wonders of the natural world," and urging more people to visit "this wonderful museum," the Daily Mail reported.
The event at the museum is one of several high-profile engagements the duchess and/or husband Prince William have on their schedule in the weeks until Christmas.
Tomorrow, they go to Cambridge, the university town from which their title is derived, for a full day of visits to the university, local schools and hospitals, a homeless program and even a balcony appearance in the market square. On Friday, Kate will visit her old prep school, St. Andrew's, where she was a student from 1986 to 1995, for the school's annual St. Andrew's Day festivities.
By the way, for all the controversy over the Cambridges' struggle with the paparazzi, the duchess turns out to be not a bad shooter herself. Check out her photos from their recent South Asia/South Pacific tour on their website, dukeandduchessofcambridge.org.