Star specimens of Hintze Hall revealed
30 June 2017
The Museum has announced the specimens that will be displayed beneath the diving blue whale when the transformed Hintze Hall reopens.
The Wonder Bays - the 10 ground-floor alcoves along the Romanesque-style hall - will house displays that represent the incredible scope of the Museum's 80 million specimens.
Richard Owen, who founded the Museum in 1881, had originally planned to display extinct species in the building's east wing and living species in the west.
To reflect his vision, the five bays on the eastern side of Hintze Hall will represent the origins and evolution of life on Earth, and the five bays to the west will show the diversity of life today and in the future.
The Museum's Director of Science, Prof Ian Owens, says, 'This is a huge, once-in-a-generation transformation that heralds a new era for the Museum.
'At its heart is our collection - powerful and beautiful objects that can change the way we look at the world and unlock answers to real world challenges.
'We hope that as our visitors explore these wonderful displays and their stories of the past and present, they will be inspired to reflect on their own role in shaping our planet's future.'
The Wonder Bays will feature:
- a skeleton of an American mastodon, the elephant's Ice Age relative that went extinct around 13,000 years ago due to climate change, habitat loss and hunting by humans
- a 122-129-million-year-old Mantellisaurus (supported by the Milner Family), one of the most complete dinosaur fossils ever discovered in the UK
- fossil trees (supported by the John Jefferson Smurfit Monegasque Foundation and Norma Smurfit), spanning hundreds of millions of years of the planet's history
- a banded iron formation (donated by Rio Tinto and supported by the Claude and Sofia Marion Foundation), with layers of rock that provide the first evidence of atmospheric oxygen and the beginning of life on Earth
- a slice of the 4.5-billion-year-old Imilac meteorite (sponsored by the Wonder Bay Supporters Group), dating to the beginning of the solar system
- a giraffe skeleton alongside a taxidermy giraffe (supported by the William Brake Charitable Trust), together representing the value of the Museum collection to comparative anatomy studies
- a 120-year-old, 300-kilogramme Turbinaria coral, a reminder of the importance of coral reefs and human impact on underwater ecosystems
- an Atlantic blue marlin (supported by The Gerald Ronson Family Foundation), one of the biggest and fastest-swimming fish in the world and one of the largest specimens preserved whole in fluid in the Museum's collections
- seaweeds, crucial to marine food chains and habitats, in an intricate underwater-forest arrangement
- swarms of all living orders of insects (sponsored by the Wonder Bay Supporters Group), the most species-rich group on the planet
'Like the blue whale, these beautiful and intricate objects from nature are like wonderful works of art that showcase the incredible uniqueness and diversity of our natural world,' says Lorraine Cornish, Head of Conservation.
The Wonder Bays and the blue whale skeleton are part of new displays spread across three floors. The hall's first-floor balcony on the east side will showcase almost 300 rocks, ores and minerals, and the balcony to the west will feature over 70 birds.
A Horizon documentary on the behind-the-scenes transformation of Hintze Hall will air on BBC Two on Thursday 13 July at 21.00 BST.
The Museum will be closed on Thursday 13 July as part of final preparations for Hintze Hall's reopening. Visitors will be able to see the suspended blue whale skeleton and the all-new Wonder Bays and balcony displays from 14 July.
- By Marie-Claire Eylott