A time capsule

More than 120 years of history is wrapped inside this skeleton.

Since the whale arrived at the Museum in the 1890s, it has been part of an ever-expanding scientific collection.

A conservationist inspecting newspaper clippings
A conservationist pressing newspaper cuttings

New snippets from its extraordinary past are still being uncovered.

Museum conservators have unearthed pieces of old newspaper in parts of the whale's skeleton, providing a snapshot of a bygone era. The specimen was in storage from 1892 until the 1930s. In that time, some of the cartilage discs between the animal's vertebrae were lost.

When the skeleton first went on public display in the 1930s, the experts working on it had to make new discs for the spine.

They created the vertebrae from wooden blocks, plaster of Paris and newspapers of the day - perhaps brought in by curators from their morning commute.

A 1930s advert saying 'Gentlemen you may smoke'

Pages from the Kent Messenger, Evening News, Evening Standard and St Pancras Gazette were placed among the vertebrae. They were rediscovered by conservators in 2015.

Watch the full video to explore the newspaper stories