Sperm whale skeleton photographed in the Museum's Hintze Hall in 1901

A history in pictures: the Museum’s Hintze Hall

Last updated 14 July 2017

A vast blue whale skeleton now hangs in Hintze Hall. Take a look at specimens that have taken centre stage over the years.

The Museum opened to the public in 1881 and in its early days the cathedral-like central hall looked distinctly empty. But it didn’t remain that way for long.

Black and white photograph of Hintze Hall, taken in 1882

Hintze Hall in 1882, looking north


First to fill the large central space was the skeleton of a sperm whale, shown here surrounded by birds and other small exhibits. It could be seen in this spot in the 1890s and 1900s.

Black and white photograph of Hintze Hall, taken in 1895

Hintze Hall in 1895, looking south


The next star of Hintze Hall was an African elephant specimen (nicknamed George) that arrived in 1907.

Black and white photograph of Hintze Hall, taken in 1910

Hintze Hall in 1910


Elephants continued to make the hall their home for around 70 years, accompanied by changing displays of other animals.


This 1924 photograph shows the hall at its fullest. Four elephants dominate the scene.


The Diplodocus cast that greets visitors in Hintze Hall today was presented to the Museum in 1905. Initially displayed elsewhere, it made its first appearance in the hall in 1979, alongside Triceratops.

Diplodocus and Triceratops in 1979

Diplodocus and Triceratops in Hintze Hall in 1979


In the early 1990s, Triceratops moved out of Hintze Hall and the tail of our replica Diplodocus was repositioned to reflect a new scientific understanding of how these dinosaurs held their tails.

Changing the tail from a drooping position where it trailed along the ground to one where it was elevated took several months. It had to be dismantled and re-cast in a lighter material.

Our Diplodocus cast in Hintze Hall

The pose our Diplodocus cast has held in Hintze Hall since 1993


In summer 2017, the Diplodocus cast was replaced by the real skeleton of a blue whale, suspended from the ceiling.

The whale was stranded in Wexford Harbour in Ireland in 1891, ten years after the Museum opened.

It was bought by the Museum and first went on display in the Mammal Hall in 1938, where it was suspended above a life-size model of a blue whale.

Blue whale skeleton suspended in Hintze Hall

The blue whale in its new diving position in Hintze Hall


See the blue whale

Visit the Museum to walk beneath the largest animal ever to have lived.