whale

Diving blue whale will take centre stage at Museum

The vast skeleton blue whale is to welcome visitors as the central display in the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall from summer 2017.

Suspended dynamically from the ceiling and plunging through the iconic space, the whale will take on the role held by the much-loved Dippy the Diplodocus cast for 35 years.

The installation of the blue whale skeleton will be part of a complete re-display of Hintze Hall being undertaken to lay bare the relationship between humans and the natural world. While planning the whale’s move from its current home in the mammals gallery, the Museum is exploring how the Diplodocus cast can be enjoyed by an even wider audience longer term.

The Museum’s collection is one of the world’s greatest scientific resources for understanding the natural world. This marks the beginning of a decade of transformation for the Museum described in its new strategy. The Museum plans to change how it creates and shares its scientific research and how the collection is developed and displayed for future generations so that engaging with the natural world is a part of everyone’s lives.

Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, commented:

“As the largest known animal to have ever lived on Earth, the story of the blue whale reminds us of the scale of our responsibility to the planet. This makes it the perfect choice of specimen to welcome and capture the imagination of our visitors, as well as marking a major transformation of the Museum.

“This is an important and necessary change. As guardians of one of the world’s greatest scientific resources, our purpose is to challenge the way people think about the natural world, and that goal has never been more urgent. The very resources on which modern society relies are under threat. Species and ecosystems are being destroyed faster than we can describe them or even understand their significance. The blue whale serves as a poignant reminder that while abundance is no guarantee of survival, through our choices, we can make a real difference. There is hope.” 

Since this whale skeleton came to the Museum in 1891, blue whales have been hunted to near extinction before starting to recover their numbers when they gained protected status. 

The Museum’s collection is one of the world’s greatest scientific resources for understanding the natural world, for both experts and the public. Through the expertise of Museum scientists and by opening up access, the Museum is tackling the big issues facing humanity and the planet:

  • The origins of our solar system, planet, and life on it, and predicting the impact of environmental change
  • The diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems on which humanity depends
  • The security of our food supply, the eradication of disease and the management of mineral and ore scarcity.

Notes for editors

Relevant images for this release can be downloaded.

About the Whale

  • We have chosen a real blue whale specimen to replace the cast of the Diplodocus because, in addition to the story about the evolution of life many millions of years ago, it also tells a story about biodiversity and sustainability: how humans have been responsible for both the decline in numbers of a species as well as its protection.
  • Balaenoptera musculus is the largest animal to have lived on Earth, reaching up to 160 tonnes. Even the largest dinosaur, Argentinasaurus, is only estimated to have reached up to 70 tonnes.
  • The 25.2 metre female whale first came to the Museum 10 years after the Museum opened in 1881. 
  • It had beached itself on 25 March 1891 at the mouth of Wexford Harbour near the Hantoon Channel, already injured by a whaler. 
  • The skeleton was bought Museum for £250 from Wexford Town merchant William Armstrong. The whale generated 630 gallons of oil that were sold for profit, as well as the remaining meat. 
  • It first went on display in 1938 with the opening of the Mammal Hall, where it has been on show, suspended over a 28.6 metre life size model.
  • Whale hunting saw the abundant population of 250,000 in the late 1800s plunge to 2,300 in the late 90s. Since whales gained protected status in 1972 the population has recovered to around 10,000 to 25,000 today.
  • Whales were also a key case study in understanding the evolution of life on Earth, showing the gradual evolution of life from the sea to land and back again, with fully terrestrial mammals returning to fully marine lifestyles.
  • The Natural History Museum welcomes more than five million visitors a year and is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its unique collection and unrivalled expertise it is tackling the biggest challenges facing the world today. It helps enable food security, eradicate disease and manage resource scarcity. It is studying the diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems to ensure the survival of our planet. For more information go to www.nhm.ac.uk
  • Casson Mann is an award winning environmental and exhibition design practice that leads the field in the realisation of innovative experiential projects across the arts, museum, and hospitality sectors.  Having won a competitive pitch to reconsider the Museum’s Hintze Hall with an experiential vision that celebrates the museum’s rich scientific legacy, the firm is tasked with creative exhibition concept, design and implementation. For more information go to http://www.cassonmann.co.uk

Contact

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Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0)7799 690 151
Email: press@nhm.ac.uk