Stars of the spectacular Hintze Hall revealed

5 July 2017

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Our newly transformed Hintze Hall opens on 14 July in what is set to be one of the greatest moments in the Museum's 136 year history.

Plunging through the heart of the grand hall, a diving blue whale skeleton will lead a cast of natural world stars, including ten other new displays revealed today. They will take pride of place in each of the ground floor alcoves called the 'Wonder Bays'.

Each has been picked out by Museum scientists from our collection of over 80 million specimens. The five on the eastern side (right hand side as you enter the hall) represent the origins and evolution of life on Earth, while the western specimens show the diversity of life today. Together with the blue whale, they tell some of the most compelling stories about the past, present and future of our planet. The split between extinct and living species on the east and west reflects the first Museum Director Sir Richard Owen's original vision for the Natural History Museum when it opened in 1881. 

Eastern Wonder Bays

American mastodon

At three metres tall, this full skeleton was bought by Sir Richard Owen in 1844. The mastodon is a distant relative of the mammoth and went extinct around 13,000 years ago due to climate change, habitat loss and human hunting.

Mantellisaurus

Supported by the Milner Family

At around 122-129 million years old, this skeleton was found on the Isle of Wight in 1917 and is one of the most complete dinosaur fossils ever discovered in the UK. It was formerly known as the Iguanodon, a genus studied by Sir Richard Owen and British palaeontologist Gideon Mantell to help describe dinosaurs.

Fossil trees

Supported by the John Jefferson Smurfit Monegasque Foundation and Norma Smurfit

With the oldest dating back 380 million years, these prehistoric trees unlock information about ancient environments so we can predict future climates. The youngest tree still contains wood fibres. 

Banded iron formation

Donated by Rio Tinto and supported by the Claude and Sofia Marion Foundation

Around two tonnes in weight, this huge rock originated in Western Australia. Its intricate layers of iron oxide represent a key moment in Earth's history that began over three billion years ago - the first evidence of atmospheric oxygen and the beginning of life on Earth. 

Imilac meteorite

Sponsored by the Wonder Bay Supporters Group

Over 4.5 billion years old and one of the oldest specimens on Earth. This rare, crystal-rich meteorite known as a pallasite was found in the Atacama Desert in Chile in 1822. 

Western Wonder Bays, supported by the Wolfson Foundation

Giraffes

Supported by the William Brake Charitable Trust

The tallest living mammal and, remarkably, giraffes have the same number of bones in their necks as humans. This display of skeletal and taxidermy giraffes represents the breadth of our collection in terms of material type, and the benefit this brings to comparative anatomy studies. The giraffe is an evolutionary relative of the blue whale, both are Artiodactyls. 

Turbinaria coral

More than 300 kilogrammes in weight, the giant Turbinaria bifrons was collected from Shark Bay Reef, off the coast of Western Australia, more than 120 years ago. Our scientists are researching coral reefs and collaborating on many other ocean research projects to help protect some of the most important ecosystems on the planet.

Blue marlin

Supported by The Gerald Ronson Family Foundation

The striking blue marlin is the largest of the Atlantic marlins and one of the fiercest predators of the seas. This four metre long specimen was discovered on a Pembrokeshire beach in September 2016, and the Museum was called to collect it for preparation and display. 

Seaweeds

Three tall glass panels of colourful seaweeds, highlighting the incredible complexity of the Tree of Life. As the first organism in marine food chains, seaweed provides nutrients and energy for animals and humans. Scientists are studying seaweeds to help monitor the effects of environmental change on Britain's sea life.

Insects

Sponsored by the Wonder Bay Supporters Group

Insects count for around 70% of all living species, impacting human lives as vectors of disease and pollinators of crops. This dynamic display will show all living orders of insects, including airborne swarms of beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and flies. 

Professor Ian Owens, Director of Science at the Museum, 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.'

Lorraine Cornish, Head of Conservation, says: 

'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. We have worked with our scientists to expertly position each Wonder Bay display so visitors are taken on a journey through deep time, depicting the evolution of life on our planet right up to the present day.'

The Wonder Bays and blue whale join hundreds of new specimens across three floors, including two spectacular displays on the first floor balconies. The Rocks and Minerals Balcony on the east side features almost 300 rocks, ores and minerals. The Birds Balcony on the west features over 70 birds from as far afield as New Zealand and the Falkland Islands.

The Natural History Museum is grateful for the generous support from the donors and supporters that have made this project possible. They include the Hintze Family Charitable Foundation, the Cadogan Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Sackler Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and all of the supporters of the Wonder Bays.

Ends

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