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A vast blue whale skeleton is set to welcome visitors through the Museum's main entrance from summer 2017. The whale will take the place of the Diplodocus cast that has stood in Hintze Hall for 35 years.
The decision to suspend the blue whale skeleton from the ceiling of Hintze Hall (previously Central Hall) is part of a larger plan to show new specimens in the space. The new displays will tell the story of our connection with the natural world through the Museum's unique collections and research.
The blue whale was chosen to give an immediate, impactful introduction that illustrates Museum research into the rich biodiversity of Earth and a sustainable future, as well as the origins and evolution of life.
The Museum is exploring ways for more people to enjoy the iconic Diplodocus cast, affectionately known as Dippy, including the possibility of it going on tour or being displayed outside in the Museum's grounds. Whatever happens, the Diplodocus will move back into the Museum in the long term.
Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the 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.'
The redevelopment of Hintze Hall marks the beginning of a decade of change for the Museum described in its new strategy. The Museum plans to change how the collection is developed and displayed for future generations as well as how it creates and shares its scientific research, so that engaging with the natural world is a part of everyone's lives.
The whale was found beached and injured by whalers in Wexford Harbour, Ireland, in 1891. It was bought by the Museum and first went on display in the Mammal Hall in 1938, where it currently hangs above a life-size model of a blue whale.
The population of blue whales suffered a huge decrease in numbers following the popularity of whaling in the early twentieth century, but has started to recover since whales gained protected status in the 1960s.
The whale is also the largest animal to have ever lived, and has a fascinating evolutionary history, from sea to land and back again. While the Diplodocus is an iconic centrepiece, dinosaurs are only one facet of the research carried out at the Museum.
'This is an important and necessary change,' said Sir Dixon. '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 blue whale serves as a poignant reminder that while abundance is no guarantee of survival, through our choices, we can make a real difference.'