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This year will be a milestone in the Museum's transformation into a Natural History Museum for the future. At the centre of this is Hintze Hall, which will be unveiled in summer 2017.
Diving through the heart of the hall, a gigantic blue whale skeleton will lead a cast of specimens telling the dramatic story of evolution, diversity in the world today and our urgent role in the planet's future.
As Museum Director Sir Michael Dixon says, 'The natural world is changing fast. It's in our grasp to shape a sustainable future - but our decisions have to be informed by understanding our past and present. The blue whale is a perfect symbol of this story of hope.'
The blue whale is the largest-known animal to have ever lived on Earth. Driven to the brink of extinction by hunting, it was the first species that humans took a decision to save. It tells a story of hope.
The 25.2-metre-long blue whale skeleton will take centre stage among hundreds of new specimens across three floors, including ten other star exhibits in the ground-floor alcoves.
The rest of the Museum will remain open to enjoy while Hintze Hall is closed from 5 January 2017. Conservators, curators, engineers and scientists will work on the ambitious redevelopment of this iconic national space before it is unveiled in the summer.
As the blue whale becomes the must-see exhibit of the Museum, a new summer family exhibition offers the chance to dive deeper into the mysterious world of this group of mammals.
Whales: Beneath the surface opens in July 2017.
The exhibition will feature huge complete skeletons and specimens that scientists study to reveal whales' feeding habits, breathing techniques and senses. It will bring visitors up close up to the biology and behaviour of one of the planet's most enigmatic creatures.
Whales: Beneath the surface is the first in a series of ocean-themed events that will be held at the Museum until the end of 2018. When it comes to the ocean, nowhere is humanity's impact on the natural world more apparent.
The new autumn exhibition opens in late 2017 and explores the visceral fear and fascination evoked by venom, nature's ultimate weapon.
Visitors will discover how venom is not only a force to be reckoned with, but also a powerful resource in combatting some of the most common medical conditions in our world today.
Sensational Butterflies will open at the end of March 2017, in time for the Easter holidays.
The Museum's butterfly house includes a kaleidoscope of colourful species usually found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, Africa and Asia. Families can see hundreds of live butterflies and admire their intricate beauty up close using a magnifier.
Winning images from the fifty-second Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will remain on show until 10 September 2017.
Then in October 2017, we announce the winners of the fifty-third Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. One hundred exceptional images will go on display, showcasing the astonishing diversity of the world's best nature photography, from intimate portraits to dramatic landscapes.
Also continuing throughout 2017 is the opportunity to see the Museum come to life at night with the After Hours events programme, which includes sleepovers, murder mysteries and expert-led talks and activities.
2017 promises to build on the successes of the past year, when we launched a bold five-year plan to build a Museum for the future.
Behind the scenes, Museum scientists will continue to address the major challenges that face our species and the natural world. They will use both their expertise and the collections to answer urgent questions about climate change, parasite transmission and crop drought tolerance.
Our major projects next year include the digitisation of our collection - creating electronic records of the most important natural history collection in the world, uploaded to the Museum's Data Portal. We've so far digitised 3.5 million specimens out of our goal of 20 million, and the Data Portal has already counted over half a billion downloads. This will enable the work of researchers everywhere on climate and other environmental change.
Prof Ian Owens and Dr Vince Smith talk to Google about the Museum's digital transformation:
We're also focusing on citizen science, mobilising members of the public to help us conduct scientific research on a huge scale. And we're creating exciting and inspiring experiences for visitors to our museums in London and at Tring, and to our website.
Find out more in our recently published annual review.