Hope, the blue whale skeleton, takes centre stage at London’s Natural History Museum

Dippy is no more. The Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall is now home to the skeleton of a 25.2-metre blue whale affectionately known as “Hope”.

Hope, the blue whale skeleton, takes centre stage at London’s Natural History Museum

The skeleton of the blue whale – the largest creature to have ever lived – hangs between the museum’s display of living species on the west side and extinct species on the east, and its position is said to symbolise humanity’s responsibility towards the environment. Its name was also chosen to represent aspirations for a sustainable future.  

In 1966, there were only 400 living blue whales, compared to around 250,000 during the 1800s. The International Whaling Commission banned hunting blue whales at a meeting in London that year.

The museum first displayed Hope in 1934, 40 years after the whale was stranded in an Irish harbour. Richard Sabin, the museum’s whale expert, said seeing the skeleton on display as a child was a defining moment in his life and he’s sure “Hope will inspire a new generation of visitors to discover the story of life on Earth and be encouraged to want to protect the natural world”.

For its new display, the skeleton is suspended in the divine lunging feeding position and is the first blue whale skeleton to be shown that way. Reconstruction took months and mostly occurred in an offsite warehouse due to its size.

“Suspending such a large, complex and historical specimen from a Victorian ceiling was always going to be challenging, but we were determined to show her in as lifelike position as possible,” said Lorraine Cornish, the museum’s head of conservation.

Hundreds of other specimens, such as 10-star specimens known as Wonder Bays, will also be featured in Hintze Hall’s reopening, meant to further visitors’ appreciation of nature.

The blue whale replaces Dippy, a Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton cast. Dippy was commissioned by the museum in 1905 and shown in Hintze Hall since 1979. The dinosaur skeleton cast was taken down in January to be prepared for a two-year tour in the United Kingdom.

The museum’s updated look marks the start of its decade-long transition. The Natural History Museum also hopes to redevelop its outdoor space and expand digitisation.

“This is a landmark moment for the Museum and for the millions of people from all over the world who visit us,” the museum’s director Sir Michael Dixon said in a press release. “The transformation of Hintze Hall represents a new era for us as a natural history museum for the future.”

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