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Blue whale skeleton 'Hope' takes centre stage in Museum

Blue whale in Hintze Hall © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London [2017]. All rights reserved.

The Museum will unveil the new star of its reimagined Hintze Hall today (July 13), as the start of the biggest transformation in its 136-year history.

A stunning 25.2 metre real blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling will take centre stage in the spectacular space - giving visitors the opportunity to walk underneath the largest creature ever to have lived.

Blue whales were hunted to the brink of extinction in the twentieth century, but were also one of the first species that humans decided to save on a global scale. The Museum has named the female blue whale Hope, as a symbol of humanity's power to shape a sustainable future.

She will be joined in Hintze Hall by hundreds of new specimens, chosen to celebrate the wonder and beauty of the natural world, from the origins of the universe, to the story of evolution and diversity in the world today. Ten star specimens will be arranged in the ground floor alcoves - known as Wonder Bays - including a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite, a Mantellisaurus dinosaur skeleton, giraffes and a blue marlin.

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

'This is a landmark moment for the Museum and for the millions of people from all over the world who visit us. The transformation of Hintze Hall represents a new era for us as a natural history museum for the future. Putting our blue whale, Hope, at the centre of the Museum, between living species on the West and extinct species on the East, is a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the responsibility we have towards our planet. It is within the grasp of humanity to shape a future that is sustainable, and now more than ever we want our galleries and exhibitions to inspire a love of the natural world, and our scientific expertise to inform solutions to the big, global challenges we face.'

The relaunch of Hintze Hall is the first major moment in a decade of transformation that will see the Museum ambitiously redevelop its outside space and make the collections accessible to people all over the UK and globally through tours and digitisation.

Blue whales

It is estimated that in the 1800s there were approximately 250,000 blue whales across the world's oceans. Decades of commercial hunting during the twentieth century drove the species to the brink of extinction, with only around 400 thought to be left in 1966. That year, in London, the world took a remarkable decision to legally protect blue whales from commercial hunting. Since then the population of blue whales has steadily grown to its current level of around 20,000 - the start of a viable population.

A big arrival

The skeleton now on display in Hintze Hall is from a whale that became stranded in 1891 in Wexford Harbour, Ireland, 10 years after the Museum opened in South Kensington. It was bought by the Museum and first went on display in the Mammal Hall in 1934, where it was suspended above a life-size model of a blue whale. Curators, conservation teams and engineers have been working on the blue whale skeleton for months - mostly in an off-site warehouse due to its enormous size - cleaning and preparing it for its new home in Hintze Hall.

A new star

Hope takes centre stage in Hintze Hall in place of Dippy, the Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton cast that is soon to embark on a two-year tour of the UK, visiting Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and five regions across England. The tour aims to connect the nation with nature and spark the imagination of a new generation of scientists, naturalists and environmentalists.

Dippy was commissioned for the Museum in 1905 by American businessman Andrew Carnegie, who that year bought the bones of the first Diplodocus ever discovered for his museum in Pittsburgh. Dippy had been on display in Hintze Hall since 1979, before being taken down in January 2017 in preparation for his tour.

Extracts from this press release published on the Museum's website.


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The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes – which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet – to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year, our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.

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26 July 2017