Attractions industry news

13 Jul 2017

New icon for Natural History Museum as Dippy is replaced by giant blue whale

London’s Natural History Museum has completed a major revamp of its main hall, with its blue whale skeleton replacing the national institution’s much-loved Diplodocus replica – a sight which has welcomed visitors to the museum for more than 37 years.

The museum made the move as it aims to refresh its image, wanting to be known for living science rather than its fossil collection, with a focus on “authenticity” and learning new things relevant to the modern world.

Environmental and exhibition design practice Casson Mann was selected to reinvigorate the iconic Hintze Hall, working with historic building consultants Purcell, and refurbishment and restoration specialists Jerram Falkus Construction to carry out the hall’s first major refurbishment since the 1970s.

The suspended blue whale skeleton – named Hope – is the focal point of the revamp, with its placement meant to create a dynamic tension between the museum’s architectural and scientific narratives, with contemporary displays surrounded by the building’s Romanesque architecture.

In addition to the whale’s installation, new plinths and modern display cases have been installed to showcase objects from the museum’s collection and to reflect areas of scientific endeavour, including origins, evolution and biodiversity. Casson Mann says the new displays and infrastructure will see the Grade 1 listed hall through at least the next 25 years.

“The transformation of Hintze Hall represents a new era for us as a natural history museum for the future,” said Sir Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum

“Putting our blue whale 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.”

The whale skeleton replaces ‘Dippy’ – the museum’s iconic diplodocus – which has been in the museum’s collection for more than 112 years. The 21.3 metre-long dinosaur, with 292 replica bones made of plaster, will soon embark on a UK tour starting in February next year. The museum, which is also renovating its exterior grounds, has announced plans to cast Dippy in bronze upon its return to the museum and install it as an outdoor installation in its gardens.

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