Last Updated on 9. February 2018 by Simone Kunisch

The Natural History Museum in South Kensington is one of London’s most popular museums. On 14th of July 2017 the reopening of the entrance hall, the Hintze Hall, took place after it had been closed for months due to refurbishments. The former hero of the hall, Dippy the dinosaur skeleton, has given way to the new star – a blue whale skeleton which is diving down to the visitors from the ceiling. 

Farewell Dippy – a dinosaur on tour

If you have visited the museum in the past, you might remember the impressive dinosaur skeleton “Dippy” who stood in the center of Hintze Hall. Dippy was one of the museum’s highlights and very popular with kids. The skeleton which has belonged to the museum since 1905 and which was located in the entrance hall since 1979 was dismantled and put into boxes. From 2018 onward, Dippy will go on tour through the United Kingdom. Until 2020 the dinosaur will be on display in several museum throughout the country.

The new star in the Natural History Museum – a blue whale

The replacement for Dippy is Hope, a blue whale skeleton. But how did a whale end up at the museum? In March 1891 a female, not yet fully grown whale was found dead in Wexford Harbour, on the coast of Ireland. Later that year it was bought by the Natural History Museum for £ 250. There was no space for the skeleton at that time inside the museum so it took until 1934 to put it on display. Since that time it was part of the “Cetacean” exhibition. From there the move to Hintze Hall took place.

The blue whale skeleton is nearly 25 m long – very impressive if you stand underneath it! The skeleton weights 4,5 tons, is nearly 25 m long and consists of over 220 bones. You can imagine that moving it into Hintzel Hall took some time and effort. Several scientists started cleaning it first and they took away 1,3 kg of dust! Afterwards smaller repairs were done (where necessary) and then the move took place.

A blue whale named Hope

Whereas the name Dippy simply is short for Diplodocus, the meaning behind the name Hope is a deeper one. Blue whales are the biggest animals on earth but this hasn’t prevented them from being nearly extinct. The skeleton wants to remind the visitors of the vulnerability of our oceans and that we are all responsible for keeping them and the animals and plants living in them save. Hope stands for the hope that we humans can create a better and more sustainable future for us and the animals sharing this planet with us. Great name and a wonderful message, isn’t it?

The new Hintze Hall

However, the skeleton is not the only highlight at Hintze Hall. The entrance hall has been completely renovated, too. Besides huge cleaning and restoration works in the hall (e.g. the mosaic floor was intensely cleaned) the ten side galleries, the wonder bays, were all newly decorated with exhibits from the museum. From the entrance on your left side, there are animals still living today. On the right side there are extinct animals only. One highlight is for sure an over 300 kg coral, which was found in Australia over 120 years ago.

The marble statue of Charles Darwin was also cleaned and sealed with a special wax to keep it safe for many more years inside Hintze Hall.

Great opening with royal visit

The official opening gala took place on the 13th of July. The Duchess of Cambridge (Kate is patron of the museum) and Sir David Attenborough were present. In her speech the Duchess talks about her own connection to the underwater world.

Since the 14th of July the hall is open to the public. The opening day saw long queues all day long. The museum is popular throughout the year, especially for school visits but on the opening day it was even more crowded. Everybody wanted to see Hope!

Wale exhibition “Whales – beneath the surface”

At the same time the museum opened its new exhibition „Whales – beneath the surface which will be running until February 2018. Learn all about the development and life of whales. There are more skeletons, real organs and you can compare the size of your hand with that of a fin of a whale. This special exhibition asks for an entrance fee, I spend approx. 45 minutes in here. Very interesting so I recommend to go.

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