Directors of the Natural History Museum in London have announced that ‘Dippy’ – the famous diplodocus skeleton that greets visitors in the museum’s iconic Hintze Hall – will be replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale by 2017.
The idea is to better convey a more modern feel to the museum, one that reflects the cutting-edge science being conducted by the institution.
“Everyone loves ‘Dippy’, but it’s just a copy,” NHM director Sir Michael Dixon told BBC News, “what makes this museum special is that we have real objects from the natural world – over 80 million of them – and they enable our scientists and thousands like them from around the world to do real research.”
At present, the 25m-long blue whale is hanging –in a flat position- in the ‘mammals’ gallery and is accompanied by a life size reconstruction of the animal.
The skeleton was acquired by the museum in 1891 and it originally cost curators £250. The massive animal was beached at Wexford in Southeast Ireland and its remains were immaculately processed and preserved. To date, it is one of the biggest – and best-preserved – whale skeletons in the world.
Over the coming two years, the entire skeleton will be taken down and each individual bone will be thoroughly cleaned and carefully catalogued before it is re-structured and placed in a dramatic new pose, ready to better symbolize the new science of the 21st century.
The massive remains will be placed in a graceful diving posture designed to impress visitors to the hall.
By virtue of being the largest animal to ever exist on our planet, the blue whale skeleton will likely present an even more impressive sight to behold than Dippy presently does. Its presence could also help to raise awareness for whale conservation and preservation of our natural heritage in general.
The conservation aspect of this move is an especially relevant point, as it was NHM scientists that first demonstrated that hunting of the blue whales needed to be stopped in the first place.
This move, whilst surprising, is not without precedent. In the past, the Hintze Hall has also featured a complete sperm whale skeleton as its main attraction, as well as carefully preserved African elephants – and other displays as well.
So where will Dippy be going once his replacement arrives? At present, there is talk about taking the iconic dinosaur on tour in order to bring the Natural History Museum to the people, by housing him in regional museums throughout the UK.
Before that happens though, he will likely still have pride of place in a dinosaur-themed exhibit elsewhere in the museum, so we’ll still be able to stop by and say “hi”..