Dippy is history as London’s Natural History Museum seeks to shift its image:  a giant blue whale skeleton will now welcome guests.

It’s all change at London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).  When visitors walk through the front door tomorrow (Friday 14th July) they will be greeted by a new ‘face’.  The museum is replacing its much-loved Diplodocus, fondly known as ‘Dippy’, with the skeleton of a blue whale.

The change is part of a major revamp as the museum aims to refresh its image.  It’s keen to be known more for its living science than for dusty fossils.

The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on the planet.  It’s thought to epitomise the museum’s focus on research that has a direct impact on the modern world.

During the 20th century, blue whales came close to extinction, due to commercial whaling.  The global whaling ban helped the species to recover and it’s estimated there are now around 20,000 blue whales in oceans ranging from the tropics to the poles.

The NHM’s whale has been given the name ‘Hope’ as a “symbol of humanity’s power to shape a sustainable future.”

Hope’s skeleton is 126 years old.  It’s just over 25 metres long and weighs three tonnes.  The whale was beached on Wexford Sands on 25th March 1891.  She was estimated to be around 10-15 years old when she died.

Richard Sabin, the museum’s principal curator of mammals championed the change.  He first saw Hope’s skeleton at the museum in 1976.  “I honestly believe it will take people’s breath away when they see it,” he told BBC News.  “It’s been an honour and a privilege to work with the specimen that inspired me all those years ago – to breathe new life into it; to inject science from the field into it; to display it in a much more meaningful way.”

Staff have spent months preparing the skeleton for its new role.  A Horizon documentary on Hope, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, goes out on BBC Two at 9pm tonight (Thursday 13th July).  ‘Dippy and the Whale’ will air at the same time as the NHM’s patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, inaugurates the new exhibit at a gala reception.

And Dippy?  He hasn’t been forgotten.  He’s going on a two-year tour of Britain.  Eventually a new bronze Dippy will watch over the grounds of the museum.

Image and video: Natural History Museum

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