People were not happy when the Natural History Museum announced it would be replacing much-loved museum centrepiece Dippy the diplodocus. The creature was an icon, welcoming millions to the museum's Grade I listed Hintze Hall since 1979. Tens of thousands signed a petition calling for the museum to reconsider its decision, but alas, it pressed ahead with plans for a replacement.
After months of preparation and a six-month closure of the famous space, the Natural History Museum unveiled Dippy's replacement this morning. But how does it measure up to our old friend?
Pretty well, actually.
Meet Hope, a 126 year old blue whale. Measuring 25 metres long, and weighing over 4 tonnes, the way she's been gracefully suspended from the Victorian ceiling is enough to pique curiosities in itself. Positioned in a diving pose, the skeleton of this humongous creature — the largest to have ever lived on earth — manages to make more of a first impression than Dippy ever did.
She's the real deal, too. While Dippy will retain a place in the nation's heart, he was only ever a resin cast of a diplodocus skeleton discovered in Wyoming in 1898. Hope, however, was purchased by the museum for £250 in 1891, after washing up on a beach in Wexford, Ireland.
Of course, it's not the first time she's made an appearance at the museum. After several years in storage, the skeleton was first put on display in the mammals gallery in 1938. Now repositioned and taking centre stage, the hope is that the whale will portray the museum as an institution focused on conservation.
Indeed, her name was chosen as a symbol of "humanity's power to shape a sustainable future". Around 250,000 blue whales were thought to have swum the world's waters when Hope was alive, yet they were were an endangered species by the mid 1900s, due to aggressive commercial hunting. Thanks to the work of conservationists, their numbers are now growing again, with around 20,000 currently in the waters.
The newly refurbished Hintze Hall also features a variety of other new displays. 10 'wonder bays' flank the centrepiece display, including the skeleton of an American mastodon, an ill-fated creature that was wiped out around 13,000 years ago. Chosen from the museum's catalogue of more than 80 million items, the carefully selected displays aim to convey the history of Earth. Still, in all her glamour, it's hard to peel your eyes away from the main attraction.
And as for Dippy? He might be gone, but it's not forever. The famous dinosaur is currently in Canada, enjoying a makeover in preparation for his UK tour. Afterwards, he is expected to return to the museum — though don't expect him back in his old home, because Hope has well and truly made her mark here.
She bows her head, ready to greet a new generation of visitors to the museum — and what a great job she does of it, too.
Popping in to see Hope? Don't miss the museum's fantastic Whales exhibition.