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Goodbye Dippy: a history of the Natural History Museum’s entrance hall

Posted at 5:00 pm, January 29, 2015 in Fun London
The Central Hall London 1882 © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s famous diplodocus, is being replaced by a blue whale skeleton. He’s not the first to get booted out of the museum’s entrance hall, though. Here’s a timeline of its last 130 years.

1880s: Having a whale of a time

When the Natural History Museum first opened in the late nineteenth century, it gave its central hall over to a sperm whale skeleton, thus turning the space into an early version of ‘Free Willy’. Except without the freeing. Or the aquatic hijinks. Or the piss-irritating kid. But other than that, exactly like ‘Free Willy’.

Sperm whale skeleton, March 1901 © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

1907: Swimming in trunks

Aw, look at him. Ain’t he a show off? His name’s George. George the African elephant. Given his 72-year tenure in the central hall, he’s the real legend of the space.

African elephant in Central Hall, February 1910 © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

1979: Jurassic Park

Looks like the NHM wasn’t initially fully convinced of Dippy’s star quality. When they first moved him in, he had a triceratops as a buddy. Sort of like a paleontological equivalent of Little and Large. Except not shit.

Diplodocus & Triceratops © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

1993: The rise of the dino star

Creative differences get the better of the dino band and after their split-up Dippy proves to be the Beyoncé of the group. Scientific differences also get the better of his skeleton when the NHM realises that his tail would’ve been held proudly aloft rather than drooping like a Curly Wurly in a sauna.


2017: Feeling blue

As part of a revamp of its central hall to ‘lay bare the relationship between humans and the natural world’, the NHM shifts its blue whale skeleton (part of the collection since 1891) into pride of place. And the future for Dippy? Undecided. But one plan the museum’s looking at is loaning him to other institutions. Extinction needn’t mean retirement, clearly.

Hintze Hall Blue Whale Side ©2015 Casson Mann (2)

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