After a lot of publicity, today the main hall of London’s renown Natural History Museum has been reopened after a somewhat controversial makeover. We have waved goodbye to Dippy, the famous Diplodocus skeleton that has stood guard over the entrance to the museum for almost 40 years, and now we say hello to Hope, the 25m long blue whale skeleton, which resided over the Hall of Mammals since 1938.
Since the news was released of dippy’s departure over 2 years ago, the museum has been met with a lot of hostility from the general public. In a lot of ways I am very sympathetic with the outrage shown by people over this decision. I, like so many others, have grown up with dippy as the mascot of Natural History. He was a symbol of the wonder held within the halls of the museum, and as I walked through those doors numerous times over the years there was always a pleasant feeling of nostalgia, almost like greeting an old friend. Despite this, I welcome the change and am excited by it.
Looking up at Dippy towards the end of last year, knowing that this would be the last time I saw him in this prime spot, I thought about the original remains from which the cast had been made. What had Dippy been like when he was alive? What would it have been like to stand in its presence gazing up at this mighty beast? But sadly I will never know, because dippy and all of those like him are long gone. Nothing left of them but the traces of bone to be shown to tourists in museums like this across the world.
When I next pay a visit to the Natural History Museum, which I plan to do very soon, I will look up at the awe-inspiring remains of the creature which has taken Dippys place. The appropriately named Hope. I will feel amazed by the sheer size and weight of the blue whale skeleton, looking even more grand in the wide space of the ornate entrance hall. A magnificent creature, the largest animal to ever have existed and, more to the point, still alive today for us to observe in all of its wonder. At least for now.
It is no secret that we are living in an ever changing world. A world where the environmental impacts of humans are becoming more evident every single year with more and more species increasingly going extinct. The blue whale was a species that once stared extinction in the face when they were nearly hunted out of the world forever in the early 1900s. But then an amazing thing happened, people decided the beauty of nature was worth fighting for and extensive conservation work made the blue whale the first species we decided to save on a global scale and since then their numbers have soared.
So let the departure of dippy and the welcome of Hope serve as a wondrous reminder of both the incredible diversity of wildlife that still live on planet earth today and the uncertain future it now faces. But let it also serve as a reminder that we can do something about it. My hope is that one day people won’t be looking up at these remains of a creature long dead, mere shadows of their living selves, wondering what it was like to see a living, breathing blue whale. Let Hope serve as a gentle reminder for us to act now, before it is too late.