Adult Entry: Free
Nearest Tube: South Kensington (District & Circle, Piccadilly lines)
One of the first things that hits you as you enter the newly-presented Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum is movement. ‘Hope’ the whale arches at the apex of her dive, drawing your eyes in a graceful curve from the tip of skeletal tail to iconic gaping mouth. Historically, museums were restrained to a furiously horizontal suspension. Hope reinvigorates this assumption, brushing aside the old restraints as she dives silently towards the crowds below.
The second thing that hits you (it certainly hit me) was how few wires hold this whale up. The timing for Dippy’s replacement has come too soon for many, but at the right time for the mechanics of this project. The antiquated methods of holding skeletons together and upright are breezily blown aside by the elegance and unobtrusiveness of Hope’s framework. Hanging above a new minimal welcome desk, she does not so much loom, as float. It’s almost like that was intentional…
The installation of Hope allowed the Natural History Museum to make a number of other changes to the displays in Hintze Hall. The alcove displays are roughly the same, however they have been streamlined, and benefit hugely from the gorgeous new display cases in which they are now housed. These new display cases are a delight; they have minimal frames, and large glass panels which minimises viewer obstruction. The cases running along either balcony deserve particular mention. They rise to an impressive 3 metres high at least, and showcase (pun intended) some exciting new ideas about exhibiting objects. The displays within each are a delight, packed with dynamic 3-dimensional arrays, breathing life back into the creatures interred within, and reasserting the authority of the beautiful stone samples.
Like many people, I welcome the installation of Hope. Dippy was fun, in the same way that imaginatively reconstructed Greek statues are fun, but he was not representative of what the Natural History Museum is and does. Now with Hope pride of place, perhaps this museum can establish it’s impact on the course of the future as much as the past.