Is the Whale at the Natural History Museum Real?

If you’ve ever visited the Natural History Museum, you may have seen the massive blue whale hanging from the ceiling in the Hintze Hall. This gigantic exhibit has been a centerpiece of the museum since 1934.

But have you ever wondered whether the whale is real or just a replica? Let’s explore this question and find out the truth.

Is it real?

The answer is both yes and no. The whale on display at the Natural History Museum is a real skeleton of a blue whale that died in 1891.

The specimen was obtained by the museum’s founder, Sir Richard Owen, and was originally displayed in another part of the museum. In 1934, it was moved to its current location in Hintze Hall, where it has been suspended from the ceiling ever since.

How was it prepared?

Preparing a whale skeleton for display is no easy feat. After the whale died, its body sank to the ocean floor where it was slowly stripped of flesh by scavengers over time. When only bones were left, they were then lifted to the surface and transported to a facility where they underwent a process called maceration.

During maceration, all remaining flesh and oil are removed from the bones using hot water and chemicals. This process can take months or even years depending on how large and delicate the skeleton is. Once cleaned, each bone must be carefully reassembled and mounted in an anatomically correct pose for display.

How big is it?

The blue whale skeleton measures an impressive 25 meters long and weighs around 10 tons! It’s no wonder why it’s one of the most popular exhibits at the museum.


While this particular whale skeleton is real, not all exhibits at museums are authentic specimens. Many times replicas are used to represent animals that are too rare or endangered to obtain real specimens. In other cases, replicas are used to create multiple exhibits for different museums or exhibitions.

Why use replicas?

Using replicas has some advantages over using real specimens. For one, it eliminates the need to hunt or capture animals solely for display purposes. Additionally, replicas can be made to be more durable than real specimens, reducing the risk of damage or decay over time.

The Final Verdict

So is the whale at the Natural History Museum real? Yes, it is a real skeleton of a blue whale that died in 1891.

However, it’s important to note that not all exhibits at museums are authentic specimens and many times replicas are used instead. Nevertheless, this exhibit remains one of the most impressive displays at the museum and is definitely worth seeing in person.