Published: 11:00, 09 June 2016
The skeleton of a blue whale which was beached in Ireland 125 years ago was being held together with copies of the Kent Messenger from the 1930s.
The specimen was bought by the Natural History Museum and first went on display in the Mammal Hall in 1938 where it hung from the ceiling for several decades.
The 25-metre long animal, which is the largest to have ever lived, is now being moved to the London museum’s main hall where it will welcome visitors from next summer.
However, while staff were relocating the exhibit they discovered a number of copies of the Kent Messenger were being used to hold bones together, with the 1932 Christmas Eve edition packing out intervertebral discs.
A museum spokesperson said: “Various issues of the Kent Messenger have been discovered in the ‘stuffing’ of our iconic blue whale skeleton here in South Kensington.
"Workmen onsite clearly had connections to the county and perhaps even intended on creating this time capsule for the modern museum to eventually uncover.
“As our conservators have carefully deinstalled the specimen, in preparation for its arrival in Hintze Hall in 2017, the Plaster-of-Paris-like material that was used to conjoin the fragile bones in the 1930s has unveiled its secrets.”
The Hintze Hall has been home to the skeleton of Dippy the Diplodocus for 35 years, from 1910 to 1979 it housed elephants alongside changing display cabinets, and before that a sperm whale skeleton stood in the hall.
The blue whale, which was bought by the museum from a merchant for £250 in 1891, will be reconstructed from January until April and will be the centrepiece of a new display exploring the link between humans and animals.
Sir Michael Dixon, the museum’s director, said: “As the largest known animal to have ever lived on Earth, the story of the blue whale reminds us of the scale of our responsibility to the planet.
"This makes it the perfect choice of specimen to welcome and capture the imagination of our visitors, as well as marking a major transformation of the Museum.”
From early 2018, Dippy, who is between 156 and 145 million years old and 68.8ft long, will go on tour around the UK.
More by this authorEd McConnell